Urinary tract infection, in short, is called UTI. Our urinary system comprises of kidney, ureters, bladder and urethra. UTI commonly involves the lower urinary tract, i.e. the bladder and the urethra. UTI is more common in females than in males, owing to their smaller size of the urethra. Many home remedies for UTI can be used in conjunction with antibiotics to treat this infection and prevent its recurrence.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, 1 in 5 women experiences a UTI at some point in her life. UTI causes burning sensation during micturition, blood in urine, and pain in the lower abdomen region. Let’s understand this infection in and out and know popular home remedies for UTI treatment.
Understanding our body
Our body has a drainage system which flushes out the toxins, waste products at the end of respiration and metabolism. This drainage system or what we call as excretory system comprises of:
Two in number and is the primary organ of the excretory process.
These are two tubes collecting urine from kidney and emptying in the urinary bladder. These are one-way valves that prevent the entry of urine back into kidneys.
The urinary bladder is a single muscular sac in the pelvis. When empty it has the size and shape of a pear. It is because of the bladder that we have voluntary control over urination.
It is a tube that carries urine from the urinary bladder for micturition. In females, the size of the urethra is about 4 cm whereas the size of the urethra in males is about 20 cm.
Our bowels also form a part of the excretory system. The solid waste products are eliminated from the anal sphincter. Bowel bacteria are the most common cause of urinary tract infections. The distance between urethra and anus is roughly about 5 5 cm (1).
If proper hygiene is not maintained, the bacteria can easily migrate through this short distance and cause UTI.
The types of UTI
Infections can either occur in the urethra, urinary bladder or kidney.
Infection of the urethra is called urethritis and is the most common type. It can occur when the gastrointestinal bacteria from anus spread to the urethra. Also, sexually transmitted bacteria can spread from vagina to urethra and cause urethritis.
Cystitis is the infection of the urinary bladder. Most cases of cystitis are caused by E.Coli bacteria.
Pyelonephritis occurs when UTI invade the kidneys. This can lead to organ damage, renal scarring and is potentially life-threatening (2).
What causes UTI and how to avoid it.
Sex is the most common reason that causes UTI in females. The motion of sex can transfer bacteria from the vagina to urethra. It is always advisable to empty the bladder before and after having sex.
Various sexually transmitted diseases, like chlamydia, gonorrhoea can also cause UTI (3). The symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia can mimic the symptoms of UTI. Hence a proper check up from the physician is recommended.
Irregular bowel movements
Constipation, faecal incontinence, diarrhoea can contribute to urinary tract infections. Constipation makes it difficult to empty the bladder completely, thus giving the opportunity to the trapped bacteria to proliferate and cause infection.
Diarrhoea or faecal incontinence also increases the risk of urinary tract infection, because bacteria from loose stool can easily migrate to the urethra. One should wipe from front to back (urethra to anus) after going to the toilet to prevent UTI.
Holding your urine for an extended period can also cause the proliferation of bacteria as the time between voids increases. At the first urge of micturition, one must empty the bladder or it can cause some serious infections.
People with uncontrolled diabetes have higher chances of contracting a urinary tract infection. Excess sugar from our system is excreted through urine which provides a favourable environment for bacterial proliferation.
Always keep your diabetes levels in check as it can not only increase your chances of getting a UTI but it also lowers the immunity to fight it off.
Our urine flushes out the bacteria and other toxins from the system. Decreasing the intake of water and consumption of alcohol dehydrates our body (4). Hence care should be taken to have at least 4 litres of water every day, especially during summer season.
- Suggested read: How Much Water Should I Drink a Day?
Dirty pads and tampons can also cause the increase in the bacterial count. Hence pads should frequently be changed during periods. Use of diaphragms and spermicides can increase the chances of contracting UTIs.
Kidney stones are mineral obstructions that block the proper passage of urine, giving bacteria plenty of time to grow and cause infection. Proper treatment should be taken for removal of kidney stones.
Females have a higher chance of contracting UTI than males. The urethra is shorter in females, and it can provide quick access of bacteria to the bladder. UTIs are a common complication seen in around 2 – 13% of pregnant women.
Postmenopausal women are also at high risk of contracting UTI.
Symptoms of UTI
- Burning or scalding sensation during urination
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Pain during urination
- Sign of blood in urine
- Muscle cramps
- Abdominal pain
- Urinary incontinence (5)
- Weakness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
Once affected, an episode of UTI can last up to 5-6 days. Urinary tract infections are marked as a spike of fever and burning sensation during urination. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics for UTI, but recurrent infection can develop antibiotic tolerance.
The best way is to prevent the occurrence and recurrence of a urinary tract infection is by following these home remedies for UTI.
1. Increase intake of fluids
This is one of the best home remedies for UTI. Increasing the intake of fluids will help flush out the bacteria from the system. The water will carry along with the bacteria and toxins responsible for urinary tract infections.
2. Cranberry juice
The most common organism causing UTI is E.Coli. Cranberries have two active ingredients that prevent the adherence of E.Coli bacteria on the lining of the urinary tract.(6) This inhibits the proliferation of the bacteria in the host.
3. Coconut water
Coconut water is a natural diuretic and is also one of the best home remedies for UTI. It will increase the frequency and production of urine thus helping void the bacteria. Coconut water has also been known to propel kidney stones which are a causative factor for UTI.
4. Parsley water
Parsley water also acts as a diuretic. It increases the amount of sodium excreted from urine. The sodium particles carry the bacteria along with flushing them out of the body.
Horseradish contains an active ingredient, allyl isothiocyanate, which has strong bactericidal action. It destroys the cellular lining of the bacteria.
6. Cream of tartar
Cream of tartar helps increase the pH of urine making it more acidic. This disrupts the holistic living environment of the bacteria.
7. Cornsilk tea
This is an age-old method used to treat urinary tract infections. Cornsilk tea acts as an anti-inflammatory relieving the symptoms of the disease. It also has diuretic properties.
Just like cranberries, blueberries prevent the adherence of E. coli bacteria inside the body. This makes it unfavourable for the growth of bacteria.
9. Ginger tea
Ginger helps neuromodulation of the pain and inflammation associated with the urinary tract infection. Ginger tea modulates the prostaglandins preventing the signals of distress to rely upon through the synapses.
10. Vitamin C
Vitamin C rich food like lime, lemons, cucumbers help regulate the ph of urine turning it acidic. This change of ph has bacteriostatic properties making it difficult for the bacteria to thrive.
Final words on home remedies for UTI
The best approach is to prevent the occurrence and recurrence of UTI. Along with above-mentioned home remedies for UTI, proper diet, sanitation and personal care will keep the infection from invading your daily routine.