If you’ve been around for a while, you know I love natural remedies as a first step to fighting common ailments. One ailment that affects women (and moms in general) fairly often is urinary tract infections. Whether caused by pregnancy, intimacy, or nothing at all, many women suffer from them and are looking for a solution that doesn’t include antibiotics. Here are my best tips for dealing with UTIs naturally.
What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria enters the urinary tract (typically through the urethra) and multiplies. The urinary tract consists of the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. Any part of the urinary tract can become infected, but UTIs typically start in the urethra or bladder. If left untreated, the infection can move up into the kidneys.
Research published in 2013 suggests that most UTIs are caused by E. coli, although other bacteria, viruses, and fungi can also lead to an infection. E. coli is a bacteria naturally found in both human and animal intestines but in large amounts can cause food poisoning and other kinds of infection.
How Can You Get a UTI?
Gender is the greatest risk factor for getting a UTI. The same study mentioned above showed that women are eight times more likely to contract a UTI than men. One theory is that because women have a shorter urethra, bacteria have an easier time reaching the bladder.
Other risk factors that can lead to a urinary tract infection include:
- Frequent Sexual Intercourse – Sexual activity can transport bacteria from the anus and genitals into the urinary tract. If you notice that sexual activity leads to UTIs, be sure to urinate after sex to immediately flush out the bladder. Also, give Uqora (mentioned below) a try.
- Using Spermicides – A 2019 study in the Therapeutic Advances in Urology Journal suggests that spermicides can change the pH balance of the vagina. This change in pH can change the bacterial profile of the vagina too (some bacteria grow better or worse in certain pH levels).
- Using Barrier Methods of Birth Control – Diaphragms, condoms, and other barrier methods lead to a greater risk of contracting a UTI, as this study from 2011 reports. Women who don’t want to use hormonal birth control and use these methods may be at risk.
- Using Catheters – Catheters can also lead to UTIs. The 2019 study (mentioned above) suggests that catheter use can also increase the risk of developing UTIs and lead to other complications.
- Being Pregnant – Many women have experienced their first UTI (or more frequent UTIs) during pregnancy. The reason is that the risk of bacteria reaching the kidneys increases during pregnancy (due to changes in the pelvis and urethra), according to an article published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine. UTIs can present serious problems for both the mother and baby so it’s important to prevent them if possible or get treatment quickly.
- Being Post-Menopausal – The 2019 study mentioned earlier explains that a woman’s body creates less estrogen following menopause which can cause the vaginal walls to become thin and dry. This change in the vagina can make inflammation and infection occur more easily. (This post on vaginal atrophy explains more in-depth.)
- Immune System Issues and Disease – Preexisting conditions and immune dysfunction can cause more frequent UTIs. According to a 2013 review, autoimmune diseases, metabolic disease are two disease that can have this affect. It makes sense that an immune system that is not working well can cause more infections in general, but, on the othr hand, some research published in 2010 found that the normal immune response to a UTI can damage the bladder and lead to more infections.
- Having Poor Hygiene Habits – This is a big one for kids and adults. Teach young girls (and remember yourself) to always wipe from front to back to prevent spreading bacteria toward the vaginal opening. Also, drink plenty of water and use the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge to go. Both of these things will prevent bacteria from building up in the bladder.
Just because you have risk factors doesn’t mean you’re destined to suffer from UTIs though. There are many things you can do to prevent, and even stop, a UTI.
Signs and Symptoms of a UTI
If you’ve experienced the pain and discomfort of a urinary tract infection, you are probably intimately aware of the symptoms. Many women who experience multiple UTIs over the course of their lives know the early signs of a UTI.
But if you’re not sure, knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for will help you catch an infection in the early stages of its development.
The most common symptoms include:
- Pain or a burning sensation in the vagina when urinating
- A frequent need to urinate (often feeling you have to go, but only a small amount of urine comes out)
- Pain and discomfort in the lower abdomen
- Cloudy, dark or foul-smelling urine
- Pink or reddish colored urine – signaling blood in the urine (many women find this is a symptom that signals a more serious infection)
Catching a UTI early increases your chances of avoiding the doctor’s office (and antibiotics) and successfully treating it with a natural home remedy.
Conventional Treatment for UTI
If you head to the doctor at the first signs of a UTI, you may be prescribed antibiotics. Given what I know about antibiotics, however, I do my best to avoid them whenever possible.
Just a few of the negative side effects of antibiotics include:
- Upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea
- Rash and skin irritation
- Joint and muscle pain
- Elimination of “good and bad” bacteria in the gut
- Increased antibiotic resistance
Doing what’s best for you (or a family member) means weighing the benefits and risks of any treatment. Sometimes UTIs can be tricky to treat at home and require antibiotics. That’s okay.
If antibiotics are necessary, there are some things you can do to support the body. Chris Kresser recommends following these suggestions to support your body while taking them:
- Take prebiotics and probiotics
- Eat a variety of fermented foods
- Eat foods high in glycine (unsweetened grass-fed gelatin, meats, bone broth, etc.)
If urinary tract infections are a recurring problem, consider working with a naturopath or functional medicine doctor to determine the root cause. They may help you make changes in your diet or lifestyle that will minimize the need for antibiotics in the future.
Natural Remedies for a Urinary Tract Infection
If you’re experiencing a UTI (or think you might be), there are many home remedies that can help relieve discomfort and prevent reoccurrence. Use these tips to prevent and naturally treat a UTI at home.
A foundation of a healthy diet is usually a good first step for improving health. Studies suggest that diet (along with other factors) can influence the health of our urinary tract specifically. Of course, if you already have the beginnings of a UTI, changing your diet may not be enough to reverse it. But these diet tips can help prevent infections (and improve overall health!):
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Sugar is inflammatory which only makes infections worse. If you easily get UTIs, eliminating sugary foods and drinks is a good first step. You may even need to cut down on natural sugars like fruit (bacteria don’t care what kind of sugar you eat — they love it all!).
Eliminate Processed Foods
Processed foods provide very little (if any) nutrients. They are mostly just fillers that ward off hunger (and don’t do a great job at that either!). Processed foods are also usually high in sugar and carbohydrates which feed bad bacteria.
Eat a Variety of Fermented and Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Probiotics play an important role in the health of the urinary tract. They supply the body with good bacteria that will keep the bad bacteria in check. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, organic whole milk yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and kombucha naturally contain probiotics.
Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking water will help the body flush toxins out of the system. I keep a reusable water bottle with me at all times to make sure I stay hydrated.
Avoid Acidic Foods When Treating a UTI
Sometimes even healthy foods need to be left alone when treating a UTI. Eating or drinking anything that will increase the acidity of your urine will make a UTI more difficult to treat, and often more painful. I avoid caffeine, chocolate, tomatoes, and citrus foods during a UTI.
Diet can have such a huge effect on overall health and can help with specific ailments as well. When the body is properly supported it can often rebalance itself (perhaps with a little additional support).
Probiotics and Supplements
I always recommend getting nutrients from food first, but sometimes supplements are necessary. When something is off in the body (like during an infection) additional nutrients and combinations of nutrients can help support the body in getting back in balance.
The human body has billions of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that help fight bad bacteria. Increasing these good bacteria has promising benefits for women who experience recurrent infections. Probiotics do not contribute to antibiotic resistance (like antibiotics do), and they offer additional health benefits, too. (But make sure it is a Probiotics or it may not be doing anything!)
Just Thrive UT123
Just Thrive UT123 supplement has changed the UTI game for me. It combines powerful ingredients such as full spectrum cranberry, black cumin seed and hibuscus extract to drive urinary health and protect against harmful impurities. Simply add this all-natural supplement into your daily regimen if you suffer from urinary tract infections and notice the difference!
This product is another great option. It naturally encourages the body to rid itself of harmful bacteria (while strengthening good bacteria numbers). Uqora comes in three forms that help UTIs in different ways:
- Target – Binds to bacteria, increases urinary flow to flush bacteria out, alkalizes the urine, making it more difficult for bacteria to grow, and boosts the immune system.
- Control – Contains D-Mannose and attacks biofilm (a film that protects bacteria) and makes it easier to flush bacteria out.
- Promote – Helps support probiotic growth, especially Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri, which are the only two strains proven to help restore the vaginal microbiome.
I love that this supplement is an all-in-one natural remedy so I don’t have to spend time and energy finding the right combination of remedies for my needs.
I always keep D-mannose on hand for UTIs. A 2016 article in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Science showed that D-mannose can help to manage recurrent UTIs. This simple sugar can be added to water or taken in a pill form. It works by making it difficult for bacteria to stick to the walls of the bladder, and easier for them to be flushed from the body through urination. When I feel a UTI coming on, I reach for the D-mannose and put one tablespoon in a glass of water three times a day for at least two days.
Although naturally occurring in many foods (like kale, kiwis, broccoli, and lemons), vitamin C can be taken as a supplement to prevent UTIs. A Scandinavian study shows that vitamin C lowered the prevalence of UTIs in pregnant women.
Probiotics and supplements aren’t magic pills to take in place of a healthy diet. However, they can provide relief for those who struggle with chronic UTIs.
I love using herbal remedies to treat a UTI. There are many herbs thought to have soothing properties to help heal a urinary infection. These are a few of my favorites:
Cranberry is probably the most traditional home remedy for UTIs. A 2019 article published in Current Developments in Nutrition suggests that cranberry does reduce the risk of contracting a UTI in healthy women. Most people reach for cranberry juice for UTIs. Read your labels, though. Straight cranberry juice won’t have added sugars (it can be quite bitter). Some prefer a capsule instead.
Parsley tea is another one of my go-to remedies for UTIs. It has detoxifying properties and is a diuretic (increases urine flow). I feel I’m doing something extra nourishing for my body when I drink parsley tea. You can buy parsley tea, or steep 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley in 1 cup boiling water for about 5 minutes. (Most of the sources I checked recommended no more than 1 cup a day.)
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory herb. I drink turmeric tea when I’m experiencing the classic UTI burning sensation. The pain associated with a UTI can be so distracting, but with just a small amount of turmeric tea, I notice the pain subsides.
Dandelion Marshmallow Root Blend
Dandelion root has a variety of medicinal benefits, but it can be beneficial during UTIs because of its diuretic and cleansing properties. I often mix dandelion and marshmallow root together. Marshmallow root is a demulcent, meaning it soothes irritated tissue by creating a protective barrier around it.
When to Get More Help
Urinary tract infections can interfere with everyday life in a variety of ways. So, many people prefer to treat them at home. But sometimes medical intervention is needed.
Seek your doctor’s advice if you:
- are pregnant
- have tried home remedies, but continue to experience symptoms for more than 72 hours
- are experiencing low-back pain, fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting (the infection may have spread to the kidneys)
- are unsure if your UTI needs additional treatment
- have sharp pain (it could be a kidney stone)
Treating a urinary tract infection at home sounds so much better than messing with doctors and prescriptions. But, in some cases, professional medical help is required. When in doubt, I check with my SteadyMD doc and decide whether any of these natural urinary tract infection remedies could help.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Betsy Greenleaf, the first board certified female urogynecologist in the United States. She is double board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, as well as Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
What is your go-to treatment for UTIs?
- Al-Badr, A., & Al-Shaikh, G. (2013). Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women : A Review. Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, 13(3), 359-367. doi:10.12816/0003256
- Storme, O., Saucedo, J. T., Garcia-Mora, A., Dehesa-Dávila, M., & Naber, K. G. (2019). Risk factors and predisposing conditions for urinary tract infection. Therapeutic Advances in Urology, 11, 175628721881438. doi:10.1177/1756287218814382
- Dienye, P. O., & Gbeneol, P. K. (2011). Contraception as a risk factor for urinary tract infection in Port Harcourt, Nigeria: A case control study. African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine, 3(1). doi:10.4102/phcfm.v4i1.207
- Gilbert, N. M., Obrien, V. P., Hultgren, S., Macones, G., Lewis, W. G., & Lewis, A. L. (2013). Urinary Tract Infection as a Preventable Cause of Pregnancy Complications: Opportunities, Challenges, and a Global Call to Action. Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 2(5), 59-69. doi:10.7453/gahmj.2013.061
- Immune system overreaction may enable recurrent urinary tract infections. (2010, August 13). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100812172050.htm
- Chris Kresser. (2019, June 04). What to Do If You Need to Take Antibiotics. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/what-to-do-if-you-need-to-take-antibiotics/
- Aragón, I. M., Herrera-Imbroda, B., Queipo-Ortuño, M. I., Castillo, E., Moral, J. S., Gómez-Millán, J., . . . Lara, M. F. (2018). The Urinary Tract Microbiome in Health and Disease. European Urology Focus, 4(1), 128-138. doi:10.1016/j.euf.2016.11.001
- Gupta, V., Nag, D., & Garg, P. (2017). Recurrent urinary tract infections in women: How promising is the use of probiotics? Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology, 35(3), 347. doi:10.4103/ijmm.ijmm_16_292
- Domenici, L., Monti, M., Bracchi, C., Giorgini, M., Colagiovanni, V., Muzii, L., & Panici, P. B. (july 20, 2016). D-mannose: A promising support for acute urinary tract infections in women. A pilot study. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27424995/.
- Ochoa-Brust, G. J., Fernández, A. R., Villanueva-Ruiz, G. J., Velasco, R., Trujillo-Hernández, B., & Vásquez, C. (2007). Daily Intake of 100 mg Ascorbic Acid as Urinary Tract Infection Prophylactic Agent During Pregnancy. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, 62(12), 764-765. doi:10.1097/01.ogx.0000291205.74119.68
- Chen, O., Mah, E., & Liska, D. (2019). Effect of Cranberry on Urinary Tract Infection Risk: A Meta-Analyses (P06-116-19). Current Developments in Nutrition, 3(Supplement_1). doi:10.1093/cdn/nzz031.p06-116-19
Discussion (10 Comments)
Castor oil packs over the abdomen/over bladder area work great at first sign of UTI. Lots of YouTube videos to show you how to do a castor oil pack. Also, oregano oil taken by capsule will help- just make sure it is a good quality essential oil that can be taken internally. I do 3-5 drops/1-2x a day, depending on severity of symptoms.
Is D-Mannose safe for a person with high blood pressure?
What about juniper? I understand the leaves as tea or berries will clear up a UTI within 24 hours.
Katie… can you recommend a good brand of Cranberry capsules… I had a UTI almost 2 weeks ago and I’m just getting over the reactions from the antibiotics. Thanks,
I rely on dmannose powder from the NOW brand when I feel a UTI starting to come on. I can’t take antibiotics because with the first UTI I got as I entered menopause, the use of them burned the lining of my bladder to the point I was in extreme pain for about six months. About a half gallon of water a day and 4 tsps of dmannose knocks it out in about three days, without any unpleasant side effects, from several uncomfortable experiences.
I would strongly suggest avoiding cranberry juice – if you are as unfortunate as I and am one of those who contracted chronic interstitial cystitis from a UTI, you know it’s extremely acidic and makes many sufferers much worse, and they can’t figure out why they’re getting worse – cranberry juice is typically recommend as a great thing to help UTIs go away. Many medical professionals are still dispensing this advice. NO! Wrong! Anyone suffering with IC is literally painfully aware of this.
Also suggest to avoid apple cider vinegar or any kind of vinegar, citric acids, caffeine, ice cream (too much of it one day resulted in the worst bladder pain I ever suffered in my life. It almost felt like my bladder had gasoline in it. Avoid yogurt and many other dairy foods as all dairy foods are acidic. Who knew? I only occasionally eat pot cheese with 2% milkfat and even that can trigger some pain. I could go on forever on the subject.
What foods are safe? The important thing is water, water, and more water to flush out the infection fast, and don’t stop once your symptoms subside. Keep going for at least a week after, and ideally try to make it a daily habit along w/ a couple of teaspoons of dmannose to help ward off another infection. Foods I had issues with were nuts, caffeine, dairy, and much more. and I still can’t even eat a drop of dijon mustard these days even though I’m doing so much better now and can eat a lot more types of foods than I could in those terrible eight months of severe pain. Avoid spicy anything and mustard. Yowch- that goes straight to my bladder and triggers immense pain. Friendly foods are organic chicken, turkey, veggies, EGGS (super friendly to damaged bladders, and you will need your protein). I think all meats are okay provided you’re a meat eater. Eat nothing w/ citric acid including oranges, pineapples, tomatoes). For many people, including myself, eating bananas, while they aren’t citrus fruits, caused excruciating pain. That is due to their high potassium contact. Foods with high potassium in a compromised bladder are known to cause problems. I hope some of this helps.
D-Mannose is my go-to when I feel a UTI coming on. I get mine on Bulk Supplements if anyone is interested!
Thanks for the info! I just wanted to include that twice when I’ve gotten a UTI I have drank warm water with a tablespoon of baking soda and it cleared up in 24 hours. It wasn’t pleasant, but worth it.
I find that cranberry juice doesn’t work for me, a couple of years ago after much research I tried ACV 2 tbsp in a glass of water every hour on day 1… I was much improved within a couple of hours, then the same mix on day 2 just morning, noon, and night, and on day 3 morning and night.
UTI completely gone! and now I drink just a weak solution all day every day just a teaspoon in a large glass of water. Works brilliantly.
Hi, can I give D mannose to my 4 year old for a uti? How much? I really really don’t want to give her antibiotics!
Wondering what you did Bethany? My 3 year old has been peeing a lot but he says nothing burns… I’m watching him closely.