If you're like millions of women who get them regularly, you can spot a urinary tract infection (UTI) a mile away. The symptoms are undeniable: pelvic pain, burning when (frequently) peeing—and then having that pee be dark, cloudy and pungent. Wouldn't it be great if you could just wave a magic wand and it would all go away?
While a wand may be a bit out of the question, you actually do have the power to stop a UTI in its tracks without having to call the pharmacy. There are some natural solutions that often work much better—and for longer—than prescription or over-the-counter medications.
But before we dive in, let's get to the root of how and why UTIs happen in the first place.
What are UTIs?
A UTI is just what it stands for: an infection of the urinary tract. It can happen anywhere along this tract, but it will typically present itself as a bladder infection. Most of the time, it's caused when bacteria enters the urethra either through the rectum or the skin.
Women tend to get UTIs more often than men because we have shorter urethras—hence a shorter time for bacteria to travel to the urinary tract. Other risk factors include poor hygiene, pregnancy, sexual activity, changes to vaginal bacteria due to menopause or spermicide, and medical conditions like diabetes.
Stopping UTIs naturally
While antibiotics can prove useful for an occasional UTI, they're by no means the only solution. Antibiotics shouldn't be taken for prolonged periods anyway and their overuse can disrupt the gut's microbiome, which is closely connected to our brains, our immune systems—and our overall health.
To help keep UTIs at bay, try these easy-to-incorporate natural solutions.
Drink lots of water
When you have a UTI, it feels like you almost always have to pee—but then it's hard to do it when you finally get to the bathroom. If you stay hydrated and include plenty of water and water-based foods like watermelon and lettuce in your daily diet, you'll have an easier time going—and you'll also be flushing out UTI-causing bacteria.
Go with tried-and-true cranberry
There's truth to the old wives' tale that cranberry juice can eradicate UTIs. How? They seem to be able to make it more difficult for bacteria to stay on the lining of the urinary tract, so it flushes out of your body more easily. If you go this route, be sure to stick to unsweetened cranberry juice. The added sugar in traditional juices may offset any good you're doing.
Up your vitamin C intake
Vitamin C adds acidity to your urine, which may at first sound painful but actually can help limit the growth of certain types of bacteria. Because this is more of a preventive measure, make sure you're taking a vitamin C supplement daily if you have a history of UTIs. While eating citrus fruits isn't recommended, you can get this essential vitamin through food from potatoes, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cabbage, tomatoes, bell peppers, and strawberries.
Take a quality probiotic
Having a quality probiotic is essential to overall health. To get one, do your homework on quality natural solutions by reading unbiased independent reviews, or try to incorporate naturally probiotic-rich foods into your diet (think yogurt, kimchi, kefir, and low-sugar or homemade kombucha).
Eat this, not that
If you're in the throes of a UTI or just feel one about to rear its ugly head, stick to foods that are less likely to irritate your bladder, like bananas, pears, potatoes, green beans, and winter squash. While they won't erase your UTI, these foods can better support your journey to recovery. What will help eradicate a UTI is the all-powerful garlic. Its antimicrobial properties are proven in studies to block bacterial growth and prevent UTIs. So eat this powerful veggie with abandon!
You can also try an herbal tea specifically formulated to support urinary tract health. D-mannose, a simple sugar found in cranberries and other fruits like apples and oranges, is a supplement available for additional support.
As for what to remove from your diet, it's a good idea to cut out gut-irritating foods like alcohol, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and carbonated drinks if you're feeling the effects of a UTI.
Invest in a bidet
I sung the bidet's praises in a 2021 post, and I have yet to change my stance. It's an amazing, clean, affordable, safe, adjustable, and comfortable way to effectively clear away bacteria—and it can save you money on toilet paper!
Practice good hygiene
Healthy everyday habits can help you prevent UTIs naturally. This includes going when you have to go to avoid a bacterial buildup, peeing after sex to eliminate bacteria, wiping from front to back, avoiding tight-fitting clothing to stay clean and dry, and sticking to natural soaps.
The good news about these natural remedies? They'll all work to improve every cell in your body—so you'll be supporting your health, no matter what.