A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of any part of the urinary system that occurs when GI bacteria spreads to the urethra. They are extremely common among women. The symptoms are unpleasant and super recognizable, especially if you've had UTIs before: "The early signs are bladder twinges before or after urinating, a more frequent urge to urinate, pressure in the bladder, slight burning in the urethra, and a slight dull ache in the lower back," says Alisa Vitti, functional nutritionist and founder of FloLiving.com, a virtual hormone health center for women.
The good news is that if you can spot the early symptoms of a UTI, you can take action right away and treat it at home so that a doctor's visit doesn't feel so desperate. You might even be able to avoid antibiotic treatment altogether, which Vitti says might be a good thing. "Antibiotics become essential when a UTI spreads to the kidneys. At that time it’s necessary treatment," she says. "But when we take antibiotics at the first sign of a UTI or use them as a preventative measure, we set ourselves up for a disrupted and dysfunctional microbiome. More and more research is showing us that the microbiome is crucial for long-term endocrine health, so my goal would be to avoid getting to that situation and to prevent recurrent UTI."
Preventative UTI measures include emptying your bladder before and after sex, making sure your bowel movements are regular, and taking a daily supplement called Ellura, which is a concentrated cranberry extract recommended by urologists. However, if you still find yourself plagued with a UTI, there's plenty you can do by yourself to treat the symptoms. Here are five natural home remedies for a UTI to try before hitting up the doctor's office.
Dehydration worsens the already icky symptoms of a UTI—luckily, there's an easy fix for that. "Hydrate! Drink two to three liters of water per day," recommends Linda McIver, Atlanta-based nurse practitioner and founder of 2U Medical. You'll be truly amazed how quickly hydration will help the discomfort.
McIver also recommends minimizing your consumption of sweets and simple carbs, as sugar makes the acid level in your urine more hospitable for the infection-causing bacteria.
As for over-the-counter supplements, Vitti and McIver both recommend taking D-Mannose, which supports urinary tract health (you and your partner can even take this a preventative measure against UTIs). "D-Mannose is a large sugar molecule that's not absorbed in the bloodstream, yet in the bladder bacteria sticks to these molecules, making it easy to eliminate the infection," McIver explains. You can take the supplement as often as every three hours.
Another homeopathic OTC medication McIver recommends is AZO, which was specifically designed to relieve the pain, burning, and constant need to pee associated with UTIs.
If lower back pain is your worst UTI symptom (dang those kidneys), McIver recommends applying a heating pad to the area to soothe it. Just make sure to keep the heat setting low to avoid burns.
Another all-natural supplement Vitti recommends is this quality probiotic that was formulated for vaginal and urinary tract health. Vitti says Fem-Dophilus can also be taken daily to prevent UTIs if you're prone to them.
Next, check out six natural remedies for a yeast infection.