Urinary tract infections are typically caused by bacteria, which is why the standard treatment is to prescribe a course of antibiotics. However, is it also possible to treat urinary tract infections without antibiotics? Urinary tract infections are the most common bacterial infections observed in any country. In fact, nearly 50 percent of all women will end up catching a urinary tract infection at some point during their lifetime. These infections also tend to reoccur. Due to the high prevalence of such types of infections, many people often wonder if there are any non-antibiotic treatments to treat these infections. Read on to find out about how to treat urinary infections without antibiotics.
Overview of Urinary Infections
A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria enters the urinary tract and rapidly multiply. They can affect one or more parts of the urinary tract, and it most commonly affects women. Urinary infections can affect the:
These infections can cause the following symptoms:
- Blood urine
- Lower abdominal pain and cramping
- Painful and frequent urination
According to data from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH), nearly 8 to 10 million people visit the doctor every year due to urinary infections.(1) In fact, urinary infections are the second most common type of infection that affects humans.(2) While they are mostly observed in women, they can also affect men.
The reason behind this is that women have a shorter urethra, which makes it easier for the bacteria to enter the bladder. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases believe that nearly 40 to 60 percent of all women will get at least one urinary infection in their lifetime.(1)
Urinary infections can also affect men, but these are mostly related to an enlarged prostate, which blocks the flow of urine. This leads to a buildup of bacteria, and they can easily occupy the urinary tract, causing infections.
The bacteria E. Coli (Escherichia coli) is the most common cause of urinary infections, and this bacteria cause nearly 90 percent of all urinary tract infections.(3) E. coli is found naturally in our intestines, and when it is confined only to the intestines, the bacteria are harmless. However, if the bacteria gets into the urinary tract, then it can cause a urinary infection.
Can a Urinary Infection Be Treated Without Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are the most effective treatment for urinary infections. However, often, the body is able to resolve minor and uncomplicated urinary infections by itself without the need for antibiotics.
Nearly 25 to 42 percent of mild urinary infections tend to get better on their own. In these cases, people often try a variety of home remedies to speed up the recovery process.(4)
However, in cases of severe or complicated urinary infections, you will need to seek medical treatment. These types of urinary infections usually involve one or more of the following factors:
- Changes in the urinary tract or other organs, such as a reduced flow of urine or an inflamed prostate
- They are caused by a species of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics
- Complications are likely to arise if you have a medical condition that affects y our immune system, such as lupus, HIV/AIDS, or cardiac disease
Treating Urinary Infections Without Antibiotics
To treat urinary infections without antibiotics, people try many home remedies. While some of these techniques have been scientifically verified as being useful in treating urinary infections, others have been used for hundreds of years and are part of many traditional medicine systems.
Let us take a look at some home remedies that help treat mild urinary infections without needing antibiotics.
Drinking plenty of water is one of the easiest ways to flush out the infection-causing bacteria. Water helps the urinary tract organs eliminate waste from the body while also retaining the important electrolytes and nutrients.
Being well-hydrated helps dilute your urine, thus speeding up its journey through the body. This makes it more challenging for bacteria to reach the cells lining the urinary organs and cause an infection.
While there is no recommended limit as to how much water people should drink every day, but on an average, drinking at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day is considered to be the right amount.
Urinating regularly will put pressure on the bacteria present in the urinary tract. This helps in clearing them and flushing them out.
At the same time, urinating frequently decreases the amount of time the bacteria gets exposed to the cells in the urinary tract, reducing the risk of causing an infection.
You should urinate as soon as possible whenever you feel the urge to urinate to prevent and treat urinary infections.
Probiotics contain friendly bacteria that help in keeping the urinary tract healthy. They also keep the urinary tract free from harmful bacteria.(5) A group of probiotics known as lactobacilli may even help with treating and preventing urinary infections in the following manner:(6)
- They prevent the attachment of harmful bacteria to the cells of the urinary tract
- They produce hydrogen peroxide in urine, which is a strong antibacterial that does not allow harmful bacteria to survive
- They lower the pH of urine, making the conditions less favorable for bacteria to thrive
People who regularly take lactobacillus supplements, while also being on antibiotics for treating urinary infections, are less likely to develop antibiotic resistance.
Probiotics are available in a wide range of fermented and dairy products, such as:
- Some types of cheese
If you are prone to urinary infections, then you can consider taking probiotic supplements as well. These are available in the form of a capsule or powder that can be mixed in water or other beverages.
Have Cranberry Juice
Cranberry juice is known to be one of the most well-established natural treatment for urinary infections. Cranberry juice has been used by people for many years to help clear up general infections and also to speed up any wound healing time.(7)
However, studies done on the effectiveness of cranberry juice in treating urinary infections have so far given mixed results. For example, a review by the Laboratory of
Medical Investigation in Brazil found that cranberry juice has compounds that help prevent E. coli cells from attaching to the cells of the urinary tract.(8)
There are also many bioactive compounds present in cranberry juice, such as polyphenols, that function as strong antioxidants. Polyphenols are known to have potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which help in treating and preventing urinary infections.(9)
While there is no prescribed guideline on how much cranberry juice you need to drink to treat urinary infection, but it is generally recommended that you drink at least 400 milliliters of 25 percent cranberry juice each day to treat and prevent urinary infections.
Load Up on Vitamin C
Everyone knows that there are many health benefits of vitamin C. It is an antioxidant that boosts the immune system.
When it comes to treating urinary infections, vitamin C also has a role to play. Vitamin C reacts with the nitrates present in urine to form nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen oxides help kill bacteria and also lowers the pH of urine, making the environment less favorable for bacteria to survive.
People have been using vitamin C in different forms for treating not just urinary infections, but other infections as well for thousands of years. However, just like cranberry juice, there is a lack of substantial research to confirm whether or not increasing the intake of vitamin C helps in preventing or treating urinary infections.
According to the limited research that is present, though, taking some other supplements along with vitamin C can help maximize the benefits. In 2016, a study found that taking vitamin C, cranberries, and probiotics three times a day, every day, for 20 days and then stopping for ten days, proved to be a safe and effective treatment for urinary infections.(10)
According to the National Institutes of Health, people aged 19 years and over should be taking vitamin C supplements. Women should be getting at least 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day, while men need 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day. Adults who smoke cigarettes or use any other type of tobacco products need an additional 35 mg of vitamin C every day.(11)
Most people will end up experiencing a urinary infection at some point in their lives, especially women. While many urinary infections tend to clear up on their own without needing any treatment, but severe infections may need to be treated with antibiotics. More and more researchers are today focusing on ways to treat and prevent urinary infections without having to use antibiotics.
Many types of home remedies are known to be effective in treating and preventing urinary infections. If you think that you have developed a urinary infection, then talking with your doctor first before trying any home remedies is recommended. Remember, if you find that the home remedy is not giving you any relief from the symptoms even after a week, then it is better to consult your doctor and start the course of prescribed antibiotics.
- Information, H., Diseases, U., Adults, B., Facts, D., Facts, D., Center, T. and Health, N. (2020). Definition & Facts | NIDDK. [online] National Institute of Diabetes and
- Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults/definition-facts [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
- Medlineplus.gov. (2020). Urinary Tract Infections | UTI | UTI Symptoms | MedlinePlus. [online] Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/urinarytractinfections.html [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
- ucsfhealth.org. (2020). Urinary Tract Infections. [online] Available at: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/urinary-tract-infections [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
- Bergamin, P.A. and Kiosoglous, A.J., 2017. Non-surgical management of recurrent urinary tract infections in women. Translational andrology and urology, 6(Suppl 2), p.S142. Reid, G. and Bruce, A.W., 2006. Probiotics to prevent urinary tract infections: the rationale and evidence. World journal of urology, 24(1), pp.28-32.
- Barrons, R. and Tassone, D., 2008. Use of Lactobacillus probiotics for bacterial genitourinary infections in women: a review. Clinical therapeutics, 30(3), pp.453-468.
- Guay, D.R., 2009. Cranberry and urinary tract infections. Drugs, 69(7), pp.775-807.
- Hisano, M., Bruschini, H., Nicodemo, A.C. and Srougi, M., 2012. Cranberries and lower urinary tract infection prevention. Clinics, 67(6), pp.661-668.
- Howell, A.B., 2007. Bioactive compounds in cranberries and their role in prevention of urinary tract infections. Molecular nutrition & food research, 51(6), pp.732-737.
- Montorsi, F., Gandaglia, G., Salonia, A., Briganti, A. and Mirone, V., 2016. Effectiveness of a combination of cranberries, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and vitamin C for the management of recurrent urinary tract infections in women: results of a pilot study. European urology, 70(6), pp.912-915.
- Ods.od.nih.gov. (2020). Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin C. [online] Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-Consumer/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
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