Urinary tract infections (UTI) can affect the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat this infection. But it’s also important to avoid anything that could irritate your bladder, such as alcohol.

Moderate consumption of alcohol may seem harmless, but it can increase the acidity level of urine and actually worsen your symptoms.

Plus, mixing alcohol with an antibiotic prescribed for a UTI can cause other side effects, like drowsiness and an upset stomach.

Alcohol isn’t the only drink to avoid with a UTI. During treatment, your doctor may suggest drinking plenty of fluids to help flush bacteria from your urinary tract.

However, avoid fluids that can cause further bladder irritation. These include drinks containing caffeine, such as tea, coffee, and sodas.

It’s OK to drink tea and coffee, but only decaffeinated beverages. Caffeine is a diuretic, so it can increase symptoms of urination urgency.

Also, avoid citrus fruit juices like grapefruit juice and orange juice. These acidic drinks also irritate the bladder.

But drinks aren’t the only items that can bother the bladder when treating a UTI. Certain foods can irritate your bladder, too. Avoid tomato-based foods, chocolate, and spicy foods.

Chocolate contains caffeine that can increase frequency and urgency of urination, whereas tomato-based products and spicy foods contain ingredients that may irritate the bladder lining.

Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruit are also off-limits and can worsen UTI symptoms.

Some UTIs don’t cause any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • frequent urination
  • burning while urinating
  • passing small amounts of urine
  • cloudy urine
  • fish-smelling urine
  • pelvic or back pain
  • bloody urination

UTIs occur more often in females, but they can also affect males. It’s more common in females due to anatomy. Women have a shorter urethra than men, so it’s easier for bacteria to travel into their bladder.

UTIs develop when bacteria enter the urinary tract and multiply in the bladder. Bacteria can be found on the skin near the opening of the vagina and rectum. It doesn’t usually pose a problem, but sometimes these bacteria enter the urethra.

This can happen during sexual activity, or bacteria may enter the urinary tract after using the toilet. This is why it’s important for females to wipe from front to back.

Certain factors also increase the risk of a UTI. For example, changes in estrogen levels during menopause can make women more susceptible to these infections.

A weakened immune system also increases the risk of a UTI, as well as using a catheter. This makes it easier for bacteria to enter the urethra.

Even though you should avoid alcohol with a UTI, alcohol doesn’t cause these infections. It can, however, have an effect on bladder function.

Alcohol is a diuretic, so it can increase the frequency of urination. Plus, the dehydrating effect of alcohol may cause some bladder irritation, like pain and burning while urinating.

Painful, frequent urination and bloody urine are classic symptoms of a UTI. But you’ll need to make a doctor’s appointment to confirm a diagnosis.

Your doctor can order a urine sample and look for the presence of white blood cells, red blood cells, and bacteria. If you have a UTI, you’ll receive a 7- to 10-day course of antibiotics to kill the bacteria.

It’s important to complete the full course of treatment, or else the UTI could return.

In addition to an antibiotic, other home remedies can help relieve discomfort. This includes drinking plenty of water to flush bacteria out of your urinary tract and using a heating pad to reduce pelvic and abdominal pain.

Your doctor may also prescribe medication to relieve burning and pain associated with these infections.

Some people also drink cranberry juice to help ease UTI symptoms. There isn’t enough evidence supporting cranberry juice as a treatment, but it might relieve symptoms and prevent infections due to its infection-fighting properties.

Cranberry juice may interfere with the anti-coagulant medication warfarin and cause unusual bleeding. Don’t drink this juice if you’re taking this medication.

When to see a doctor
  • You have burning, painful urination.
  • You have foul-smelling urine.
  • You have traces of blood in your urine.
  • You experience frequent urination.
  • You have pelvic pain.
  • You develop a fever.

UTIs are painful. They can lead to complications like kidney damage, but with treatment, symptoms should improve within a few days. Some serious infections may require treatment with intravenous antibiotics.

In the event of recurrent UTIs, your doctor may recommend a single-dose antibiotic after sexual activity or prescribe a low-dose antibiotic as maintenance therapy.

Although antibiotics clear many UTIs, drinking alcohol with a UTI can worsen symptoms and may prolong your infection.

Knowing which foods and drinks to avoid with a UTI can reduce bladder irritation. So, while you’ll need to avoid alcohol, certain juices, and caffeine until the infection clears, drinking plenty of water and cranberry juice may help you feel better sooner and prevent future UTIs.