Urinary tract infections affect millions of people every year.
Though they're traditionally treated with antibiotics, there are also many home remedies available that help treat them and prevent them from reoccurring.
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects any part of the urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra (1).
Bacteria from the bowel are the most common cause of UTIs, but fungi and viruses can also cause infection (1).
The two strains of bacteria Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus saprophyticus account for about 80% of cases (2).
Common symptoms of UTI include (1):
- A burning sensation when peeing
- Frequent urination
- Cloudy or dark urine
- Urine with a strong odor
- A feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
- Pelvic pain
Though UTIs can affect anyone, women are more prone to infection. This is because the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the bladder, is shorter in women than men. This makes it easier for bacteria to enter and reach the bladder (2).
In fact, nearly half of all women will experience a UTI at some point in their lives (3).
Antibiotics are used to treat UTIs and are sometimes used in low doses long-term to prevent recurrence (4).
There are also several natural ways to protect against infections and reduce the risk of recurrence.
Without further ado, here are the top 6 home remedies to fight UTI.
Hydration status has been linked to the risk of urinary tract infection.
This is because regular urination can help flush bacteria from the urinary tract to prevent infection (5).
One study examined participants with long-term urinary catheters and found that low urine output was associated with an increased risk of developing a UTI (6).
A 2003 study looked at 141 girls and showed that low fluid intake and infrequent urination were both linked to recurrent UTIs (7).
In another study, 28 women self-monitored their hydration status using a probe to measure their urine concentration. They found that an increase in fluid intake led to a decrease in UTI frequency (8).
To stay hydrated and meet your fluid needs, it's best to drink water throughout the day and always when you're thirsty.
Summary: Drinking plenty of liquids can decrease the risk of UTIs by making you pee more, which helps remove bacteria from the urinary tract.
Some evidence shows that increasing your intake of vitamin C could protect against urinary tract infections.
A 2007 study of UTIs in pregnant women looked at the effects of taking 100 mg 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 to the control group (10).
Another study looked at behavioral factors that affected the risk of UTIs and found that a high vitamin C intake decreased the risk (11).
Fruits and vegetables are especially high in vitamin C and are a good way to increase your intake.
Summary: Increasing vitamin C intake may decrease the risk of UTIs by making the urine more acidic, thus killing off infection-causing bacteria.
Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice is one of the most well-known natural remedies for urinary tract infections.
In one recent study, women 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 (15).
Another study showed that consuming cranberry products may lower the number of UTIs in a year, especially for women who have recurrent UTIs (16).
A 2015 study showed that treatment with cranberry juice capsules equivalent to two 8-ounce servings of cranberry juice could cut the risk of urinary tract infections in half (17).
However, some other studies suggest that cranberry juice may not be as effective in the prevention of UTIs.
One review looked at 24 studies with a total of 4,473 participants. Though some smaller studies did find that cranberry products could reduce UTI frequency, other larger studies found no benefit (18).
Although the evidence is mixed, cranberry juice may be helpful in reducing the risk of urinary tract infections.
Keep in mind that these benefits only apply to unsweetened cranberry juice, rather than sweetened commercial brands.
Summary: Some studies show that cranberries could help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections by preventing bacteria from adhering to the 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.
Some studies also show that certain strains of probiotics may decrease the risk of UTIs.
One study found that Lactobacillus, a common probiotic strain, helped prevent UTIs in adult women (21).
Another study found that taking both probiotics and antibiotics was more effective at preventing recurrent UTIs than using antibiotics alone (22).
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 (23).
Summary: Probiotics could help prevent UTIs when used alone or in combination with antibiotics.
Preventing urinary tract infections starts with practicing a few good bathroom and hygiene habits.
First, it's important not to hold urine for too long. This can lead to a buildup of bacteria, resulting in infection (26).
Peeing after sexual intercourse can also reduce the risk of UTIs by preventing the spread of bacteria (11).
Additionally, those who are prone to UTIs should avoid using spermicide, since it has been linked to an increase in UTIs (27).
Finally, when you use the toilet, 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 (28).
Summary: Urinating frequently and after sexual intercourse can reduce the risk of UTI. Spermicide use and wiping from back to front may increase the risk of UTI.
Several natural supplements may decrease the risk of developing a UTI.
Here are a few supplements that have been studied:
- D-Mannose: This is a type of sugar that is found in cranberries and has been shown to be effective in treating UTIs and preventing recurrence (29).
- Bearberry leaf: Also known as uva-ursi. One study showed that a combination of bearberry leaf, dandelion root and dandelion leaf decreased UTI recurrence (30).
- Cranberry extract: Like cranberry juice, cranberry extract works by preventing bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
- Garlic extract: Garlic has been shown to have antimicrobial properties and may be able to block the growth of bacteria to prevent UTIs (32, 33).
Summary: D-Mannose, bearberry leaf, cranberry extract and garlic extract are natural supplements that have been shown to prevent UTIs and decrease recurrence.
Urinary tract infections are a common problem and can be frustrating to deal with.
However, staying hydrated, practicing some healthy habits and supplementing your diet with some UTI-fighting ingredients are good ways to lower your risk of getting them.