Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria that infect the bladder sites and the tract or tubules through which urine is collected and stored.
These bacteria, the most common infection causing organisms include E. coli, Klebsiella or any other bacteria that grows and multiplies in a pure form. Most UTIs occur from contaminating normal flora already present in the body or acquired from an external source.
Causes of Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. Although the urinary system is designed to keep out such microscopic invaders, these defenses sometimes fail. When that happens, bacteria may take hold and grow into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract.
The most common UTIs occur mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra.
Infection of the urethra (urethritis). This type of UTI can occur when GI bacteria spread from the anus to the urethra. Also, because the female urethra is close to the vagina, sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes, gonorrhea and chlamydia, can cause urethritis.
Infection of the bladder (cystitis). This type of UTI is usually caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a type of bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Sexual intercourse may lead to cystitis, but you don’t have to be sexually active to develop it. All women are at risk of cystitis because of their anatomy — specifically, the short distance from the urethra to the anus and the urethral opening to the bladder.
Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infection is most common in women, and it’s caused by bacteria in the urethra and the urinary bladder. Left untreated, this bacteria has the potential to make its ways to your kidneys, where it can damage them. The symptoms of urinary tract infection include:
- The feeling that you need to go frequently but little or nothing actually comes out
- Pain/burning during urination (dysuria)
- Fever and/or chills
- Abdominal aching and pain in the pelvic region
- Cloudy or unusually colored (dark yellow or greenish) urine
- Blood in your urine
- Foul-smelling urine
Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infection
Immediate treatment is necessary so that the infection does not cause damage to the kidneys. In addition to the conventional treatment, there are several home remedies to fight a urinary tract infection than taking an antibiotic.
1. Baking Soda
Baking soda neutralizes acid in your urine, which makes peeing less painful. Don’t overdo it because the baking soda may disturb the flora balance in your intestine.
- Stir 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda into a cup of water and drink it.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a rich source of enzymes, potassium and other useful minerals that can prevent the bacteria that cause UTIs from multiplying or growing. Those suffering from UTIs can use apple cider vinegar as a natural antibiotic to treat the infection.
- Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water. You can also add lemon juice and sweeten with honey. Mix it well.
- Drink this twice a day for a few days.
Yogurt contains probiotics, which is the good bacteria that helps to keep bad bacteria that can cause UTIs at bay. It’s always a good idea to eat yogurt regularly, but it’s particularly important when you’re taking an antibiotic for UTI treatment, which can wipe out your body’s natural good bacteria.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapples. In one study, people with a UTI who were given bromelain along with their usual round of antibiotics got rid of their infection. Half the people who were given a placebo plus an antibiotic showed no signs of lingering infection.
Eating a cup of pineapple on a regular basis can help prevent UTIs. You can also make juice from half a pineapple and drink it. It is best to use fresh pineapple because the canned version may contain preservatives.
5. Vitamin C
Vitamin C makes your urine more acidic, which fights bacteria in your urinary tract. If you have an active UTI, taking vitamin C supplements may help.
6. Cranberry Juice
Cranberry juice also helps to flush away bacteria and keeps them from sticking to the bladder wall, so it can be effective for UTI. Be sure to choose the unsweetened juice, however, because sugar adds nothing but calories.
- Drinking 1/2 glass of cranberry juice daily is one of the easiest ways to prevent urinary tract infections.
- Those suffering from a UTI should drink about three to four glasses of cranberry juice daily to prevent the infection from causing damage to the kidneys.
You must drink unsweetened cranberry juice. You can mix it with apple juice to enhance the taste.
Note: Do not take cranberry juice if you have a history of kidney stones.
Blueberries are from the same genus as cranberries, Vaccinium, and may also help ward off potential UTI’s by affecting the fimbria of the bacteria trying to attach itself to the urinary tract. Blueberry juice isn’t as easy to come by as cranberry juice (and is usually mixed with things like grape or apple juice), so try consuming these tasty berries whole instead.
- You can add some fresh blueberries to your favorite cereal and have it for breakfast.
- You can also make fresh blueberry juice and have it daily, in the morning and at night for quick results.
- Do not add any artificial sweetener to the juice.
Including fresh blueberries or juice in your daily diet is a good way to prevent UTIs, too.
8. Indian Gooseberry (Amla)
Indian Gooseberry is rich in vitamin C which inhibits the growth of bacteria.
- Add one teaspoon of Indian gooseberry (amla) powder and one teaspoon of turmeric powder into a cup of water.
- Boil the solution until half the water evaporates.
- Drink the residue three times a day for 3-5 days.
Other Remedies for Urinary Tract Infection
Increase your fluid intake. Both during a UTI and after, you need lots of fluids to flush out the infection and to keep you hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids can help to prevent cystitis.
- Avoid caffeine, which could dehydrate you. Also, avoid sugary drinks and alcohol.
- Choose water, non-caffeinated tea, hot lemon water and other healthy drinks.
Place a heating pad over your pelvic area. Gentle heat may provide some pain relief.
Take 3 to 5 teaspoon (15 to 25 ml) of echinacea tincture daily. Echinacea tinctures are concentrated liquid extracts of echinacea that boost overall resistance to infection. They are available at natural food and health retailers.
- Mix a total of 1 to 3 tbsp. (15 to 45 ml) of dried herbs or 4 to 8 tbsp. (60 to 120 ml) of fresh herbs per cup (235 ml) of water.
- Place the tea in a teapot or large glass jar.
- Pour boiling water over the tea and allow it to steep for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Drink the tea hot, at room temperature or iced.
- Herbal teas can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days after brewing.
- Herbal teas are most effective if you drink several sips every 30 minutes throughout the day.
Getting Some Medical Help
Go to the doctor if you think you have a UTI. You need to get an accurate diagnosis, particularly if this is your first infection.
- UTIs can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and even parasites. Knowing the cause will ensure that you get the right treatment. A doctor may need to prescribe antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals or even anti-parasite drugs.
- You need to know what type of UTI you have. For example, urethritis is the infection of the urethra (the channel that carries urine from your bladder outside your body) while cystitis is an infection of the bladder.
- Only a doctor can prescribe drugs for such conditions as bladder spasms (atropine) and intense pain. Moreover, only a doctor will be able to determine whether surgery is needed.
Take the entire course of medication that’s prescribed to you. Unfortunately, UTIs easily become resistant if you don’t finish antibiotics, so follow the instructions carefully and take all of your pills for the specified time period.
- Do not drink alcohol if you are on antibiotics. It weakens their effectiveness.
- Stay out of the sun if you’re prescribed bactrim or any sulfa medications.
Take an over-the-counter medication like Azo Standard: Fast Relief for Urinary Pain. Note that this medicine will turn your urine a bright yellowish orange color.
- Ask your doctor if you can take this medication before your appointment because it may affect the doctor’s ability to read your test results. Also check with them before starting Azo, because some patients experience side effects.
- Azo also makes an over-the-counter UTI test strip. Urinate over the strip and read the results. Of course, these at-home tests aren’t perfect. See the doctor as a smart precaution even if you test negative.
Control fever and pain using over-the-counter acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. If you have questions about what works best, talk to your doctor. Use painkillers sparingly.
Call your doctor if you don’t notice improvements within a 24-hour period. Even if you feel better, take all of your medication to completely wipe out the infection.
How to Prevent Urinary Tract Infection
Maintain a high level of fluid intake every day. Drink a lot of water and drink tea, diluted juice (in moderation and preferably not daily with the exception of the cranberry juice as outlined above) and other healthy drinks. Avoid sugary drinks or highly caffeinated drinks or energy drinks.
Drink cranberry juice. Studies show that regularly drinking cranberry juice prevents infections. UTIs are often caused by E. coli, and cranberry juice contains proanthocyanidins, which prevent E. coli from attaching to the bladder and urethra.
- Try drinking low-sugar cranberry juice, since it has a higher cranberry concentration.
Get moving. Sitting for too long with your legs crossed, especially if you do it on a daily basis, can create the right environment for bacteria to breed. It’s important to get up and walk around several times a day.
- If you sit at a desk for work, make a point of taking walking breaks in the fresh air outside.
Eat a healthy diet. The more antioxidant-rich and nutrient-rich your diet, the greater chance you give your body of defending itself against infections.
Always wipe from front to back after you use the toilet. Do not then wipe forward; instead, discard the wiping paper immediately and use a fresh piece for the next wipe. Wiping this way will keep you from dragging germs from your anus toward your urethral opening.
- If your hands get dirtied with fecal matter, wash them before wiping again (it is fecal bacteria, E. coli that is the culprit in 80 to 95 percent of UTIs).
- Fragrance-free baby wipes without alcohol might help with wiping if you’re experiencing pain or a burning sensation.
Wash your hands every time you use the bathroom. You’ll prevent not only UTIs but also other illnesses.
Take showers instead of baths. Soaking in a tub can provide a breeding ground for infection. For the same reason, avoid sitting around in wet bathing suits or in a hot tub.
- When you wash your genitals, use a plain, mild soap, or simply water. Skip anything heavily scented or anything containing an exfoliant.
Urinate often. Holding urine inside when you feel the urge to go increases the chances that bacteria present near your urethra could make its way inside. Urinating pushes bacteria from the area, reducing the chance of infection.
- To flush the area often, drink plenty of water. Try to urinate once every hour or hour and a half.
- If your urine is yellow, you should be drinking more water. Try to get eight glasses of day to keep your urinary tract flushed.
Wash before and after having sex. Sexual intercourse is another situation that leaves you more susceptible to getting bacteria in your urethra. Take the time to wash yourself with soap and water both before and after having sex to greatly reduce your risk of getting a UTI.
- Ask your partner to wash before sex, too. Many UTIs are contracted when a person is touched with a partner’s hands or other body parts that have not been washed with soap and water.
- Urinating after sex also helps flush the bacteria that may be present near the urethra.
- Avoid having sex with someone while he or she has a UTI. Men are especially at risk of getting an infection from a partner who already has one.
- UTIs occur more frequently with a new sex partner. They should subside once you and your partner have been having intercourse for awhile.
Avoid feminine sprays and douches. These products contain chemicals and perfumes that can irritate the urethra and cause an infection. The body produces natural cleansers to keep the internal vaginal area clean, so using soap and water on the exterior body parts should be sufficient.
- Powders, especially scented powders, should also be avoided, since they can irritate the urethra.
- Use gentle, natural cleansers if you do decide to clean the internal part of your vagina.
Wear the right underwear. Believe it or not, the underwear you choose can have a big impact on whether you get a UTI. Keep these factors in mind next time you go underwear shopping:
- Silk or polyester underwear traps moisture and bacteria against the body, increasing your risk of getting an infection. Cotton is a more breathable fabric, allowing air to circulate and preventing bacterial growth.
- Wearing thongs and other tight underwear can also cause a problem. Save these for special occasions and don’t wear them for more than a few hours.
- Avoid wearing tights and hosiery that aren’t made with breathable fabric.
- A UTI can develop into nephritis or kidney infection, which may require hospitalization. If you suspect that you have an infection, get treatment quickly.
- Baking soda is often recommended as a natural cure for urinary tract infections, but is not safe for everyone. Consult a health care professional before using baking soda to cure a UTI.
- Do not have sexual intercourse while you have a urinary tract infection. The infection will not be transmitted to your partner; intercourse can irritate the infected area.
- Do not self prescribe under any circumstances. There is a reason why certain drugs are administered to someone and why certain ones are not.
- Water is the best choice for increasing your fluid intake. Herbal teas like rooibos are also a good choice because they contain antioxidants. Fluids flush wastes and toxins from your body. When you don’t drink enough fluid, imbalances happen and infections are more likely.
- Eat yogurt and miso or chicken soup, which are known for their antibacterial properties.
- Try a different sexual position. Some positions leave the urethra more susceptible to infection. If you’re prone to getting UTIs and you tend to use the same sexual position a lot, try something new and see if that helps.