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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common. A 2022 analysis found that more than 404.6 million people had UTIs worldwide in 2019.

UTIs happen when bacteria, usually from the skin or rectum, enter the urethra. You can get an infection along any part of the urinary tract, but bladder infections are the most common.

Though UTIs can affect anyone, people assigned female at birth are more prone to them. That’s because the female urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the bladder, is shorter than the male urethra.

The shorter distance makes it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. The proximity of the urethra to the vagina and rectum, which are sources of bacteria, also plays a role.

Other risk factors for UTIs include:

  • history of UTIs
  • sexual activity
  • poor hygiene
  • age, with children and older adults more prone to UTIs
  • pregnancy
  • changes to vaginal bacteria, which spermicides and menopause can cause
  • structural problems in the urinary tract, such as an enlarged prostate
  • having a catheter in place
  • certain medical conditions, such as diabetes

UTI symptoms

Common UTI symptoms include:

  • a burning sensation when peeing
  • frequent urination
  • cloudy or dark urine
  • urine with a strong odor
  • a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
  • pelvic pain
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Bacteria cause almost 95% of UTIs, but fungi can also cause infection.

Though antibiotics typically treat UTIs, there are several natural ways to help manage infections and reduce the risk of recurrence.

This article reviews six home remedies you can use to treat UTIs.

Language matters

You’ll notice that the language used in this article to share stats and other data points is pretty binary, fluctuating between the use of “male” and “female” or “men” and “women.”

Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who are transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

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Dehydration is linked to an increased risk of UTIs.

This is because regular urination can help flush bacteria from the urinary tract to prevent infection. When you’re dehydrated, you aren’t urinating as often, which can create a breeding ground for bacteria.

A 2019 study examined nursing home residents and administered a drinking schedule to participants to increase their fluid intake. Following the schedule decreased UTIs requiring antibiotics by 58%.

In a 2020 randomized control trial, 140 premenopausal participants prone to UTIs took part in a 12-month study to test if a higher fluid intake would decrease their risk of recurrent cystitis and, in turn, their risk of developing a UTI. Researchers found that an increase in fluid intake led to a decrease in UTI frequency.

To stay hydrated and meet your fluid needs, it’s best to drink water throughout the day and always when you’re thirsty.

Benefits of drinking more fluids for UTI

Drinking plenty of liquids can decrease your risk of UTIs by making you pee more, which helps remove bacteria from your urinary tract.

Some evidence suggests that increasing your intake of vitamin C could protect against UTIs.

Vitamin C is thought to work by increasing the acidity of urine, killing off the bacteria that cause infection.

A small 2020 randomized placebo study involving 19 people who had undergone kidney transplant found that the amount of bacteria in urine was significantly lower in people who received intravenous vitamin C group compared to the placebo group.

Results from a small 2016 study showed that combining vitamin C with two other popular natural UTI remedies — cranberries and the probiotic lactobacillus rhamnosus — could be an effective treatment for recurrent UTIs.

Fruits and vegetables are especially high in vitamin C and are a good way to increase your intake.

Red peppers, oranges, grapefruit, and kiwifruit all contain the full recommended daily amount of vitamin C in just one serving.

Despite these studies, more research is needed to prove vitamin C’s effectiveness in reducing UTI risk. Plus, there are conflicting views on whether vitamin C can really change the acidity of your urine enough to kill off bacteria. However, at the very least, increasing your vitamin C intake will likely offer some extra support for your immune system.

You can try products like vitamin C gummies or supplements to boost your normal daily intake.

Emergen-C 1000mg Vitamin C Powder

  • Price: $$
  • What it’s good for: for people who may not want to take vitamin C in capsule form

A liquid form of your daily dose of vitamin C, Emergen-C Vitamin C Powder is packed with the support needed for daily immunity. As a drink, it provides immune support and delivers antioxidants such as zinc and manganese, vitamin B, and electrolytes.

Nature Made Extra Strength Dosage Vitamin C

  • Price: $
  • What it’s good for: kids who might need an extra boost of vitamin C

These tangerine-flavored gummies are an easy, tasty way to receive immune support from vitamin C. Each daily dosage boasts 500 mg of vitamin C.

Benefits of vitamin C for UTI

Increasing vitamin C intake may decrease your risk of UTIs by making your urine more acidic, thus killing infection-causing bacteria.

Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice is one of the most well-known natural remedies for UTIs. If drinking unsweetened cranberry juice isn’t your thing, you can also take it in capsule form.

Cranberries work by helping to prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.

In a 2016 study, participants with recent histories of UTIs drank an 8-ounce (240-mL) serving of cranberry juice every day for 24 weeks. Those who drank cranberry juice had fewer UTI episodes than the control group.

Another study showed that consuming cranberry products may lower the number of UTIs someone experiences in a year in a year, especially for those who have recurrent UTIs.

In a more recent study, participants with a history of recurring uncomplicated UTIs reported a reduction in infections after taking a cranberry supplement for six months prior.

However, some other studies suggest that cranberry juice may not be as effective in the prevention of UTIs.

Because of the inconsistent results of recent studies, researchers published a review of existing studies on the topic in 2021. They initially identified 3,421 studies, and ultimately found 23 trials with sufficient data for inclusion.

The results of the meta-analysis showed that cranberry supplementation significantly reduced the incidence of UTIs. While the researchers suggested that cranberry be used alongside other therapies to treat and prevent UTIs, they also noted that several of the included trials had limitations.

Although the evidence is mixed, cranberry juice may help reduce the risk of UTIs. Whether it actually works as a treatment for an active UTI is less cut and dry.

Keep in mind that any possible benefits of this home remedy only apply to unsweetened cranberry juice, rather than sweetened varieties. Cranberry juice with added sugars won’t help treat an active UTI.

Cranberry concentrate or cranberry juice such as this one could be one way to reduce the risks of a UTI.

Benefits of cranberries for UTI

Some studies suggest that cranberries could help reduce your risk of UTIs by preventing bacteria from adhering to your urinary tract.

Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that are consumed through food or supplements. They can promote a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.

Probiotics are available in supplement form or can be found in fermented foods, such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and probiotic yogurt.

Consuming probiotics has been linked to many things, from improved digestive health to enhanced immune function.

Some studies have shown that probiotics may reduce the risk of UTIs. These studies have involved the use of oral and vaginally-administered probiotics, as well as different probiotic strains.

Antibiotics, the main line of defense against UTIs, can cause disturbances in levels of gut bacteria. Probiotics may be beneficial in restoring gut bacteria after antibiotic treatment.

Studies have shown that probiotics can increase levels of good gut bacteria and reduce side effects associated with antibiotic use.

Anyone interested in upping their probiotic intake could try these ones by Renew Life:

Renew Life Probiotics for Women

  • Price: $$$
  • What it’s good for: women’s care and health

Known for preventing bad bacteria from impacting your gut probiotics can also be a good way to look after your vaginal and urinary health. This product has been shown to balance healthy pH and yeast levels and supports general autoimmune health too.

Benefits of probiotics for UTI

Probiotics could help prevent UTIs and are beneficial for restoring gut bacteria after antibiotic treatment.

Preventing UTIs starts with practicing a few good bathroom and hygiene habits.

First, it’s important not to hold your urine for too long. This can lead to a buildup of bacteria, resulting in infection.

Peeing after sex has long been linked to a reduced risk of UTIs by preventing the spread of bacteria and is recommended by health authorities, including Planned Parenthood.

Additionally, those who are prone to UTIs should avoid using spermicide, as it has been linked to an increase in UTIs.

Finally, when using the toilet — especially if you have a female urethra — make sure you wipe front to back. Wiping from back to front can cause bacteria to spread to the urinary tract and is associated with an increased risk of UTIs.

One way to stop or prevent any bacteria from spreading amongst genitalia is by using Always Feminine Wipes.

Always Feminine Wipes

  • Price: $
  • What it’s good for: easy and convenient access throughout the day

Easily resealable and compact enough to keep on your person, these wipes are lightly scented to ensure you feel fresh and clean throughout the day.

Benefits of healthy hygiene for UTI

Urinating frequently and after sexual intercourse can reduce the risk of UTI. Careful wiping when you use the toilet may also help decrease the risk of UTI.

Several natural supplements may decrease the risk of developing a UTI.

Here are a few supplements that have been studied and are all available in capsule form:

Nature’s Bounty Cranberry with Vitamin C

  • Price: $$
  • What it’s good for: all-in-one supplement to support both urinary and immune health

Made from cranberry concentrate and a dose of vitamin C, these contain the equivalent of 4,200 mg of cranberries. In addition to supporting urinary health, these also contain many antioxidants that can help build up the immune system.

Nature’s Bounty Garlic Extract

  • Price: $$
  • What it’s good for: alternative treatment to prevent the growth of bacteria in the body as a whole

While potentially beneficial as a prevention method for UTIs, garlic extract is also known to promote heart and cardiovascular health and helps maintain cholesterol health.

While not many studies have specialized in the effects of garlic in treating UTIs, one older study found that the combination of garlic oil and parsley in pills could have a synergistic effect on bacterial growth and proliferation.

  • D-mannose: D-mannose is a type of sugar that is found in cranberries. Research suggests it’s effective in treating UTIs and preventing recurrence.
  • Cranberry extract: Like cranberry juice, cranberry extract works by preventing bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
  • Garlic extract: Research shows garlic and garlic extract to have antimicrobial properties, so they may be able to block the growth of bacteria to prevent UTIs.
Benefits of natural supplements for UTI

D-mannose, bearberry leaf, and cranberry extract are natural supplements that have been shown to prevent UTIs and decrease recurrence.

UTI supplement options

Read our full review of Uqora, a company that focuses on developing natural supplements for UTI prevention.

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Here are some ways you can manage UTI symptoms that may also help prevent a recurrence:

  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Avoid or limit foods and drinks that can irritate the bladder, such as coffee, soft drinks, and citrus.
  • Avoid holding in your pee for too long.
  • Apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to minimize bladder discomfort.
  • Ask your doctor about prescription or OTC pain medication.
  • Take all your antibiotics as prescribed by your healthcare professional.

It’s important to talk with a doctor if you have symptoms of a UTI. While natural remedies may help, a medical professional can diagnose a UTI and prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.

Left untreated, UTIs have a risk of severe complications, including spreading to your kidneys. Don’t ignore signs of a severe infection.

Get in touch with a healthcare professional if you experience any of the following:

  • a fever over 103°F (39.4°C)
  • shaking
  • chills
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • blood in your urine

Why are females at a higher risk for UTIs?

People with female reproductive organs are at a higher risk for UTIs because of their anatomy. The female urethra, the tube which empties urine from your bladder out of your body, is shorter than someone born with male anatomy.

The female urethra is also quite close to female reproductive organs. That means bacteria from sexual intercourse as well as products like spermicide can be in close contact with the urethra and bladder.

Females also experience menopause and pregnancy. These two biological events change the bacteria in your reproductive and digestive tracts and create conditions that make UTIs more likely.

Should UTI treatment vary according to what’s causing the infection?

Your UTI treatment may vary according to what’s causing the infection. Certain UTIs, especially chronic and recurring ones, will need antibiotic treatment as opposed to simple home remedies.

If you’re prescribed antibiotics to treat a UTI, a healthcare professional may choose an antibiotic that’s specific to the type of bacteria that’s triggering your infection.

Will over-the-counter products (OTC) products like AZO get rid of my UTI?

Maybe. OTC products like AZO contain active ingredients that have antibacterial properties. In the case of AZO, the active ingredient is a compound called methenamine.

In combination with an anti-inflammatory compound, these products are meant to help your body kill harmful bacteria.

For powerful bacterial infections, the active ingredients in OTC products just might not be enough. Also, most of these products advertise as a protection against UTIs, not necessarily a treatment for current, active infections.

Can you get rid of a UTI naturally at home, or do you need antibiotics?

Sometimes, you can get rid of a UTI naturally by resting, drinking lots of water, taking dietary supplements, and giving the infection some time to heal. Research from 2017 suggests that somewhere between 25% and 42% of UTIs resolve naturally without the use of antibiotics.

However, there are certain situations where “wait and see” just isn’t an acceptable approach. Untreated UTIs can cause potentially life threatening complications, including sepsis.

When do I need to see a doctor for a UTI?

UTIs do have a risk of severe complications if they’re left untreated. UTIs that affect your kidneys and bladder need to be treated by a professional. Don’t ignore signs of a severe infection.

Signs that it’s time to get in touch with a healthcare professional include:

  • a fever over 103°F (39.4°C)
  • shaking
  • chills
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • blood in your urine

What happens if a UTI is left untreated?

Left untreated, a UTI can spread higher in the urinary tract to the kidneys or ureters, which are the tubes that connect the bladder to the kidneys.

Upper UTIs can cause severe symptoms, damage the kidneys, and spread to the bloodstream, becoming life threatening.

Can UTIs cause kidney infections?

Yes, UTIs can spread to the kidneys and have the potential to damage the kidneys if not treated promptly.

If you have the following signs of a kidney infection, seek immediate medical treatment:

  • fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or above
  • chills
  • pain in your back or sides
  • agitation or restlessness
  • confusion

What are signs that your UTI is healing?

UTIs typically clear up within 3 to 5 days of starting treatment. You should start to notice a gradual improvement in your pain and other symptoms.

If you don’t notice any improvement within this time frame or your symptoms are getting worse, talk with your doctor.

UTIs are a common and frustrating problem, particularly if they keep recurring.

Home remedies and OTC products can help prevent UTIs, but they can’t always completely eliminate the bacteria causing your infection. If you’re trying home remedies but still have symptoms, talk with a healthcare professional to avoid any complications.

Staying hydrated, practicing health-promoting habits, and supplementing your diet with some UTI-fighting ingredients are good ways to lower your risk of these infections in the future.

Read this article in Spanish.