7 Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptoms
UTI can be a pain — in more ways than one. Diet and lifestyle changes can help support your body during recovery, and some may even help prevent future infections.
How were you able to handle your most recent urinary tract infection (UTI)? Taking an antibiotic is the gold standard treatment for a urinary tract infection (UTI), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That said, there are also things you can do at home to potentially help support recovery from the infection and better deal with the uncomfortable symptoms of a UTI.
These lifestyle-based interventions don’t require a prescription — and they can be done in the comfort of your home, but they should not be used in lieu of any treatment your doctor has recommended.
It’s important to be cautious with do-it-yourself home solutions, and be sure to check in with your doctor before trying a new strategy on your own, as some may be dangerous. For example, an oft-recommended home remedy found on social media involves mixing baking soda and water as a drink to help fight a urinary tract infection (UTI). This can be risky if you drink too much of it. About 5 percent of baking soda-related poisonings in California between 2000 and 2012 were from drinking baking soda in an attempt to treat a UTI, according to past research.
The following seven home remedies — from drinking lots of water to applying heat and wearing loose cotton clothing — may help ease or prevent agonizing UTI symptoms. Common symptoms, per the CDC, include pain or burning while urinating, frequent urination, abdominal cramps, bloody urine. Bear in mind that research evidence is variable and mostly limited, yet many of these are generally considered safe.
1. Get Your Fill of Water and Water-Based Foods
One of the first things to do when you have a urinary tract infection is drink plenty of water. That’s because drinking water can help flush away the bacteria that's causing your infection, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Adequate H2O can help put you on the right track for recovery. When you have a UTI, the NIDDK recommends drinking at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
2. Soothe UTI Pain With Heat
Inflammation and irritation from UTIs cause burning, pressure, and pain around your pubic area, says Kandis Rivers, MD, a urologist in the Henry Ford Health System in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Applying a heating pad might help relieve discomfort, notes the NIDDK. Keep the heat setting low, don’t apply it directly to the skin, and limit your use to 15 minutes at a time to avoid burns.
3. Cut Bladder Irritants From Your Diet
When you have a UTI, caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, nicotine, carbonated drinks, and artificial sweeteners may worsen your symptoms, yet it depends on the individual, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Focus on healthy foods, such as high-fiber carbohydrates that are good for your digestive health, says Holly Lucille, ND, RN, a naturopathic doctor in private practice in West Hollywood, California, and the author of Creating and Maintaining Balance: A Woman’s Guide to Safe, Natural Hormone Health.
4. Go Ahead, Empty Your Bladder Again
Every time you empty your bladder — even if it’s just a small amount — you rid it of some of the bacteria causing the infection. Keep making those bathroom runs, advises Dr. Rivers. This is also one of the reasons why you’re encouraged to drink adequate water when you’re recovering from a UTI, per the NIDDK.
5. Consider Supplements for Extra Possible Support
One potential supplement to help support recovery during a UTI is a probiotic, according to a review on natural remedies for UTI. Another review agrees, noting that probiotics with the strains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium may help restore normal vaginal bacteria, particularly when taking antibiotics (which can disturb this balance), as well as may help reduce the risk of recurring infections.
There are also d-mannose supplements, which is a sugar found in cranberry, that is thought to prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract. Some research suggests d-mannose may help treat uncomplicated bladder infections in women as effectively as antibiotics, yet clinical studies are needed and it’s not recommended to take the place of your mainstream treatment. Be sure to speak to your doctor about the right treatment for you.
Always be sure to check with your doctor before trying a supplement. Supplements, herbs, and other medication you might be taking can cause side effects or may interact with one another, and the effects can sometimes be serious.
6. Change to Healthier Daily Habits
Lifestyle changes matter because they may help you recover from a UTI and might prevent another infection, according to the NIDDK.
- Quit smoking.
- Wear loose cotton clothing and underwear.
- Wipe yourself clean from front to back.
- Choose only fragrance-free personal hygiene products.
7. Cut Back on Meat and Poultry
One study links contaminated poultry and meat to E. coli bacteria strains that can cause UTIs. This research doesn’t prove that eating meat or poultry causes UTIs. In fact, some E.coli can live in the intestines without causing any problems. However, bacteria from the gut can enter the urinary tract and cause infection. This risk is greater in women than men, because women have shorter urethras than men, meaning the bacteria has less distance to travel to reach the bladder.
A Note About Cranberry Juice and UTIs
Cranberry juice or cranberry extract in supplemental form has long been used as a home remedy for UTIs.
The thought is that “the proanthocyanidins in cranberries may help prevent bladder infections by keeping the bacteria from clinging to the bladder wall,” says Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, a nutrition consultant based in San Francisco.
Yet there’s scientific controversy over how effective cranberry juice is at preventing UTIs due to conflicting conclusions in studies on the topic, according to research. Some studies have found it might work, while others have found no effect. An updated meta-analysis in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews analyzed 50 randomized-controlled trials, and found that taking cranberry as juice, tablets or capsules reduced the number of UTIs in women who experience recurrent UTIs, children, and those who’ve had a bladder procedure compared with placebo or no treatment.
Keep in mind that this shows that cranberry might be used to prevent UTIs in these specific groups of people, not treat or speed healing from a UTI. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) came to a similar conclusion, too.
“Bottom line, there is some evidence it may help, and it doesn’t hurt to try it,” says Angelone. Just be sure to choose unsweetened cranberry juice (the sugar in sweetened cranberry juices can actually feed a bacterial infection). Mix this with sparkling water or plain yogurt, she recommends.
Are Bananas Good for UTIs?
Bananas will not treat UTI in any way. However, bananas are considered a bladder-friendly food because they’re not likely to irritate your bladder, according to the Urology Care Foundation.
Can Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar Treat UTIs?
One study has shown that apple cider vinegar has some antibacterial and antifungal properties, but there’s no scientific or medical evidence that drinking apple cider can treat UTIs. Furthermore, drinking large amounts of apple cider vinegar could lead to throat irritation and tooth decay.
Is Coconut Oil Effective at Alleviating UTI Symptoms?
Some research has suggested that coconut oil may have antibacterial properties, and you may find articles online confidently suggesting that it treats and prevents the infection. However, there’s no research looking specifically at the effect of coconut oil on UTIs. This is another UTI home remedy that you should skip.
In conclusion, if you have symptoms of a UTI, it is always recommended to see your doctor for evaluation and potential antibiotic treatment. These home remedies and complementary approaches have variable evidence and safety, and it's best to discuss with your doctor before incorporating them in your care plan — especially if you have recurrent UTIs or other risks for complex UTIs like kidney stones or a urinary catheter, among others, per research.