8 Home Remedies for a UTI, Examined

Cranberry juice
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Anyone who has had a UTI (urinary tract infection) knows how disruptive it can be. You run to the bathroom every 10 minutes only to have an uncomfortable burning feeling and trouble passing urine.

A UTI is an infection that occurs when bacteria gets into the urinary tract (the body's system for excreting urine). According to the National Institutes of Health, at least 40 to 60 percent of women develop a UTI at some point in their lives.

Home remedies are sometimes said to help ease symptoms or prevent UTIs from recurring. Although you may be interested in treating bladder infections without antibiotics (especially if you tend to get UTIs), it's crucial that you talk with your health care provider if you feel a UTI coming on.

Some remedies or supplements may have side effects, and others may interact with medications you take. Also, if a UTI isn't treated promptly or completely, the infection may spread to the kidneys and cause serious complications.

Here's a look at the eight most common home remedies for a UTI:

1) Drink Enough Water

Sipping a glass of water (or other fluids) can help speed your recovery from a UTI. Drinking water helps you urinate more frequently, which can help to flush out the bacteria in your urinary tract. Just be sure to urinate as soon as you feel the need to go.

Although the amount of water you need depends on a number of factors (including how active you are and your climate), the Institute of Medicine's general guideline is for men to drink 13 cups (three liters, or 101 ounces) and women to drink nine cups (2.2 liters, or 74 ounces) a day, from all sources.

All beverages and liquids like soup count towards your daily fluid intake, however, alcohol, carbonated beverages, coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks may irritate the bladder.

Upping your fluid intake isn't advised if you have a condition that requires limiting fluids, like low sodium, heart or kidney failure, or incontinence, or if you take medication, but your health care provider may have other strategies to speed healing.

Bottom Line: It may be worth giving it a try (as long as it's safe for you) in combination with standard treatment, but don't go overboard. Sip your beverages slowly and stay within the recommended daily intake.

2) Ease UTI Pain With a Heating Pad or Warm Compress

Placing a heating pad, hot water bottle, or warm compress on your abdomen or back may help to ease the discomfort of a bladder infection. Whatever you use, the temperature should be warm but not hot and you shouldn't leave it on for prolonged periods of time.

Bottom Line: The warmth may help to ease symptoms, like pressure and discomfort, but it won't prevent or treat a UTI. 

3) Cranberry Juice

One of the oldest home remedies for a UTI, cranberries and cranberry juice are often said to cure a UTI. Compounds in cranberries (known as proanthocyanins) are thought to prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, which makes it easier for the bacteria to be flushed away during urination.

For a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2012, scientists sized up 24 previously published clinical trials on cranberry juice to prevent UTIs. In their review, the report's authors found that the benefit for preventing UTI is small, and there were a large number of dropouts and withdrawals from studies (mainly due to the unpalatability of cranberry juice over a long period of time).

A more recent study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016, suggests that cranberry shows promise in the prevention of UTI in women with a history of UTI. Participants took either a 240 mL serving of a cranberry beverage or a placebo beverage for six months. By the study's end, consumption of the cranberry beverage had lowered the number of UTI episodes.

Bottom Line: For some people, cranberries in moderation may show a slight benefit (and may help by boosting your fluid intake), but it's not right for everyone and shouldn't replace conventional prevention strategies. Check with your primary care provider especially if you have diabetes, kidney stones, a clotting disorder, or are taking blood-thinning medication.

Cranberry supplements shouldn't be taken within two weeks of a scheduled surgery.

Related: The Benefits of Cranberry

4) D-Mannose

A type of sugar found in certain fruits and also available in supplement form, D-mannose is sometimes said to help prevent recurrent UTIs. D-mannose is excreted into urine and is thought to bind to bacteria, keeping it from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract.

Although there have been few clinical trials on D-mannose, a 2014 study published in World Journal of Urology found that women with a history of recurrent UTIs who took D-mannose powder or the antibiotic nitrofurantoin had a lower rate of recurrent UTIs compared to those who didn't take anything.

Bottom Line: A couple of small studies on D-mannose have been promising, but we need more evidence from clinical trials regarding its effectiveness. Speak with your health care provider if you're considering it. 

Related: D-Mannose to Prevent a UTI

5) Probiotics

Lactobacillus bacteria (a type of probiotic bacteria found naturally in the body and in foods like yogurt) are considered promising in the prevention of UTIs. The strains Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1, for instance, have been explored for preventing UTIs in postmenopausal women. 

In a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers reviewed previously published studies on probiotics for the prevention of UTIs in people who were susceptible. The report's authors concluded that there was no significant benefit for probiotics compared to a placebo or no treatment, but larger, well-designed clinical trials are needed.

Bottom Line: One of the more promising remedies for UTI prevention, more research is needed as the few clinical trials conducted so far have looked at different probiotic strains, forms (oral vs. vaginal suppository), treatment lengths, and types of urinary tract infections.

Related: What is Lactobacillus Acidophilus?

6) Vitamin C

Vitamin C is sometimes touted as a remedy to prevent UTIs. By making urine more acidic, vitamin C is said to make the bladder less inviting to bacteria.

Bottom Line: While vitamin C has a long history of use as a home remedy for UTIs, there is a lack of research on its effectiveness.

Related: The Benefits of Vitamin C Supplements

7) Baking Soda

Sometimes recommended for UTIs, proponents claim that baking soda neutralizes urine's acidity and stops the infection from spreading. Although there isn't any research on the use of baking soda for treating a UTI, one review highlights the dangers.

The review, published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics in 2014, found that of 192 cases of baking soda poisoning reported to the California Poison Control System, 4 to 7 percent of cases resulted from people taking baking soda in an attempt to treat their urinary tract infections. Most cases required visits to the hospital. (Baking soda can cause serious complications if you ingest too much.)

Bottom Line: Skip this home remedy due to the lack of evidence and potential risks.

8) Zinc

Often said to help fight infections, zinc is found naturally in foods such as seafood (particularly oysters), meat, seeds, beans, peas, and lentils. Research suggests that high-doses of zinc may increase the risk of urinary tract infections, especially in women. (Large amounts of zinc can also lead to copper deficiency and damage the nervous system.) Another study found that zinc supplementation led to a faster recovery of UTI, but worsened pain in the abdomen.

Bottom Line: Despite zinc's long-standing reputation as an infection-fighter, take a pass on this supplement for UTIs.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you've experienced your first UTI or are prone to recurring UTIs, the safest route is to work with your health care provider rather than to try to treat or prevent UTIs by yourself. You want to be sure that any infection is treated properly to prevent the spread of the infection and serious complications.

While the research on home remedies is evolving, you and your health care provider can weigh factors like your risk of getting a recurring UTI, your response to standard treatment and prevention strategies, and the potential side effects of home remedies to come up with a plan that is best suited for you.

Sources:

Jepson RG, Williams G, Craig JC. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Oct 17;10:CD001321.

Kranjčec B, Papeš D, Altarac S. D-mannose powder for prophylaxis of recurrent urinary tract infections in women: a randomized clinical trial. World J Urol. 2014 Feb;32(1):79-84.

Maki KC, Kaspar KL, Khoo C, Derrig LH, Schild AL, Gupta K. Consumption of a cranberry juice beverage lowered the number of clinical urinary tract infection episodes in women with a recent history of urinary tract infection. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jun;103(6):1434-42.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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