Urinary tract infections (UTIs) happens when microbes or germs infect your bladder, kidneys, urethra, and other parts of your urinary system. UTIs usually cause a painful burning sensation when urinating and can affect both men and women. Depending on which part of your urinary system is affected, a UTI can cause fever, chills, abdominal pain, and abnormal discharge.
There are many effective home remedies that can help to alleviate the misery that urinary tract infections cause. For example, baking soda can help neutralize the acidity levels in urine and help to relieve pain. Also, taking probiotics, D-Mannose, and drinking cranberry juice can help to treat many of the symptoms of a mild urinary tract infection.
Even in cases where doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat complicated UTIs, many home remedies can help to get rid of your symptoms quicker.
In this article, I will look at scientific research on the effectiveness of treating urinary tract infections with natural home remedies. I will also answer the question when it is possible to treat UTIs without antibiotics.
What Is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria, viruses, or fungi cause an infection or inflammation in your urinary system.
Doctors from the National Institutes of Health say that the most common cause of a UTI is bacteria in the urinary tract. Usually, your body’s defenses get rid of these germs without causing any uncomfortable symptoms. Different types of urinary tract infections are referred to as follows:1
- Cystitis. Inflammation of the bladder.
- Pyelonephritis. Infection of the kidneys that often causes back pain.
- Urethritis. Infection and inflammation of the urethra – tubes that drain urine from the bladder.
Most home remedies for UTIs involve reducing inflammation and flushing out microbes from the urinary system.
The journal Primary Care reports that UTIs are the most common urinary system disorder that causes people to visit their doctor. Many women experience urinary tract infections, and UTI treatments for women are very common. However, people with diabetes, impaired immune systems, or incontinence are also at risk of recurring infections of the urinary tract.2
It is also not uncommon for men to have UTIs, and home remedies can also prove to be effective. For example, the International Journal of Clinical and Pharmacology and Therapeutics reports that around 60% of UTIs in men can be treated without antibiotics.3
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a UTI?
A burning sensation and pain while urinating are the most common signs of a urinary tract infection. However, the infection in your bladder, kidneys, or urinary system will usually cause other signs and symptoms.
Here are the most common symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI):
Children and toddlers can also suffer from UTIs and these urinary infections can affect both boys and girls. Doctors from the National Health Service say that urinary tract infections in children can include the following symptoms:4
- Holding in pee to avoid the painful stinging sensation when using the bathroom
- A Fever
- Starting to wet themselves because they hold in urine too long
UTI Treatment Without Antibiotics – Is It Possible?
In some cases, it is possible to treat urinary tract infections without the use of antibiotics. However, natural home remedies to treat UTIs must be used at the first sign of an infection to prevent the infection from developing.
According to OB/GYN Dr Nivin Todd, the majority of UTIs are easy to treat and rarely produce complications. However, if the infection becomes more serious or has other complications, a course of antibiotics may be needed. This could happen if you have recurring UTIs, suffer from diabetes or have some kind of kidney damage.5
Also, treatments for women who are pregnant usually include antibiotics to prevent long-term health risks.
Because of the increase in resistance to antibiotics, many doctors recommend preventative measures to treat UTIs. For example, the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases published a study on how to lower the need for antibiotics when treating UTIs. It was found that women who increased daily fluid intake by 1.5 L had a 50% lower risk of developing another UTI.6
A report published in the journal Current Infectious Disease Reports found that treating uncomplicated UTIs without antibiotics is often the best course.
Increasing your fluid intake, using the bathroom regularly, and taking probiotics can all help to treat simple UTIs without antibiotics.
Researchers recommended that antibiotics should only be used if the urinary infection doesn’t clear up within 3 days.7
How to Get Rid of a UTI – The Best Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infections
Let’s look at what scientifically-based research has revealed as to the best home remedies for UTIs.
At the first sign of a urinary tract infection, you can take the supplement D-mannose to prevent your UTI symptoms getting worse. D-mannose is a type of sugar that occurs naturally in some fruits, including cranberries, blueberries, and apples. It helps to treat UTI symptoms naturally because it seems to help prevent bacteria from infecting the urinary tract and cause infection.
Is D-mannose really a natural cure for UTI? According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Urology, D-mannose supplements can help to treat and prevent recurring urinary tract infections. In this randomized study, female patients in the D-mannose group consumed 1 g D-mannose 3 times a day, every 8 hours for 2 weeks, and subsequently 1 g twice a day for 22 weeks.
In fact, in the trial, D-mannose was even more effective than antibiotics such as trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole for preventing subsequent infections.8
Also, the World Journal of Urology reported that using D-mannose as a natural UTI treatment significantly reduces recurring urinary tract infections. D-mannose was as effective as nitrofurantoin which is antibiotic used to treat bladder infections.9
In the above study, 308 women with a history of recurrent UTIs, were treated with either two grams of D-mannose powder in 200 ml of water, 50 milligrams of an antibiotic, or no treatment daily for six months.
Only 15 percent of those taking the D-mannose had a recurrent UTI compared to 20 percent for the antibiotic group (both of which were significantly lower than the no-treatment group). However, the incidence of side effects was significantly lower in the D-mannose group than in the antibiotics group.
You can buy D-mannose supplements at many online stores or health stores.
Baking soda and water
Scientific research into using baking soda drinks for a UTI has found that it can help to reduce painful symptoms. The International Urogynecology Journal reported that baking soda can help to lower urinary tract symptoms. Consuming baking soda at the first sign of a UTI helped to reduce the frequency of urination, pain when peeing, and getting up in the night to use the bathroom.10
To help clear your UTI symptoms quickly, mix 1 teaspoon baking soda in an 8-oz. a glass of water and drink. Use the baking soda remedy 2 or 3 times a day for 3 days to help reduce the burning sensation when urinating and help cure your UTI. If your symptoms aren’t better after 3 days, you should see your doctor.
The Indian Journal of Urology reports that probiotics may help to treat and prevent persistent complicated and uncomplicated UTIs. Some studies suggest that probiotics help to improve the body’s resistance to bacterial infections and can reduce the risk of urogenital infections. Also, probiotics may help to reduce digestive complications if you need to take antibiotics.11
Interestingly, the Iranian Journal of Pediatrics reports that probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics in treating UTIs can help to increase the effectiveness of UTI treatments. For example, when treating children for UTIs with antibiotics, consuming probiotics improved the recovery rate when compared to just using antibiotics alone.12
Raw, live yoghurt also contains probiotics and can help to manage the symptoms of urinary tract infections in women.
According to research published in 2013, plain yoghurt that contains Lactobacilli strains of bacteria can help to reduce internal bacterial infections. Trials into the effectiveness of Lactobacilli strains have found that they help to minimize the occurrence of urinary infections.13
There is no standard dose for using yoghurt in treating a urinary tract infection. However, increasing your daily intake of yoghurt along with using other natural UTI remedies can help to reduce your UTI symptoms quickly.
Cranberry and blueberry juice
Berries like cranberries and blueberries contain bioactive ingredients that may help to get rid of a UTI fast.
Cranberries are often mentioned as a remedy for treating recurring urinary tract infections. Does scientific research support the use of cranberry juice for UTIs?
The journal Advances in Nutrition reports that cranberries have unique properties with many health benefits. Various studies point to the fact that cranberry juice can help lower instances of UTIs by preventing bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract. It was found that women who consumed 300 mL cranberry juice daily had lower UTI infection rates.14
Other studies have shown that cranberry extract capsules could help to reduce occurrences of UTIs in some women by up to 70%. Some independent studies have shown that cranberry juice can help to treat recurring UTIs in children.14
However, some other studies have demonstrated mixed results. Therefore urologist Dr Courtenay Moore says that taking cranberry juice for UTIs may help and can’t hurt. So, it may be worth trying to increase the amount of cranberry juice you consume if you battle against a UTI.15
If you consume cranberries in a juice form, make sure it has a high content of fruit and the minimum amount of sugar possible.
Pineapples could help to get rid of UTI symptoms because pineapples contain an antibacterial compound that helps reduce inflammation.
Research published in the journal Biomedical Reports found that the enzyme bromelain in pineapples has a therapeutic effect when treating urinary tract infections. For example, when taken in conjunction with antibiotics for UTIs and kidney infections, bromelain helped to boost the effectiveness of the antibiotic treatment.16
Apple cider vinegar
There are many health benefits to drinking raw apple cider vinegar and it can help to keep your digestive and urinary system healthy.
Although there have been no scientific studies about using apple cider vinegar as a natural home treatment for UTI, raw unprocessed apple cider vinegar can help to flush toxins from your kidneys. Try consuming 2-3 tablespoons a day mixed with a glass of water for the best results. Also, you could add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of cranberry juice to help try and get rid of your UTI faster.
Scientific research from Scandinavia found that taking 100 mg of vitamin C can help to treat recurring urinary infections. This was cited as one reason for pregnant women to regularly take vitamin C for UTIs.17
The journal European Urology also found that a combination of cranberry juice, vitamin C, and probiotics can significantly increase the possibility of treating recurring UTIs without antibiotics.18
Other Herbal Remedies for UTIs
There are other very effective herbal treatments that can help to treat UTIs naturally and prevent them from recurring.
Clinical research into using horseradish in helping to get rid of urinary tract infections has discovered promising results. Research from Germany found that a herbal combination containing horseradish and nasturtium was as effective as some antibiotics in treating acute urinary tract infections.19
Read my detailed article about horseradish including how to consume it to clear UTI.
Grapefruit seed extract (GSE)
You can use extracts from grapefruit seeds to help treat urinary tract infections at home.
According to medical research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, grapefruit seeds have an antibacterial effect in the urinary system. Scientists found that consuming 5 or 6 grapefruit seeds every 8 hours was as effective as an antibacterial medication used to treat UTIs.20
UTI While Pregnant
Urinary tract infections can commonly affect pregnant women and result in varying degrees of complications.
The journal Malaysian Family Physician reported that some of the UTI complications in expecting mothers are symptoms of cystitis, pyelonephritis, and other signs of a UTI. If left untreated, urinary tract infections during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia.21
Because of the risk to your health and the health of your baby, you should always see your gynaecologist or doctor if you suspect a UTI while pregnant.
UTI in Toddlers
Babies, toddlers, and children can all suffer from urinary tract infections. Of course, diagnosing and treating a UTI in toddlers can be especially challenging.
Very often babies and toddlers show signs of a fever if they have a UTI and there may be an unusual smell from their urine. Dr John Mersch who specializes in pediatric medicine says that there are no recommended herbal remedies for UTIs in toddlers. However, preventing UTIs in babies is the best way to prevent any complications.22
How to Prevent UTI Naturally
Preventing urinary tract infections naturally is the best way to avoid the pain, misery, and discomfort that a UTI causes. Many of the UTI remedies mentioned in this article are just as effective for treating UTIs as preventing them.
What else can you do to prevent UTIs naturally? Dr John Brusch from Harvard Medical Schools recommends some of the following ways to prevent bladder infections and urinary tract infections:23
Drink plenty of water
Many studies have shown that drinking more fluids helps to prevent UTIs. Drinking fluids like water and unsweetened herbal tea can also reduce by up to 50% of the need to treat UTIs with antibiotics.
Wiping from front to back can help avoid transferring bacteria from your anus to the vagina. You should always change tissues between wipes.
Don’t hold your pee in
Always use the bathroom when you feel the urge and avoid holding your pee in. Also urinate immediately after having intercourse.
Dr Moore (quoted earlier) says that probiotics can help to prevent a buildup of bad bacteria in the vagina.15
When to See a Doctor
In many cases, if you use home remedies at the very first sign of a urinary tract infection, you may not have to visit your doctor. However, if your symptoms continue for a day or more, you need to get qualified medical attention.
Dr John P. Cunha on eMedicineHealth recommends seeing a doctor for symptoms of a urinary infection in the following circumstances:
- Your UTI symptoms last for more than 24 hours and don’t get better with home remedies
- You have a fever and chills
- Along with the burning sensation when you urinate, you have nausea and vomiting
- You are pregnant, have diabetes, or are undergoing chemotherapy
Any toddler with a UTI, child or elderly person should always see a doctor if a bladder infection or other urinary infection is suspected.
A urine test that shows evidence of bacteria or germs usually is enough to confirm if treatment is needed for a UTI.
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- Prim Care.2010 Sep;37(3):491-507, viii.
- Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther.2004 Jul;42(7):360-6.
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- WebMD. When a UTI gets complicated.
- Open Forum Infect Dis. 2017 Oct; 4(1): S736.
- Curr Infect Dis Rep. 2013 Apr; 15(2): 124–129.
- J Clin Urol. 2014 Jan; 7(3): 208-213.
- World J Urol.2014 Feb;32(1):79-84.
- Int Urogynecol J.2018 Jul;29(7):1029-1033.
- Indian J Urol. 2008 Apr-Jun; 24(2): 139–144.
- Iran J Pediatr. 2013 Aug; 23(4): 430–438.
- Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2013 Aug; 13(3): 359–367.
- Adv Nutr. 2013 Nov; 4(6): 618–632.
- ClevlenandClinic. Can cranberry juice stop your UTI?
- Biomed Rep. 2016 Sep; 5(3): 283–288.
- Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand.2007;86(7):783-7.
- Eur Urol.2016 Dec;70(6):912-915.
- J Altern Complement Med.2005 Apr;11(2):369-71.
- Malays Fam Physician. 2007; 2(2): 54–57.
- MedicineNet. Urinary tract infections in children.
- Medscape. Prevention of urinary tract infection in women.