Can you guess what the No. 1 infection that people get is? If you guessed a urinary tract infection (UTI), you are correct. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urinary tract infections are the single most common infection that people contract.
Because they are so common, UTIs have a variety of remedies. Their frequent treatment with antibiotics has caused many bacteria to become antibiotic-resistant. This is dangerous. The more resistant to antibiotics the bacteria in our bodies become, the stronger and more adaptive they get. Eventually, antibiotics will stop working. This places us at a greater risk for bigger, more threatening infections.
To combat the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, more people are exploring ways to treat UTIs without using antibiotics, such as with essential oils, dietary supplements, and even baking soda.
How to use baking soda for a UTI
Proponents of the baking soda method for treating a UTI claim that baking soda neutralizes the acid in your urine, which allows your body to take care of the bacteria on its own. They also claim that baking soda helps detoxify your kidneys, which stops the infection from spreading there and causing damage.
To use baking soda as a treatment for a UTI, it’s recommended that you dissolve 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda in water and drink it on an empty stomach.
What the research says
There isn’t a lot of scientific proof that baking soda can treat a UTI. However, there is proof that baking soda can actually be harmful to your body.
One review by the California Poison Control System found that out of 192 cases of baking soda poisoning, 4–7 percent of cases were caused by people trying to use baking soda as treatment for UTIs. In most cases, the complications were serious enough that the people who were poisoned had to go to the hospital. Using baking soda for a UTI may mask a bigger problem. For example, if you treat your infection at home and don’t talk with your doctor, you may miss a larger complication that is causing the infections.
Risks and warnings
Even though baking soda is natural, it can still be dangerous. Baking soda can be pretty harmful, especially if it’s eaten. There has been at least one case documented in the Western Journal of Emergency Health in which a man experienced severe bleeding when he swallowed baking soda.
The recommended dose of baking soda that is considered safe for an adult is 1/2 teaspoon dissolved in 4–8 ounces of water every two hours. Any more than that can cause complications. You can actually get brain damage or brain bleeding if you ingest too much baking soda.
Mild complications from an overdose of baking soda include:
- abdominal pain
Rare cases of baking soda overdose lead to:
There have even been cases of people’s stomachs actually exploding from too much baking soda.
Warning: If you are pregnant, be especially careful. Using baking soda for UTIs while pregnant can harm both you and your baby.
Other treatments for UTIs
In general, UTIs are treated with antibiotics. In some cases, if you’re experiencing severe discomfort and irritation from the infection when you use the bathroom, your doctor may prescribe a medication called phenazopyridine, which is designed to reduce pain in the bladder area. Phenazopyridine is not an antibiotic. It won’t cure a UTI, but it can help make you more comfortable. This drug will cause your urine to be a bright orange color and may stain undergarments.
If you are prone to UTIs, one of the best things you can do is try to prevent them. The CDC suggests that you do the following to prevent UTIs:
- Urinate before and after having sex.
- Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
- Consider switching from baths to showers so you don’t give the bacteria access to enter the body.
- Wipe from front to back, so you don’t bring stool toward the vagina and urethra.
- Avoid bubble baths.
- Don’t use anything in the genital areas except water. The following items can irritate the genital tract and upset the pH balance, allowing bacteria to get in:
- douche products
- If you do use cleaning products, use gentle soap. Soap can be abrasive and cause raw skin irritation around the urethra. This is now a perfect environment for bacteria culture to grown and move up to the bladder.
- Urinate when you first feel the urge.
The bottom line
Although it may be tempting to try baking soda as a natural treatment for a UTI, it may do more harm than good. Instead, talk to your doctor about trying an essential oil before turning to an antibiotic. Some essential oils showed promising results in treating UTIs in a study published in the Open Microbiology Journal.