Urinary tract infections (UTI) are one of the most common types of infection among women. They can lead to severe pain and frequent urination. The conventional method of treating UTIs is antibiotics, but many bacteria have become antibiotic-resistant. So, it is essential that we use home remedies for UTI treatment and prevent its reoccurrence.
Drinking plenty of fluids, having probiotics, garlic, parsley water, etc. are some easy to follow home remedies for UTI.
According to studies, 50 to 60 percent of women will develop urinary tract infections during their lifetime (1). In this article, we will discuss UTIs, their causes, symptoms and natural ways to manage them.
A urinary tract infection is an infection in the urinary tract; it can affect the urethra, bladder, uterus and even your kidneys. The infections in the bladder are painful, but if the UTI spreads to the kidney, it can have serious consequences.
This infection can be caused by microbes like fungi, virus, and bacteria. Bacteria are one of the most common causes of UTIs (2).
Common symptoms of UTI
Some of the common symptoms of lower tract UTIs include (3) –
- A burning sensation when urinating
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- Frequent urination in small amounts
- A feeling of complete bladder emptying
- Urine that appears cloudy
- Urine that looks red or pink –a sign of blood in the urine
- Urine with a strong odor
- Pelvic pain
Upper tract UTIs affect the kidneys. Their symptoms include –
- Pain in the upper back and sides
Causes of UTI
Urinary tract infections occur when the bacteria in the urinary tract begin to multiply. Though our urinary tract system is designed to keep out the bacteria, these defenses sometimes can fail and can lead to an infection.
The most common causes of UTI include –
- Sexual intercourse: Sexual activities can move microbes from the vaginal cavity to the urethral opening.
- Birth control: Spermicides and condoms can irritate the skin and lead to bacterial growth. Diaphragms can slow urinary flow and change vaginal flora.
- Pregnancy: A shift in the position of the urinary tract and hormonal changes increase the risk of UTI in pregnant women.
- Diabetes: UTIs are more common in patients with diabetes because of the suppressed immune system, poor metabolic control, and incomplete bladder emptying.
- Menopause: Postmenopausal women are more prone to UTIs because estrogen deficiency can lead to the growth of bacteria.
Home remedies for UTI
Doctors often prescribe antibiotics for the treatment of UTI. Unfortunately, considering the recurring nature of this disease, this can often lead to bacteria developing drug resistance.
Here are some home remedies for UTI which can provide relief from pain and discomfort, and also help to fight the infection naturally.
1. Drink plenty of fluids
Drinking sufficient water is one of the best home remedies for UTI. Drinking lots of water increase the flow of urine. Regular urination helps by flushing out the bacteria from the urinary tract and prevents infection (4).
During a study on 141 girls in the age group of 3.9 to 18 years, researchers found that low fluid intake and infrequent urination were linked to frequent UTIs (5).
Recent studies have also discovered that the pH levels of urine also influence the urinary tract health. According to Prof. Jeffrey P Henderson at the Washington University School of Medicine, urine that is closer to the pH levels of water is the most effective in fighting infections.
According to Prof. Henderson, siderocalin, a protein produced by our immune system is helpful in restricting the growth of bacteria. This protein works best when the pH levels of urine are neutral.
Dehydration also slows down our immune system, so stay hydrated to prevent infections.
2. Urinate often
It is important to not hold urine for too long as it can lead to build up of bacteria and cause infection (6). Sometimes this infection can also spread to the kidney.
Usually, the one-way flap valves in the ureters, prevent the backflow of urine. Holding the urine until the bladder is too full can cause these valves to leak, and this can lead to infection reaching the kidneys.
You should also urinate soon after sexual intercourse so that the bacteria that may have entered the urethra can be flushed out.
3. Stay clean and dry
Women should wipe from front to back after a bowel movement to ensure that the bacteria does not reach the urethra (7). You must also wear loose-fitting clothes and cotton underwear so that the urethra can stay dry.
Wearing tight fitting clothes and synthetic materials can trap moisture and allow bacteria to multiply.
4. Use heat packs
UTI can cause a lot of pain and discomfort in the lower abdominal area due to the extra pressure exerted on the urinary bladder while urinating.
Using a heat pack around the lower abdominal area can provide temporary relief from this pain. It also helps to reduce inflammation by improving circulation in this area.
Moist heat from towels wrung out in hot water, a warm water bag or gel pad is most useful in alleviating pain and discomfort related to UTI.
5. Have more vitamin C
When you have foods that are rich in vitamin C, it makes your urine more acidic. Acidic urine inhibits the growth of bacteria in your urinary tract (8).
During a study, pregnant women were given 100 mg of vitamin C for three months. The study found that vitamin C supplement can lower the risk of UTI by more than half of those who were in the control group (9).
Eating fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C is an excellent way to increase your vitamin C intake. Red peppers, oranges, kiwifruits, grapefruits, broccoli, tomatoes, and strawberries are some of the foods that are a rich source of vitamin C.
6. Drink unsweetened cranberry juice
Pure, unsweetened cranberry juice may be one of the best home remedies for UTI treatment. Also, it helps in preventing UTI. This juice is effective in preventing infection as it prevents the bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract (10).
During a 2015 study on160 patients, scientists discovered that giving two cranberry juice capsules two times a day for six weeks helped reduce the rate of UTI by half (11).
Some other studies have found cranberry juice to not be as effective in reducing UTIs. Though there are conflicting reports of the benefits of cranberry juice, you can give unsweetened cranberry juice a try.
7. Have crushed garlic
Freshly crushed raw garlic contains Allicin, a sulfur compound. Allicin has antibacterial properties that are effective against E. coli. It also has antifungal properties that can treat candida albicans, which can cause a yeast infection (12).
If you have sufficient amount of crushed garlic, you will produce garlic smelling urine, which is one of the best home remedies for UTI.
8. Take a probiotic
Probiotics are one of the most promising home remedies for UTI, especially recurring UTI. According to a meta-analysis of five studies, researchers found that probiotic strains of Lactobacillus are safe and effective in preventing UTI in adult women (13).
Another study found that a combination of probiotics and antibiotics are more effective in the prevention of recurrent UTI in children (14).
Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and miso are some foods rich in probiotics. These foods contain beneficial bacteria that help restore the microbial balance in the gut (15). Probiotics help strengthen the immune system and help fight UTI.
9. Avoid spermicides
Spermicides can cause irritation, damage beneficial bacteria and allow infection-causing bacteria to thrive. Use of spermicides-coated condoms is associated with an increased risk of UTI caused by S saprophyticus (16).
Low-concentration spermicides kill the good bacteria that exist in the vagina. The bacteria that can cause infection are then left to form colonies, which then leads to UTI.
10. Have D-mannose
D-mannose is a simple sugar that is found in many fruits and vegetables like cranberries, apples, oranges, peaches, broccoli and green beans. According to research, D-mannose can prevent and treat UTI by preventing E. coli bacteria from latching on to the cells of the urinary tract.
A 2013 study examined the effectiveness of D-mannose in 308 women with recurrent UTIs. The result of the research confirmed that D-mannose could be useful in treating UTIs (17).
11. Use Bearberry leaf
Bearberry leaf or uva ursi is an herb that contains active ingredients like hydroquinone and arbutin, which are known for their anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties. This herb is beneficial in treating UTI.
12. Drink parsley water
Parsley water can be beneficial in the treatment of UTI. Parsley contains apigenin which has diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties.
The diuretic properties of parsley help flush out the bacteria with the urine. The anti-inflammatory properties of this herb help in soothing the discomfort and healing the body.
You can prepare parsley water by adding a handful of fresh parsley to two cups of boiling water. Let this water simmer for about 10 minutes and then drink it.
Over to you on home remedies for UTI
Fungi, viruses, and bacteria can cause urinary tract infections. The symptoms include a burning sensation while urinating, pelvic pain and cloudy urine. Women are more prone to UTIs than men.
However, many effective home remedies for UTI are available as discussed above which can help prevent and provide relief from the symptoms of UTI.