If you’re looking for home remedies for UTI to avoid antibiotic use, you’ve come to the right place. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections, which is why a doctor will often prescribe antibiotics for treatment. However, as UTIs are one of the most commonly occurring bacterial infections in the U.S., it may be wise to avoid the overuse of antibiotic treatment, lest you develop an immunity. This article will review the symptoms of a UTI, the dangers of antibiotic overuse, some best practices for the prevention of UTIs, and some natural remedies that may help you recover more quickly.
What Is a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)?
Urinary tract infections can affect any part of the urinary tract, which includes the bladder, urethra, and kidneys. Bacteria transferred from the bowel is one of the most common causes of UTI, however viruses and fungi can also cause infection.
Two strains of bacteria—Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus saprophyticus—account for about 80% of UTI cases, and the signs of those infections include the following common symptoms.
- A burning sensation while peeing
- Dark or cloudy urine
- Urine with a strong odor
- Frequent urination
- Pelvic pain
- A sensation of incomplete bladder emptying
Urinary tract infections are especially prevalent in women, occurring in around 50% of women throughout their lifetimes. This is due to physiology. Women have a shorter urethra (the tube which transports urine out of the bladder) than men do, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. Not only that, UTIs tend to reoccur in those who have them, making it all the more important to seek non-antibiotic treatments for prevention if possible.
Why Avoid Antibiotics for a UTI?
Antibiotics are effective in treating UTIs, so why should they be avoided? First of all, they may not be necessary, as the body can clear up to 42% of minor UTIs on its own, and home remedies (read on for details) can help speed up the process without drugs or pharmaceuticals. Here are circumstances where antibiotics may and may not be appropriate.
When to Take Antibiotics
A complicated UTI may need medical treatment, such as in cases where there is a change to the organs (swollen prostate, a reduction to the flow of urine), or if there’s another condition affecting the immune system, such as lupus, cardiac disease, or HIV/AIDS. At the end of the day, antibiotics are effective because they kill the bacteria causing the infection, including the Escherichia coli (E. coli) species of bacteria, which is the culprit behind up to 90% of all bladder infections.
Why You May Want to Avoid Antibiotics
Though antibiotics can treat UTIs quickly, they also come with their own risks and side effects. Headache, rash, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are common side effects of antibiotics, and more extreme situations can result as well.
Creating Strains of Drug-Resistant Bacteria
Certain species of bacteria have become resistant to antibiotic treatment, including several species of E. coli, the main cause of UTIs. This is a mass cultural impact that we as individuals don’t have significant control over, but every time someone uses an antibiotic, there is an increased likelihood that the bacteria will develop a resistance to it.
Antibiotic resistance can also be sparked when people do not take antibiotics as prescribed and quit their course of treatment early or as soon as they start to feel better. Even doctors are trying to curb the use of unnecessary antibiotics, and for the same reasons, we should too.
Damaging Good Bacteria
Antibiotics are not equipped with precision aim. Their job is to kill bacteria, including the good strains in your body, like the microflora in your digestive tract. For example, Clostridium difficile (C. diff colitis) is an opportunistic infection that arises when your good gut bacteria is diminished. With UTIs specifically, 22% of women taking antibiotics will develop vaginal Candidiasis (Candida), a fungal infection caused by changes in the vaginal environment. If it’s possible to use home remedies to clear up a minor UTI, it may be wise to do so for the sake of your body’s good bacteria.
Top Prevention Tips and Home Remedies for UTI
These natural remedies can treat UTIs at home and save you the trip, expense, and risk associated with doctor-prescribed antibiotics.
1. Drink Plenty of Water
It may seem too obvious to mention, but just like when trying to remedy flu symptoms at home, hydration is key. Not only will drinking water regularly help prevent a UTI, but it can also treat it by putting your urinary system to work. A glass of water may not seem like medicine, but by providing your body with the means to remove waste and clear out your infected system quickly, you’re speeding up your recovery. Not only that, by diluting your urine, you’re thinning out the concentration of harmful bacteria moving through your tubes and making it less likely that they can inflame and infect more cells.
It’s recommended to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day under normal conditions, but if you’re trying to clear out a UTI, up your fluid intake as much as you comfortably can to help flush bacteria from your body (literally). Drink lots of water, and maybe a sports drink thrown in to perk up your electrolytes as well.
2. Take a Probiotic
To make sure your good bacteria has a fighting chance against the bad, take a probiotic for its beneficial microorganisms. Probiotics can be taken as convenient supplements or found in fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and Greek yogurt.
Probiotics are good for your immune and digestive systems independently, and research shows that probiotic strains like Lactobacillus can decrease the risk of UTIs. Also, for those with recurrent UTIs, antibiotics taken in concert with probiotics can be more effective at prevention than antibiotics alone. Probiotics can also restore your beneficial gut bacteria after a round of necessary antibiotics, which reduces the side effects of antibiotic use.
3. Up Your Vitamin C Intake
There is evidence showing that an increase in vitamin C could protect against the development of UTIs. It does this by increasing your urine’s acidity, thus killing off the bacteria that cause infection before they can get a stronghold in your body.
A study from 2007 that focused on the prevalence of UTIs in pregnant women saw that those who took 100 milligrams of vitamin C every day cut their risk of UTIs in half over the control group. Fruits and vegetables like oranges, grapefruit, red peppers, and kiwis all contain a full recommended daily value of vitamin C per serving, and can be an easy way to increase your intake.
4. Drink Cranberry Juice
Unsweetened cranberry juice is one of the best-known natural remedies for UTIs and for general urinary tract health. That is because cranberries prevent bacteria from adhering to your urinary tract, preventing infections before they even start.
One recent study shows that women with previous UTIs who drank cranberry juice had fewer UTIs than the control group, and that consuming various cranberry products could help lower the amount of recurrent UTIs in a year. This solution for those in need can even come in the form of cranberry juice capsules, which hold the equivalent of two servings of cranberry juice in one dose.
5. Maintain Healthy Habits
UTIs can also be prevented with a few hygiene and bathroom habits. First of all, it’s recommended not to hold your urine for too long, as that may cause infection by allowing bacteria to build up. Another recommended practice is to urinate after sexual intercourse, as that helps clear the urinary tract of any foreign bacteria you may have come into contact with. There’s also evidence that spermicide is associated with an increase of UTIs, and so should be avoided. Lastly, after relieving yourself on the toilet, make sure you wipe from front to back, as that diminishes the chances of crossover bacteria from the bowel to the urinary tract (the highest leading cause of UTIs).
6. Adopt a Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic or keto diet can lead to increased acidity in the urine. Research shows that this increased acidity from a keto diet can in some instances completely cure a UTI, as well as rapidly improve UTI symptoms and urine characteristics. In the 16 cases of keto diet and UTI treatment studied, five were complete cures, four were cured after the addition of ammonium nitrate, and with every patient (including two nursing mothers) all were discharged in excellent health with no adverse side effects. These remedies were achieved in controlled hospital settings, but the ketogenic diet is something you could try independently to improve your urinary tract health and achieve quick, safe weight loss, among many other benefits.
7. Try Natural Supplements
Here are a few natural supplements with supporting scientific data.
- Cranberry extract: Just like cranberry juice, the extract works by preventing bacterial adhesion to the urinary tract; basically if it can’t stick, it can’t make you sick.
- Bearberry leaf: Also called uva-ursi, this combo of bearberry leaf and dandelion root/leaf has shown a decrease in UTI recurrence.
- Garlic extract: Due to its antimicrobial properties, garlic may be able to prevent UTIs by blocking the growth of bacteria.
- D-Mannose: A type of sugar found in cranberries, D-mannose has been proven effective at treating and preventing UTIs according to some studies.
Take the You Out of UTI
Urinary tract infections are an all-too-common problem, especially for those who suffer from recurring infections. Alternatives to antibiotics include dietary changes, healthy behavioral habits, and applying home remedies to your treatment. However, UTIs can also signal an underlying health condition and lead to serious complications if left untreated, so it’s important to monitor UTIs under medical supervision and speak with your physician about the best course of treatment rather than relying solely on home remedies or self diagnosis.