Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the second most common reason people visit their doctors each year. Men get UTIs, but they are much more common in women -- more than eight million women head to their doctor for UTI treatment annually. And 20 percent of these women will get a second UTI.
If you've ever had a UTI, you'll probably never forget the symptoms. It usually starts with a sudden and frequent need to visit the potty. When you get there, you can squeeze out only a little bit of urine, and that's usually accompanied by a burning sensation in your bladder and/or urethra. In more extreme cases you may end up with fever, chills, back pain, and even blood in your urine.
The good news is that there are many home remedies you can try to prevent or remedy a UTI. Go to the next page to learn more.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
UTIs that last longer than two days require medical intervention. Untreated UTIs can infect the kidneys and turn into a much more serious problem. To help prevent a UTI from developing or nip one in the bud, try adding 1 teaspoon baking soda to a glass of water as it may help ease your infection. The soda neutralizes the acidity in your urine, speeding along your recovery.
Blueberries and cranberries are from the same plant family and seem to have the same bacteria-inhibiting properties. In one study, blueberry juice was found to prevent UTIs. Since you're not likely to find a gallon of blueberry juice at your local store, try sprinkling a handful of these flavorful, good-for-you berries over your morning cereal.
Many studies have found that drinking cranberry juice may help you avoid urinary tract infections. It appears that cranberry juice prevents infection-causing bacteria from bedding down in your bladder, and it also has a very mild antibiotic affect. Drinking as little as 4 ounces of cranberry juice a day can help keep your bladder infection-free. But if you tend to get UTIs or are dealing with one right now, try to drink at least 2 to 4 glasses of cranberry juice a day. If pure cranberry juice is just too bitter for your taste buds, you can substitute cranberry juice cocktail . It seems to have the same effect as the pure stuff. Take note: If you have a UTI, cranberry juice is not a replacement for doctor-prescribed antibiotics in treating your infection.
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 tastes good and may just help rid you of your infection.
If you tend to get urinary tract infections, be sure to drink plenty of water -- about 8 eight-ounce glasses a day. You should be urinating at least every four to five hours. If you are currently dealing with an infection, drink buckets of water to fight it off. Drink a full 8 ounces of water every hour. The river of water in your system will help flush out bacteria by making you urinate more frequently.
You can also heat up some water on the stove and pour it into a hot water bottle. Place the water bottle on your lower abdomen to help ease any pain caused by the infection.
Some doctors are prescribing at least 5,000 mg or more of vitamin C a day for patients who develop recurrent urinary tract infections. Vitamin C keeps the bladder healthy by acidifying the urine, essentially putting up a no-trespassing sign for potentially harmful bacteria.
Do's and Don'ts
- DO use it. When you've got to go, go. It sounds simple, but how many times have you held it -- when you're in a business meeting, when you're stuck in traffic, when you're at a concert and the lines are too long. If you hold your urine, you're more likely to get a backup of bacteria and end up with an infection.
- DO consider cotton. Anything that comes into close contact with any of those ultra-personal areas should be cotton. Women should wear cotton underwear or cotton-lined panty hose to help stay fresher and dryer. Guys should go for boxer shorts.
- DON'T drink alcohol. Alcohol is an irritant to your bladder, just what you don't need when you're dealing with an infection.
- DO cut the caffeine. Also avoid caffeine-loaded drinks such as caffeinated soda pop, coffee, and tea. Caffeine can irritate the bladder, which is the last thing you need when a UTI has taken hold.
- DO pull out a nonprescription pain reliever. Taking acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin can help ease the pain during your infection.
- DO follow the rules for making love. If you have trouble with UTIs, be sure you and your partner clean up before making love. After you make love, head to the bathroom to urinate and get rid of any potentially harmful bacteria. And try using a condom instead of a diaphragm. Diaphragms may promote UTIs.
- DO go with the flow. After urinating, be sure to wipe from front to back to keep bacteria from getting close to the urethra.
These home remedies can help you prevent a UTI or eliminate one already in progress. However, be sure to check with your doctor, especially if a UTI lasts longer than two days.
For more information, see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
About the Authors
Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.
Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.
Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.
Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.
About the Consultants
Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.
David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.
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