What is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection is a urethral and bladder infections caused by bacteria. Home remedies for a UTI include cranberry juice, probiotics, D-mannose extract, and others.
Most women (and many men, too) have experienced the uncomfortable, annoying sensation of a urinary tract infection. Around 25% of women experience a second UTI within six months of the first. You’ve probably been tempted to turn to the internet or try out a friend’s herbal cure to rid yourself of a UTI, but you might have also wondered whether treating it on your own was a good idea.
How do you determine when to use home remedies for UTIs or visit the doctor for a prescription? Learn how to recognize the signs of a UTI, gain an understanding of science-backed home remedies that might help, and identify more serious UTIs that you shouldn’t attempt to treat at home.
A urinary tract infection can involve any part of your urinary tract — the system that processes and filters liquid waste out of your body — but when people speak of UTIs, they generally mean urethral and bladder infections caused by bacteria.
Other urinary tract infections may include the ureters, the tube-like structures connecting the kidneys to the bladder, and kidney infections. Kidney infections, which can cause fever, chills, and nausea, can be very dangerous if they aren’t treated correctly — and it’s possible for an untreated UTI to turn into a kidney infection. If your symptoms seem more severe than those listed in the next section, seek care immediately.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
One single UTI is an uncomfortable annoyance that can usually be fixed with medicine and time. However, frequent UTIs can be an enormous emotional and physical burden. The following symptoms might indicate a milder UTI that you can treat with home remedies:
- Feeling like you have to urinate more often than usual.
- Experiencing tenderness around your bladder area and a burning sensation when you urinate.
- Having the urge to urinate but not being able to.
What causes a UTI?
In one of the more common forms of UTI, E. coli bacteria from the anus are introduced to the urethra and travel upwards into the bladder. While over 60% of women will experience one, or several UTIs, only about 12% of men will have one — most likely because women have shorter urethras that are closer to the anus. Risk factors for one-time and recurring UTIs include the following:
- Wiping from back to front (if you have a vagina). This allows the bacteria from your anus to enter your urethra.
- Not urinating right after having sex to flush bacteria out of the urethra.
- Going through menopause.
- Not drinking enough water.
- Holding urine in your bladder for a long time or not emptying it all the way.
- Having diabetes.
- Using birth control methods like diaphragms and spermicide.
Is it OK to treat a UTI at home?
Sometimes. You certainly don’t want to take antibiotics if you don’t need them because antibiotic overuse and bacterial resistance to these drugs is a huge worldwide problem.
There are many situations where taking antibiotics for a UTI is necessary. Proceed with caution when using herbal medicine or home remedies for UTIs, and don’t avoid going to the doctor if you think you need medical care.
What are home remedies for a UTI?
Urologists recommend that patients with UTIs drink extra fluids to flush the bacteria out of their bladders. Don’t turn to sodas, juice, or sweet tea because the sugar in these beverages might irritate your already inflamed bladder. Instead, stick to unsweetened drinks such as water and herbal tea. Soups and broths are also excellent choices.
2. Cranberry juice
You’ve probably heard from your mother, sister, or female friend that cranberry juice can cure a UTI. The good news is that there’s some benefit to this folk remedy — but the bad news is that most cranberry juice sold in stores is sweetened with sugar, which could make your UTI worse.
Before you run to the store and buy a bottle of cranberry juice, make sure it’s unsweetened. If you have frequent UTIs, consider cranberry tablets or D-mannose supplements to prevent recurring infections.
3. Vitamin C
If you keep vitamin C on hand for colds, try taking 1000 milligrams a few times a day for UTI symptoms. Some people take vitamin C as a preventive measure against UTIs because it makes your urine more acidic and less friendly to bacterial growth. There’s a slight chance that taking too much vitamin C or eating acidic foods will make your irritated bladder feel worse. Be careful with this approach and ask for a doctor’s advice if your sympt
4. D-Mannose extract
The benefits of cranberry juice are often extracted in the form of a simple sugar: D-mannose. This monosaccharide found in cranberries and other fruits may actually prevent the bacteria that cause UTIs from sticking to the walls of your bladder and irritating your urethra. D-mannose is often available as a loose powder or in capsules.
You might take probiotics for stomach troubles or ward off yeast infections — but there’s some benefit to taking them for UTIs as well. These “good bacteria” can help reduce infections by helping the body fight off UTI-causing bacteria in the urethra and bladder. Probiotic supplements that include Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 or Lactobacillus fermentum RC-14 help the most with UTIs.
Garlic has antibacterial properties that can be useful when fighting a UTI. You can purchase garlic supplements over the counter or try adding garlic to your foods. Alternately, try chopping up a clove of garlic or swallowing cloves like pills (the taste might be too strong for you to chew them).
7. Vitamin D
Unlike the other supplements on this list, vitamin D won’t cure a UTI as a home remedy — but if you’re one of the 25% of women who experience recurring UTIs, starting a vitamin D supplement now might help you banish your current infection for good.
Research has shown that because vitamin D levels play such a big part in regulating the human immune system, it’s an essential consideration for people who have recurring UTIs. Ask your doctor to check your blood levels of this vitamin if you’re planning on taking larger-than-average daily doses.
Urinary Incontinence in Women: Types, Causes, and Treatments for Bladder Control See Slideshow
Should you see a doctor for a UTI?
Urinary tract infections are common but often challenging to treat at home. Consider the following symptoms as red flags for making an immediate doctor’s appointment or seeking out emergency care.
- You have a high fever, chills, or blood in your urine.
- You have severe bladder, urethra, or kidney (mid-back) pain.
- You’re not sure it’s a UTI.
UTIs can sometimes be safely treated with home remedies if they are mild and if you catch them early. Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor about your condition if you’re experiencing severe symptoms or anything unusual that concerns you.
Medically Reviewed on 8/1/2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Urinary Tract Infection.”
Future Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences: “Natural therapeutics for urinary tract infections—a review.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “When urinary tract infections keep coming back.”
Mayo Clinic: “Urinary tract infection.”
National Association for Continence: “The Best Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infections.”
Nutrition Journal: “Role of D-mannose in urinary tract infections – a narrative review.”
Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences: “Vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for urinary tract infection in women at reproductive age.”
Urology Care Foundation: “Urinary Tract Infections in Adults.”
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “Urinary Tract Infections.”
World Health Organization: “Antibiotic resistance.”