Urinary tract infections – the bane of many women’s lives. That oh-so-familiar push on the bladder and tug in the tummy that consumes our entire existence once it hits, leaving us feeling out of commission, not being able to walk, talk or even sleep. While some women get them once in a lifetime, others can be affected by a urinary tract infection up to or more than 3 times a year… ouch.
What is a urinary tract infection and what are the symptoms?
A UTI is a type of infection that can develop in the urethra, bladder, ureter, or kidneys and actually account for 8.3 million doctor visits each year. Symptoms include, but may not be limited to, burning with urination, back pain, feeling achy or tired, frequent or intense urge to urinate, or fever. Urine may appear dark or cloudy, a visual sign that an infection may be present. The urethra, the tube that transports urine from the bladder to exit the body, is in a position where it can easily become infected from bacteria from the large intestine, such as E.Coli. Since the urethra is shorter in women than men, bacteria can access the bladder quickly. If left untreated, the infection may potentially affect the kidneys.
Natural home remedies for UTI without antibiotics
While UTIs, and even recurring UTIs, are very common, they can be prevented or treated with proper precautions. If a UTI is suspected, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any other causes of the symptoms present and to get proper treatment for the infection. Treatment is available to help stop UTIs once they’ve begun, such as antibiotic treatment, applying heat to the stomach, and drinking plenty of water, but there are ways to decrease the risk of getting UTIs in the first place. Let’s focus in on how our daily habits can help to protect the body against UTIs:
1. Stay hydrated to flush out toxins
You may have already heard that drinking plenty of water daily is important for general health, but drinking water regularly can also help to remove toxins and bacteria from the bladder through urination. Aim to drink half of your body weight, in ounces, of water each day for proper hydration and to encourage regular urination.
2. Drink 100% cranberry juice
What about cranberry juice? Cranberry juice has gained popularity as a solution to fight against UTIs, but research results are mixed. However, there are studies that suggest cranberry juice, when consumed in large enough portions, may help to prevent bacteria from sticking to the inside of the bladder, potentially reducing the risk of UTIs. Proanthocyanidins (PACs) are a type of polyphenol found in cranberries that are known to have the potential to prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder. The effectiveness of drinking cranberry juice for UTI prevention is not guaranteed, but 100% cranberry juice may provide the body with a boost of PACs that could potentially help reduce the risk of recurrent UTIs. At the very least drinking cranberry juice while suffering from a UTI can help hydrate the body, encouraging urination and therefore bacteria exiting the body.
3. Eat plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods
Maintaining strong gut health is also important for preventing illnesses and infections of many kinds, including UTIs. If the gut is kept healthy over time and contains a strong presence of probiotics, or healthy bacteria that can help fight “bad” bacteria that enter the body, it could potentially reduce the likelihood of recurring infections. To maintain proper gut health, aim to include prebiotic and probiotic sources in the diet daily, along with eating plenty of fiber and drinking plenty of water.
Examples of prebiotic foods (that act as food for probiotics) include:
• Whole-wheat foods
Examples of foods that contain probiotics (the good bacteria that helps fight “bad” bacteria) include those with “live and active cultures”, such as:
Preventing UTIs and avoiding reinfection
There are simple everyday habits you can adopt that may help you avoid being infected by a UTI, including:
• Urinate when you feel the urge – don't wait!
• Make sure to empty your bladder completely when urinating.
• Wipe from front to back.
• Choose showers over baths.
• Stay away from feminine hygiene sprays and products as they may increase irritation.
• Practice proper hygiene before and after intercourse.
• Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing.
Maintaining gut health and a strong immune system on a regular basis may help to reduce your risk of developing infection, and practicing proper hygiene can also prevent bacteria from gaining access to the bladder in the first place. Remember, while aiming to drink plenty of water each day, consuming cranberry products with PACs, and maintaining good gut health may all potentially reduce the likelihood or length of a UTI, it is extremely important to check with your doctor if a UTI is suspected to ensure antibiotics or other treatment are not necessary.