Home Remedies For UTI (10 Treatments I Tried)

Home remedies for a UTI – fact or fiction?

I recently had a UTI and didn’t want to take unnecessary antibiotics.

Wondering if there was any truth to home remedies, I did some Internet research.

What follows is my own experience with 10 different home remedy treatments to see if I could cure my UTI without antibiotics.

* Disclaimer: all information in this post is based on my personal experience and is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s advice.

The dreaded urinary tract infection – ain’t nobody got time for that!

cranberries graphic concerning UTIs

* Disclaimer: all information in this post is based on my personal experience and is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s advice.

During my last bout of fighting a bladder infection (UTI), I researched home remedies and came across a ton of information.

Google knows what’s what.

Once I gathered a list of the most common remedies, I went to the people.

I asked around (online and off) to see if anyone had given any of the remedies a go.

The results were evenly split between those who would never ever attempt to treat a bladder infection on their own and those that have and regularly do, with good results.

Is there an effective UTI treatment without antibiotics?

That was my very first question.

I didn’t want to be foolish and not take them if they were necessary, but on the other hand, if I could treat at home without a doctor’s intervention (not to mention the cost), that was the method I preferred.

I discovered that the short answer is yes.

Lots of people can, and do, treat a UTI without antibiotics and they’ll be just fine.

The caveat to that statement is that a UTI can travel to the kidneys and spread the infection there.

Once you get a kidney infection, you must see a doc.

Kidney infections are serious business; don’t wait if you suspect you have one.

So, it’s a personal call to treat at home, or whether to see a doc if you suspect your simple UTI is escalating.

My first experience with UTI symptoms:

Let’s go back to the beginning.

I had my first ever UTI after cancer treatments jerked me into menopause.

JERK!

I learned afterward that not having a UTI until you’re in your mid-50s is very unusual; most women experience UTIs much much earlier in their lives.

I went to urinate and felt an unfamiliar burning sensation.

Then wiped and discovered blood on the tissue.

Um, I knew I was already past menopause and there should never ever be blood coming from my lady parts anymore, so I was immediately concerned.

When I stood up and went to flush, the bowl was filled with blood.

ACK! I’M DYING!!!

…or, I have a UTI.

Dramatic much?!

Not everyone pees blood when they have a bladder infection, but some of us do.

Noted.

UTI causes:

For me, I believed my cause was fairly simple: a decline in estrogen.

The Mayo Clinic says: After menopause, a decline in circulating estrogen causes changes in the urinary tract that make you more vulnerable to infection.

BOOOOOO!

In younger women, the cause can be much easier to pinpoint, but in postmenopausal women, there can be many causes.

Harvard Health provides a bit of insight:

For younger women, frequent sex is one of the biggest risk factors for a UTI. Sexual intercourse can cause the bacteria in the vagina and rectum to get into the urinary tract, since they are close neighbors.

But at midlife, the main culprits behind recurrent UTIs are physical changes, including thinning of vaginal tissue, pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence, and trouble completely emptying the bladder. The lower levels of estrogen after menopause are also a factor.

Estrogen is a key player in women’s health, and when it comes to UTIs, lack of estrogen can be an issue.

Going into my first UTI, I had no idea about estrogen’s roll, but quickly learned.

It’s also worth noting that about 90% of all UTIs are caused by E .coli.

You know where those beasts hang out…

Ewwww!

Which is why we should practice good bathroom hygiene!

I treated my first UTI with antibiotics.

Why?

Mostly, because I had no idea there were home remedies that even the medical community could get behind.

I just assumed I had to treat with an antibiotic.

I took a round of Bactrim and felt better within 24 hours (but finished the prescribed dose).

Did you know that most UTIs are cured within three days of starting an antibiotic?

According to Dr. Talbott, most patients with UTIs see improvement within a few days of beginning treatment.

“We have a 90% cure rate within three days,” says Dr. Talbott. “If your symptoms aren’t improving within three to five days, it’s important to follow up with your regular doctor so he or she can do a urinalysis or investigate further.”

YAY!

This held for me, or so I thought.

Two days post my course of prescribed antibiotics, and I became symptomatic again.

NOOOOO!

It swiftly became apparent that I should have taken the antibiotics for seven days instead of the shorter three.

Three days didn’t knock out my infection and it took a couple of days for the bacteria to build back up and cause symptoms.

UTIs are so unpleasant and uncomfortable, I just wanted the magic pills to work.

My doctor put me on a different antibiotic for a longer period of time and that did the trick.

I’m drug sensitive, so I not only suffered from the UTI, but drug side effects as well.

Luckily, that was that for the next two years.

My second experience with UTI symptoms:

Two years after my first infection, I got my second.

I knew immediately, even though I had gotten up in the middle of the night to pee – in the dark.

The burning while urinating and the odd lower abdominal pressure told me what I already knew before I turned on the light to see blood in the bowl.

Yep, it held true; I’m a blood-pee-er when I have a bladder infection.

A twist in my reasoning on my second UTI:

The day prior to peeing blood, I had gone for a long run.

I had pushed myself and wondered if I had irritated the lining of my bladder.

Maybe it wasn’t a UTI (it was).

I settled on a wait-and-see method, after talking to a couple of nurses I trusted.

Their main advice was if I started having back pain (meaning the infection was traveling to my kidneys) or a fever, I should consult a doctor (as should you).

I also dreaded the idea of more antibiotics and decided to do some online research while I toughed out the next couple of days.

Plug in “Home remedies for UTI” and see what comes up.

Holy Moly, y’all.

There was so much information about what folks were doing to treat their UTIs at home that it took me a full day to sort through the remedies.

In the end, I made a list of 10 tactics that I would try in my quest to avoid antibiotics.

These 10 were the methods that were the most widely written about, so I felt a bit comforted knowing it wasn’t that one person, doused in essential oils, wearing a wreath of garlic, trying to convince me to not take evil antibiotics (to be clear: I don’t believe antibiotics are evil).

Let’s get to it.

NOTE: I am linking the products I used below, for those interested.

~ A gentle reminder: OMT! uses Amazon referral links at no cost to you.~

10 Home Remedies I Tried For My UTI

* Disclaimer: All information in this post is based on my personal experience and is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s advice.

#1: Drinks lots of water, then drink some more.

Typically, I drink loads of water.

Remember my long run the day before I was symptomatic? 

Looking back, I probably didn’t drink as much as I should have, which is one of the reasons I thought it was possibly a bladder lining issue.

As a long distance runner, this is not an unheard of issue, especially if you’re not hydrating properly.

Water serves to flush bacteria from your bladder.

Symptomatic or not, it’s a good idea to stay hydrated for bladder health.

glass of water being filled

My insulated cup o’choice:


#2: Drink 1-2 cups of unsweetened cranberry juice per day.

Cranberries have been studied for their role in preventing recurrent UTIs and it looks like there may be something to the PACs in cranberries, instead of the entire fruit.

Using the current available data, the use of cranberries cannot be scientifically promoted for UTI prevention. Future studies should focus on PAC, the active compound in cranberries, instead of the whole fruit.

CAVEAT: cranberry juice can interfere with some drugs. Consult your doc before proceeding.

What are cranberry PACs?

According to the Cranberry Institute: Proanthocyanidins (PACs) are in the flavanol family – a class of polyphenols. The PACs found in cranberries have a different structure than those found in other fruits and vegetables which are associated with their anti-adhesion properties. Cranberry PACs help prevent the adhesion of certain harmful bacteria, including E. coli associated with urinary tract infections, onto cell walls.

Whew.

I had mixed results when drinking unsweetened cranberry juice.

The first time I tried it, I had relief from some lower abdominal pain in about 15 minutes.

I was stunned! And was sold, study results be damned!

The next time I tried it, I felt no relief.

I think had I known about cranberry goodness (it makes the bladder wall slippery, so bacteria can’t get a grip and multiply), I would have started it on day one.

As it was, I started it a week into the issue.

Make sure you get the unsweetened juice; that’s the powerhouse.

The taste is tart and not entirely pleasant, BUT you’re not drinking that much, so buck up, buttercup!

This is the brand I drink. Check your local grocery store for their brand as well.


#3: D-Mannose

D duh what?!

D-mannose is a simple sugar that is related to glucose.

The best part is that works as a slip and slide agent for the bad stuff, meaning it is thought to prevent bacteria from attaching to the bladder lining and multiplying.

No surprise – D-Mannose is found in cranberries (which also helps in keeping the bladder slippery to make it hard for bacteria to get a toehold)!

A study in 2016 on D-Mannose proved promising results for an acute UTI infection.

The purpose of the study was to determine if D-Mannose alone is effective in treating acute urinary tract infections and also to determine if it could help with management of recurrences.

What did the study reveal?

The results of this study suggest that D-mannose can be an effective aid in acute cystitis management and also a successful prophylactic agent in a selected population; however, more studies will certainly be needed to confirm the results of our pilot study.

SCIENCE!

This study and those after proving that D-Mannose was a powerful tool against UTIs were the contributing factor for my daily use of D-Mannose.

I am entirely convinced that D-Mannose is a stinkin’ miracle, so I still take it daily, post infection.

This is the brand I use:


#4: Daily Probiotics

Man, I hate taking pills or supplements, but I will absolutely tell you that I have had success when I have taken a daily probiotic.

My introduction to probiotics started when I was going through chemo.

I developed an infection that required antibiotics and the help (antibiotic) was hurting my gut health (giving me the runs).

My doc suggested a probiotic and BAMMO! I actually started feeling better and my symptoms abated quickly.

I was sold.

Why consider a probiotic for a UTI?

You can do a quick Internet search and read studies that back the idea that when antibiotics are used, they can diminish the good stuff in your gut.

Probiotics help put the good stuff back where it belongs.

A trustworthy probiotic can keep your gut healthy and thereby (so goes the theory), help keep your immune system rolling along to help fight off the bacteria responsible for UTIs before it blooms into a full-on infection.

While I don’t take probiotics as a precautionary treatment, it appears lots of folks swear by it.

You do you, baby.

I buy this one (you can get it for less at Costco):


#5: Cranberry Supplements

I hate taking pills, so why not just drink cranberry juice?

Great question – I asked myself that prior to doing a bit of research and here’s what I found:

By taking a supplement, you get much the cranberry goodness – the cPACs – in an easy way.

This is especially helpful if you don’t tolerate unsweetened cranberry juice.

What’s a cPAC and why is it helpful?

I know I mentioned this above, but in case you’ve scrolled down without reading, here’s the info again:

PACs (proanthocyanidins) are a class of polyphenols (polyphenols have antioxidant capacity and have been shown to provide protection from some bacterial pathogens. Hello, UTI starter).

The PACs found in cranberries help prevent the adhesion of certain harmful bacteria, including E. coli ( stoopid E. coli).

Supplements can deliver a higher dose of cPACs, compared to juice.

As soon as I suspected my UTI, I was taking 2 cranberry supplements a day throughout the infection and for two weeks post – just for good measure.

This is the one I use (you can get it for less at Costco):


#6: Garlic Supplements

Most ever’one knows garlic will keep Dracula at bay (WHAT?!), but did ya know it’s also been studied for UTIs?

Yep.

This study included softgel garlic supplements, along with a few other things.

“Conducted by researchers at the Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences in India, the study found that “even crude extracts of [garlic] showed good activity against multidrug resistant strains where antibiotic therapy had limited or no effect.”

Can we just stop here for a moment and reread that last statement?

There are some strains of bacteria that cause UTIs that may not respond AT ALL to antibiotics.

That’s scary as hell, y’all.

Garlic (Allium sativum < this is what you want in your supplement), a powerhouse o’goodness and is known for its antimicrobial properties, meaning it has the capacity to kill microorganisms or stop their growth.

Yes, please.

I took a garlic supplement twice a day throughout my infection, and thought it wouldn’t hurt to continue the softgels afterwards, but, you know how I feel about pills.

This is the one I use:


#7: Cranberry Smoothie

This was one of the easiest things to incorporate into my weekly routine, mostly because it’s actually food.

I like food. I eat food. I think food can be good medicine.

Since cranberries aren’t always in season, you can keep a few bag of frozen cranberries in your freezer; ready at a moment’s notice.

If making a smoothie is too much work, or you have a crap blender, you can always put 1/2 cup of frozen berries in a bowl and eat frozen.

I do it with grapes and blueberries, so why not cranberries?

How do you make a cranberry smoothie?

1. Place a bit of water or milk into a blender.

2. Add a cup or more of frozen cranberries.

3. Add a sweetener of choice (honey is a good choice – added antioxidants and a bit of extra nutrition).

4. Blend to desired consistency.

OPTIONAL: Add a bit of cinnamon for an even bigger dollop of body-lovin’ goodness.

#8: Don’t resist the urge to urinate – don’t hold it!

I honestly don’t follow this maxim 100% of the time, for a couple of reasons.

I don’t believe – or more accurately – couldn’t find, any study that has proven the don’t hold it adage.

I’ve held it plenty, and I bet you have too.

What I do think is behind this bit of UTI lore is that if you have an ongoing infection, and you’re drinking all the water, it would then make sense to pee when you felt the urge, thereby vacating bacteria with every trip to the bathroom.

Every pee means evicting more bad guys.

GET OUT!

So satisfying.

Can you get a UTI by holding it?

I don’t think the science is there to prove that point.

What makes sense to me is that if you have an infection brewing, by holding it, you’re allowing more time for bacteria growth.

Or not.

What the hell do I know?

Is it comfortable to hold it?

Nope.

Also, it’s not a game.

Get thee to a toilet.

Can you always get to the bathroom with every urge?

Not even close.

Think of long road trips.

You gotta go, but you’re on I35 in Austin and traffic is backed up for miles.

You’re probably gonna have to hold it for a while.

Or not.

It is Austin, after all.

Do what you think is best, but brings us to the number nine.

#9: Wipe from front to back.

Remember when we discussed that E. coli is responsible for the majority of UTIs?

Yer butt, more specifically – your anus –  is like the neighborhood bar hangout for this UTI causing thug.

Start the wipe from your urethra (or “pee hole” as some call it) and sweep back, to and past your anus, then drop the tissue into the bowl (or look at it – LOOK AT IT! – to see if more wiping with clean tissue is necessary).

The tissue and E. coli get what they deserve – a quick trip to the sewer.

Other ways to get a healthy wipe are with wet wipes (toss in trash, never flush – yep, even the ones that say “flushable” – it’s all lies!) or a bidet.

Splashy fun!

#10: Practice good sex hygiene.

Who else giggled?!

Oh, behave!

Come on, let’s rip this bandage off.

This is for pre and post-menopause ages.

Why practice good sex hygiene?

Mostly because women are waaaay more susceptible to UTIs because our urethra is shorter than men’s, and therein lies the problem.

Everyday Health says: During sex, the urethra comes into contact with the bacteria from the genital area and anus, allowing them to enter the urethra, the bladder, and possibly eventually the kidneys, and result in an infection.

In fact, almost 80 percent of premenopausal women with a UTI have had sex within the previous 24 hours.

Now that is a powerful and enlightening statistic.

Dang!

What is good sex hygiene?

It’s simple:

1: Stay hydrated, yo. Always.

2: Urinate before and after sex. (if you’re hydrated this one is easier than it sounds)

3: Clean up (your genital and anus area) after sex.

See?

Simple.

As part of good sex hygiene, cranberry supplements might be useful.

Um, what?

After my first stubborn UTI, my gynecologist recommended taking a cranberry supplement with 8 ounces of water, right after intercourse.

She said she believed it worked proactively to prevent a UTI.

I practiced that routine for a while, but then….pills.

I just resist taking them (I’m such a child).

Doesn’t mean it won’t work for you, though.

A Final Note on my second UTI:

While I tried all of the above, after two weeks I still had lingering symptoms, so upon my doc’s advice I did a very short course of Bactrim.

While you might think that the home remedies failed, I have a different perspective.

Since that final infection, a month or so later, I had the familiar pains (remember, once you get a UTI, it’s easier to have more, and extremely easy to recognize symptoms).

I immediately (within minutes of feeling the twinge) started the D-Mannose and cranberry juice.

Within two days, I was back to my normal self.

All of this is to say, that for me, now that I know the symptoms, and I catch it early, I’m going the way of home remedies.

Of course, if I develop other issues, I will take an antibiotic, but will try like hell not to.

* Disclaimer: All information in this post is based on my personal experience and is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s advice.

Did you know men can get UTIs too?

They can.

Wearing a condom can reduce the risk, as does practicing good sex hygiene (just like us gals).

Interestingly, my gynecologist also recommends that men also take a cranberry supplement with 8 ounces of water post-coitus (~snort~ I just channeled my inner Sheldon).

Are there home remedies for men with a UTI?

My cursory Internet research tells me that the remedies I tried can also be tried by men.

I’d be interested to know if any guys reading this have tried any of these home remedies and what they discovered.

What home remedies do I still practice?

Now that I no longer have a UTI, I want to stay that way.

I start every morning with 1 tbsp D-Mannose and a glass of water.

I start drinking 1 cup of cranberry juice, twice a day, at any sign of a twinge.

I hydrate like it’s my job.

NOTE: Water needs change with the seasons and activity.

More activity = more hydration needed.

Warmer weather = more hydration needed.

Keep this in mind instead of adhering to a set amount of cups per day.

My goal is to flush out my bladder regularly.

BONUS: One More Way to Enjoy Cranberries.

If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a bonus!

I also make a cranberry puree using frozen cranberries to help combat UTIs.

Cranberry Puree

1: Place a bag of frozen cranberries and 1/2 cup of water into a saucepan and place over a low flame.

2: As the cranberries thaw, you can use the back of a spoon to crush them.

3: Reduce the mixture until you’ve crushed all the cranberries and the water is almost gone.

4: Cool and blend on high in a blender.

5: Add a sweeter and cinnamon to taste.

6: Place is a jar and enjoy spread on toast, or as a fruit dip, or simply straight out of the jar!

Mmmmm…

cranberry puree in an open mason jar

Have you tried any home remedies for a UTI?

What worked?

What didn’t?

Share in comments!

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Comments

  1. Mother of 3 says

    I’ve never had a UTI but I was just talking with my girlfriend about the use of essential oils with UTI’s. We’ve both heard they can work too. I can’t tell you which ones as I’m not really up on my oils either but definitely something I guess I should keep in the back of my mind since apparently my risk increases with age (oh joy!).

  2. Thank you for these suggestions! I have had a few UTI’s in my time, and the last time I had a terrible reaction to the antibiotics. I did start taking a cranberry supplement, and I think it has helped. It’s good to know there are other things to try, as well!

  3. Glad you had success with the d-mannose and cranberry juice.Thanks so much for linking up at the UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 4.

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