UTIs are among the most common bacterial infections in the United States. They are especially prevalent in women, around 50 percent of whom will have one during their lifetime. UTIs also tend to reoccur.
Increasingly, people want to know whether non-antibiotic treatments can resolve UTIs. We explore this possibility here and provide seven evidence-based home remedies that can help to treat UTIs.
Can you treat a UTI without antibiotics?
Antibiotics are an effective treatment for UTIs. However, the body can often resolve minor, uncomplicated UTIs on its own without the help of antibiotics.
By some estimates, 25–42 percent of uncomplicated UTI infections clear on their own. In these cases, people can try a range of home remedies to speed up recovery.
Complicated UTIs will require medical treatment. These UTIs involve one or more of the following factors:
- changes in the urinary tract or organs, such as a swollen prostate or a reduced flow of urine
- species of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics
- conditions that affect the immune system, such as HIV, cardiac disease, or lupus
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, people should drink at least six to eight 8-ounce (oz) glasses of water each day.
2. Urinate when the need arises
Frequent urination puts pressure on bacteria in the urinary tract, which can help to clear them out.
It also reduces the amount of time that bacteria in the urine are exposed to cells in the urinary tract, reducing the risk of them attaching and forming an infection.
Always urinate as soon as possible when the urge strikes to help prevent and treat UTIs.
3. Drink cranberry juice
Cranberry juice is one of the most well-established natural treatments for UTIs. People have also traditionally used it to help clear general infections and speed up wound recovery time.
Studies on the effectiveness of cranberry juice for UTIs have had mixed results. According to one review, cranberry juice contains compounds that may prevent E. coli cells from attaching to cells in the urinary tract.
Cranberry juice also contains antioxidants, including polyphenols, which have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
There is no set guideline on how much cranberry juice to drink to treat a UTI, but a common recommendation is to drink around 400 milliliters (mL) of at least 25-percent cranberry juice every day to prevent or treat UTIs.
If a person suspects that they might have a UTI, they should speak to their doctor for advice on the best way to treat the possible infection.
Antibiotics may not always be necessary to treat UTIs, but it is still important to seek medical attention for any infection or suspected infection. This will reduce the risk of a more severe infection developing that is harder to treat.
The signs and symptoms of UTIs include:
- increased frequency and urgency of urination
- pain or burning when urinating
- low-grade fevers (below 101°F)
- pressure or cramping in the area around the lower abdomen and groin
- change in the smell or color of urine
- cloudy, murky, or bloody urine
Most people develop a UTI at some point in their lifetime, especially women.
Many UTIs go away on their own or with primary care. Researchers are increasingly looking for ways to treat and prevent UTIs without the use of antibiotics.
Several longstanding at-home remedies may help to prevent and treat UTIs.
People who think they have a UTI should always talk with a doctor before trying to treat the infection themselves.
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