A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that occurs anywhere along the urinary system, including the bladder, kidneys, or ureters. Women are more likely to develop UTIs, which can also be a recurring problem for many.
UTIs can be painful, irritating, and lead to health complications, so spotting their early signs can help you obtain a timely relief. Along with antibiotics, which are commonly prescribed for UTIs, there are also some home remedies for symptom relief and prevention.
Urinary tract infection causes
A UTI is a bacterial infection of the kidneys, ureters, or bladder. A bladder infection falls under the UTI category, too. It’s the most common type, and not considered serious if it’s treated right away. If you don’t take action, though, it can spread to your kidneys, which can be serious and cause permanent damage. That’s why it’s good to keep in mind some preventative measures, like cranberry for bladder health and other natural remedies for UTIs.
For the most part, the body flushes out harmful bacteria without a problem. But sometimes an infection can happen when those bacteria stick around, literally, by attaching themselves to the lining of the urinary tract.
Both the male and female urinary tract can be at risk for attack by nasty bacteria. In fact, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), urinary tract infections are the second most common type of infection in the body, accounting for about 8.1 million visits to healthcare providers each year. The first most common infection, as you may have guessed, is upper respiratory tract infection (URI), like the common cold.
Understanding the female urinary tract
Women, especially, are prone to UTIs because of the anatomy of the female urinary tract. A woman’s urethra is shorter, which means bacteria have quicker access to the bladder. Their urethral opening is also closer to potential bacteria from the anus and vagina. A woman’s lifetime risk of having a UTI is greater than 50 percent, so ladies, don’t be surprised when it strikes. It’s also known to be more common after menopause because of hormonal changes in the body (menopause can be a challenge!). All the more reason to take preventative measures with natural remedies for UTI, which we’ll get to shortly.
Keeping in mind that a UTI is caused by bacteria that enters the urinary tract, typical causes are sexual intercourse and wiping incorrectly from back to front. If you find yourself experiencing recurring UTIs, you could have a genetic disposition or an underlying reason like kidney disease. About 20 percent of women with a first UTI will have a recurrent infection, and with each additional UTI, the risk of recurrence goes up, NIH reports.
Thanks to Mother Nature, though, the urinary tract has several systems to prevent infection. The points where the ureters attach to the bladder act like one-way valves to stop urine from backing up toward the kidneys. The act of urinating itself washes bacteria and other microbes out of the body. For men, fluid excreted by the prostate helps slow bacterial growth. And for both sexes, the immune system kicks in to fight the infection.
Urinary tract infection symptoms
Despite these natural safeguards, infections can happen, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms early. Ideally, urine should be light yellow and clear, and your body should send you a signal in advance, as opposed to the sudden bladder pressure or pain that comes with a UTI.
That annoying frequent urge to go, but then passing only a small amount of urine is a very common symptom to watch out for. You’ll also experience a burning or itching feeling when you pee. Check your urine in the toilet bowl – if it’s bloody or cloudy, dark in color, or bad-smelling, this can also be a sign of UTI. Women may have pelvic pain, whereas men might have rectal pain.
You might also have pain on one side of your back under your ribs (where your kidneys are). Other symptoms can include fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. At this point, you should call your doctor right away. People with diabetes, kidney problems, or a weak immune system should be aware that UTIs can be more serious for their health.
Natural home remedies for urinary tract infection
The good news is, there are natural remedies for UTIs. So if you act promptly when you have the first symptoms, such as burning when you urinate, you can get rid of UTI at the onset. Here’s what to do:
- Drink lots of water. What isn’t drinking water good for, really? It helps flush away the bacteria, putting you on track for recovery. Eight glasses a day is a general guideline. Add fresh lemon or lime to boost flavor and help with detoxification.
- Sip cranberry juice. Choose the tart, unsweetened juice (sugar adds nothing but calories). Cranberry for bladder health has been a topic of discussion and study. Some research shows drinking pure cranberry juice can help prevent UTIs in elderly, pregnant women, and hospitalized patients.
- Ease the pain with heat: Inflammation and irritation from UTI can leave you with pressure and pain around your pubic area or lower back. Try some heat therapy. Apply a heating pad at low temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
- Get more vitamin C. This healthy vitamin found in berries (like cranberries!), citrus fruits, melons, and cabbage can help make your urine more acidic, which helps support a healthy urinary tract.
- Eat some yogurt. You want to blast that bad bacteria with good bacteria. If you’ve read anything about yogurt these days, you’ll know the popular dairy treat is packed with probiotics, or good bacteria, for your gut.
- Ditch the irritants.Now’s the time to focus on your health, so you want to cut out things that can irritate your bladder and make it harder for your body to heal. The culprits? Caffeine, nicotine, spicy food, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and those bad-for-you artificial sweeteners. On the upside, consume more high-fiber carbohydrates like grains, and healthy fats like nuts and olive oil – all good for digestion.
- Run to the bathroom – again: While it’s unpleasant and annoying, keep making those bathroom trips. Every time you go, even if you urinate only a small amount, you’re getting rid of some of the bad bacteria that’s causing the UTI.
- Wipe front to back: Another bathroom tip, always wipe from the front to back to avoid infection. Don’t try to reach from behind – germs from the rectum can be transferred to the toilet paper or your hand. Also, never wipe twice with the same tissue.
- Drink parsley water as it is a natural diuretic and can help flush out your system.
- Consume more blueberries as they contain ingredients that can work to prevent and treat UTIs.
- Consume diluted apple cider vinegar as it is a natural antibacterial, so it can help fight off bacteria in the urinary system.
Try these home remedies to keep your bladder in top form. They’re easier than you think – and a more natural fix than turning to your doctor for a prescription. So the next time you’re rushing to the bathroom, be aware of urinary tract infection symptoms.
Related: Urine specific gravity test: How well your kidneys are diluting your urine