Of the many annoyances in life, few are worse than a urinary tract infection (more commonly known as a UTI). Sometimes a UTI can creep up seemingly out of nowhere, other times it's more obviously correlated with sex or irritation. Whatever the case, the symptoms associated with a UTI—frequent, urgent bathroom trips and constant discomfort and sometimes full-blown pain—are pretty miserable.
Unfortunately, UTIs are incredibly common, especially among women: About 50 to 60 percent of women have had at least one. UTIs occur when the bacteria usually present on the skin or in the GI tract makes its way to the kidneys, uterus, bladder, and urethra. Because UTIs are bacterial infection, they’re treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics can come with their own set of side effects: Anyone who’s ever gotten a yeast infection while trying to get rid of a UTI knows what we’re talking about.
Whether you couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment or wanted to avoid taking another round of antibiotics, you’ve probably tried to cure your UTI naturally at one point or another. (Hey, we’re all guilty of downing a pint of sugary cranberry juice at some point in an effort to get things back on track). But is curing a UTI naturally actually possible? Keep reading to find out.
Treat UTIs with Antibiotics
While it would be great to think you could get rid of a UTI with cranberry supplements and staying hydrated, if you have a real UTI, antibiotics are the only real treatment option. “Unfortunately, if you have a urinary tract infection caused by bacteria, it needs to be treated with antibiotics,” says Dr. Yvonne Bohn, OB/GYN, and Cystex Chief Medical Correspondent.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Yvonne Bohn is a board-certified OB/GYN who has been in private practice for the past 17 years, works with hormone and contraceptive management, postmenopausal laser treatment, and performing minimally invasive gynecologic surgeries.
Your UTI will need to be diagnosed with a urine culture, and by a doctor. If you’re starting to notice UTI-like symptoms, it’s important to get an appointment ASAP: If left untreated, UTIs can cause serious problems for the kidneys.
Can’t get an appointment today? There are ways to help alleviate the symptoms associated with a UTI in the interim. “Pyridium, a medication that relaxes the bladder and reduces irritation from the bacteria, will help with the pain,” says Bohn. “But it doesn’t eradicate the bacteria!”
How to Stop it Before it Starts
If you’re worried about getting a yeast infection while on antibiotics, try taking a probiotic containing Lactobacillus— a good bacteria that already exists within the digestive system. Or just replenish your good bacteria by adding a little yogurt to your diet. But more on that later.
If you don’t have a true UTI—meaning you suspect one is coming on, but it hasn’t developed into a full-fledged infection just yet—there are some steps you can take to try to stop it in its tracks before antibiotics become necessary. “Drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol and caffeine,” Bohn suggests. “Urinating frequently can help flush some of the bacteria out of the bladder.”
Natural Measures You Can Take to Prevent UTIs
While you may not be able to cure a UTI naturally, there are action steps you can take to stop UTIs from happening at all, and those are 100% natural. You’ve probably heard that peeing after sex is a good idea, and it is—but it’s a good idea to pee before sex, too, to get rid of any built-up bacteria ahead of time. And if you get the urge to go, don’t hold it in! Holding your urine for too long encourages bacteria to multiply, and before you know it you’ll have a UTI on your hands.
Certain types of supplements can help with UTI prevention, too. One great option is Uqora, a UTI prevention company that uses natural ingredients to prevent UTIs using a drink mix and supplements that promote a balanced vaginal pH and break up “biofilm,” a tool bacteria hides in. You can get the complete set for $52.
Love Wellness’ “UTI Don’t Think So” ($15) is another top-notch supplement with a really catchy name. Developed by a urogynecologist, it’s formulated with Proanthocyanidins (PAC), an ingredient that’s proven to help maintain a healthy urinary tract.
Proanthocyanidins are known as the chemical compounds that give fruit, flowers, and plants their red, purple or blue coloring. Acting as a powerful antioxidant, proanthocyanidins support daily health and is known to protect the heart and the cardiovascular system.
“Take probiotics that support good bacteria in vagina—I recommend Florajen Women,” Bohn says. “And try taking a supplement with cranberry, as cranberry helps to prevent the bacteria from adhering to the urethra. I recommend my patients take Cystex Urinary Health Maintenance; one tablespoon every day helps maintain your urinary health.”
If the bacteria can’t stick to the urethra, she explains, they’re less likely to enter the bladder, multiply, and cause a UTI. So while you can’t cure a full-fledged UTI naturally, there are a lot of solid, natural ways to stop one from happening in the first place. Why not try it? Here’s to a happy, healthy urinary tract.