Written on February 3, 2023 by Amy Harris, MS, RN, CNM. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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We all want to believe that natural remedies are better, but sadly that is not always the case. When it comes to UTIs, natural therapies may not work as well as antibiotics to cure your UTI, but they could help you avoid getting a UTI in the first place. So can you get rid of a UTI naturally? This post will help separate fact from fiction when it comes to getting rid of a UTI.
A urinary tract infection (UTI) happens when bacteria from your skin, rectum, or other source spreads up into your urinary tract . Infections start in your urethra (called urethritis) and cause the best-known UTI symptoms — that dreaded burning or stinging when you pee and the need to go to the bathroom every 2 seconds. The infection can travel up from your urethra into your bladder (called cystitis). Cystitis is the most common type of UTI . Untreated cystitis can lead to a kidney infection. Although all urinary tract infections generally require treatment, kidney infections can quickly become more severe and potentially require emergency medical treatment .
You may have a kidney infection if you have a fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or back and side pain. If you have these symptoms, you must be evaluated by an in-person healthcare provider as soon as possible. In rare cases, the infection can spread from your kidneys to other parts of your body and become life-threatening .
People mean many different things when they say natural. For example, they might mean plant-based or not containing chemicals, coloring, artificial flavorings, or synthetic additives. But, when it comes to UTI treatments, let’s say “natural” means anything that is not a medication.
The most common natural treatments people try for UTIs are:
If you have a UTI (diagnosed with a clean-catch urine sample at a healthcare provider’s office), then the most effective treatment is antibiotics . Bacteria cause nearly all UTIs (95%) . By waiting to test to see whether you have a UTI or trying less-effective natural treatments, your UTI could get worse and make you sicker.
One of the easiest and most natural things you can do to feel better when you have a UTI is to drink water. Staying hydrated won’t cure your UTI, but it will relieve your symptoms and help you recover faster.
You might want to stop drinking to avoid having to pee because doing so is so painful, but not having enough fluids in your body makes your UTI worse. When you empty your bladder, your urine flushes away any accumulated bacteria. The longer you hold your urine in your bladder, the longer the bacteria have to replicate, making your infection and symptoms worse .
Some beverages are bladder irritants and can make your UTI symptoms worse. Avoiding coffee, artificially sweetened drinks, and carbonated beverages also won’t treat your UTI. Still, they might help you feel better and help decrease inflammation of your bladder caused by your bacterial infection.
Someone will probably tell you to drink cranberry juice as soon as you whisper the word UTI. It’s no wonder — more than 150 million people watched TikTok videos about this DIY “treatment” in 2022. But unfortunately, the research does not support drinking cranberry juice as a treatment, especially when it is sweetened.
Guzzling down sweetened cranberry juice will only make your UTI worse. Not only is the sugar terrible for your teeth and waistline, but it is also the primary food source for the most common kind of bacteria responsible for UTIs (E. coli) .
Natural compounds in cranberries (flavonoids and phenolic acid) may make your bladder lining less sticky, reducing your risk for UTIs. But, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), there is insufficient evidence to show that cranberries, cranberry juice, or cranberry supplements can treat UTIs .
Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice or taking cranberry extract supplements may be helpful if you have problems with recurrent urinary tract infections (three or more UTIs in one year), but not as a treatment .
A recent review of 23 studies of cranberry extract was more encouraging. Researchers concluded cranberry supplementation reduced the number of UTIs and that these supplements could be used for UTI prevention, but not treatment .
Probiotics are microorganisms, including bacteria such as those belonging to Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium groups. These bacteria are healthful and helpful and do not cause UTIs like E. coli. Probiotics can be taken as a supplement (pills or powders) or exist naturally in fermented foods, such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and probiotic yogurt.
Some studies have shown that probiotics can help boost your immune system and reduce your chances of getting a UTI, while others have not demonstrated any benefit . However, there is no evidence that taking probiotics can treat a UTI .
The same goes for vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts our immune system and may help you from getting a UTI in the first place, but it is not a UTI treatment. Vitamin C is thought to work by increasing the acidity of urine, killing off the bacteria causing your UTI. But don’t reach for lemonade or orange juice for the same reason that you should steer clear of sugary cranberry juice.
Similarly, other people take D-mannose as a natural treatment for UTIs. Limited evidence shows that D-mannose (a natural sugar in your body) works by binding with UTI-causing bacteria so that they get flushed out of your body more easily with your urine. Therefore, when taken regularly as a supplement, it may help prevent recurrent UTIs and help people feel better faster if they get a UTI .
As much as you want to ignore the possibility of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), the fact remains — if you are sexually active, your symptoms could be caused by an STI and not a UTI.
People with a penis with urinary-related symptoms are more likely to have an STI than a UTI.
Because UTIs and STIs can have similar symptoms, knowing which type of infection you have should be your first step. That is why testing for STIs with one of Everylwell’s convenient at-home sexual health test panels can help get you the correct treatment faster.
Online prescriptions for UTI antibiotics are available to those who have a UTI through Everlywell’s Virtual Care Visits. During your online visit, highly-trained medical professionals will review your symptoms and risks for UTI and STI infections, advise you on which tests would be best, and even prescribe antibiotics if you meet specific criteria.Treatment recommendations will vary based on your infection, your symptoms, and if you experience chronic UTIs.
Get the answers and treatments you need and want for your UTI when and how you want them via Everlywell. The time is now for you to take better care of your health together with Everlywell.