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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common, affecting about 150 million people worldwide each year.

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.

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

Bacteria cause almost 95% of UTIs, but fungi can also cause infection.

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

This article reviews 6 home remedies you can use to treat UTIs.

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 were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

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 56%.

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.

An older 2007 study of UTIs in pregnant women looked at the effects of taking 100 milligrams of vitamin C every day.

The study found that vitamin C had a protective effect, cutting the risk of UTIs by more than half in those taking vitamin C, compared with the control 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 theacidity 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.

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.

A 2015 study showed that treatment with cranberry juice capsules equivalent to two 8-ounce servings of cranberry juice could cut the risk of UTIs in half.

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.

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 also show that certain strains of probiotics may decrease the risk of UTIs:

  • A 2013 study found that Lactobacillus, a common probiotic strain, helped prevent UTIs in adult females.
  • A 2013 study found that taking both probiotics and antibiotics was more effective at preventing recurrent UTIs than using antibiotics alone.

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.

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 sexual intercourse can also reduce your risk of UTIs by preventing the spread of bacteria.

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.

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:

  • 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 it 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.

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

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.