Maybe you’ve heard other people’s urinary tract infections (UTI) nightmares: the friend who gets one almost every time she has sex; the 70-something aunt who struggles with recurring infections now that she is older. Or maybe you are dealing with symptoms seemingly out of the blue or after a weekend of hot tubbing.
Though UTIs can affect anyone, we 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. Health specialists report that in fact, nearly half of all women will experience a UTI at some point in their lives.
When symptoms surface, the cause doesn’t exactly matter; all you want to know is how to get rid of your UTI.
Antibiotics are the main treatment, especially if you have a raging infection. But when symptoms are mild or vague, it may be worth giving natural remedies for a UTI a try before popping a prescription pill or while you’re waiting for your meds to kick in. In some cases, home remedies for UTIs can be enough to ease symptoms and quicken recovery.
Before relying on home remedies, however, it is always a good idea to speak to a doctor first. It is important to be cautious with do-it-yourself home solutions, and be sure to check in with your doctor before trying a new strategy on your own.
The following three viable home remedies may ease your agonizing UTI symptoms – or prevent them, in the first place.
# 1 Get your fill of water
Drinking enough water is one of the easiest ways to help prevent and treat UTIs. Water helps the urinary tract organs remove waste from the body efficiently while retaining vital nutrients and electrolytes.
Being hydrated also dilutes the urine and speeds its journey through the system, making it harder for bacteria to reach the cells that line urinary organs and to cause an infection.
There is no set recommendation for how much people should drink daily, as each person's water needs are different. On average though, we should drink at least six to eight 8-ounce (oz) glasses of water each day.
#2 Soothe the pain with heat
Inflammation and irritation from UTIs cause burning, pressure, and pain around your pubic area. Applying a heating pad can help soothe the area.
Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your abdomen or back to ease the discomfort of a bladder or kidney infection.
Keep the heat setting low. Do not apply it directly to the skin, and limit your use to 15 minutes at a time to avoid burns.
If you want to buy heat pads, there is an excellent selection online with thousands of customer reviews.
#3 Use probiotics
Beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, can help keep the urinary tract healthy and free from harmful bacteria. In particular, a group of probiotics called lactobacilli may help with treating and preventing UTIs. They may do this by:
• preventing harmful bacteria from attaching to urinary tract cells
• producing hydrogen peroxide in urine, which is a strong antibacterial
• lowering urine pH, making conditions less favorable for bacteria.
Probiotics occur in a variety of fermented and dairy products, including yogurts, kefir, some types of cheese, and sauerkraut. You can also take probiotic supplements, which are usually in the form of a capsule or a powder that mixes into water or other beverages.
Some important points to keep in mind
For years, unsweetened cranberry juice was thought to help flush away bacteria and keep them from sticking to the bladder wall, possibly helping to prevent or reduce recurrent UTIs. But a review of 14 studies published in December 2013 in American Family Physician showed that cranberry juice might not have real benefits.
While more studies may clear up this issue, for now, cranberry juice is no longer recommended as a UTI fighter.
Doctors advise patients with recurrent infections who have mild symptoms to try to treat it naturally with increased fluid and some pain relief. If UTI symptoms improve in a day or two, well, then, you’ve saved yourself an antibiotic.
If symptoms are bad or don’t improve, by all means, call the doctor and get an antibiotic.
Older, post-menopausal women experiencing repeated UTIs should speak with a doctor about a prescription for vaginal estrogen. Research shows it can help by building the body’s defense against bad bugs.