Around half of all women will experience a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) at some point in their life . It’s one of the most common infections in the body, and it can be profoundly uncomfortable. So why exactly is it so prevalent in women? It’s because women have shorter urethras than men, making it easier for the infecting bacteria to get into the bladder. Any men reading this article shouldn’t be breathing a sigh of relief, though. Anybody can get a UTI, and that includes guys! Particularly if you have an enlarged prostate .
What are the signs that you may have a UTI? The standard symptoms of a UTI include:
- A spontaneous urge to urinate and / or a frequent urge to urinate
- Pain when urinating
- Urine that smells unusual or is discoloured
- Blood in urine
- Pain in the lower stomach
What Causes UTIs?
The culprit is usually a common bacteria such as E. Coli. Although this bacteria is perfectly happy living in your intestines, E. Coli can cause nasty infections when it ends up elsewhere, such as your urinary tract. The particular kind of UTI will depend on where the bacteria ends up:
- Cystitis (infection of the bladder)
- Urethritis (infection of the urethra)
- Pyelonephritis (infection of the kidney)
None of these are fun, but the kidney infection is the rarer and most dangerous of the three. This is why if you experience symptoms like fever and lower back pain you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Thankfully, uncomplicated UTIs can be treated effectively with antibiotics. Courses of medicine such as Nitrofurantoin or Trimethoprim kill the responsible germs, clearing the infection.
It’s true that mild cases of cystitis can clear on their own without antibiotics . But it’s also true that UTIs can recur after antibiotic treatment, or if the antibiotic course isn’t taken fully. So what can we do at home to help prevent UTIs without taking medication? Let’s examine these UTI home remedies and find out which ones are effective.
The health conscious among us already know how important it is to stay hydrated throughout the day. It turns out that another benefit to drinking plenty of water is that it reduces the chances of getting a UTI .
By drinking water throughout the day, you’ll dilute your urine and you’ll also need to pee more often. Regularly urinating helps flush out potentially harmful bacteria from your urinary tract. The advice is simple but effective at preventing UTIs: Drink water often and always pee when you need to! Aim for around 6 – 8 glasses of fluid a day, or about 1.2 litres .
The notion that cranberries are an effective home remedy for UTIs is a common one. Many people believe that drinking cranberry juice helps prevent UTIs, or can even cure them. Does this have any basis in fact or is it simply misinformation?
We’ve learned that hydration is key to preventing UTIs, and drinking cranberry juice is certainly hydrating. But if it’s just about fluid intake, then why not just drink water? Cranberries are believed to contain substances that stop the adhesion of E. Coli bacteria to the wall of the urinary tract . If that’s the case, cranberry juice really could be an effective medicine of sorts against UTIs.
Studies however have not been conclusive. A large study did not find that cranberry juice was more effective than water or placebo at preventing recurring UTIs . Cranberry juice doesn’t seem to live up to its expectation as a UTI home remedy, but we can’t totally discount it either. Just don’t use it as a total replacement for water, as it can be very high in sugar.
Although we can’t be confident on cranberry juice, perhaps one of the substances found within the berry could be fruitful? D-Mannose is a natural sugar that shows up in all kinds of fruits and vegetables, from peaches to seaweed. It could be the substance that prevents bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract.
However, there is not a huge amount of research on D-Mannose as a treatment for UTIs and the dosing occurred in controlled studies. It’s not known how much could be taken before it becomes harmful. Therefore it isn’t recommended to self-medicate UTIs by taking D-Mannose.
Not all bacteria are bad! Probiotics are picking up in popularity, with plenty of people looking to help their health from home by consuming beneficial bacteria. Lactobacillus is a group of bacteria found in many probiotic supplements and foods, and there might be evidence to show it could help prevent UTIs.
There have been multiple studies that seem to show that women who take Lactobacillus probiotics have a lower chance of recurring UTIs . The exact reason why Lactobacillus could prevent UTIs is not yet known, though a variety of reasons have been theorised. A particular strain could inhibit the growth of E. Coli bacteria or even kill them off.
It’s not as simple as it seems. The studies that seemed to indicate success used vaginal suppositories to administer the probiotics. There is less information on how effective oral Lactobacillus probiotics are for preventing UTIs. So it’s not clear if consuming Lactobacillus bacteria from dietary sources such as yogurt or through supplement capsules would directly prevent or treat UTIs.
Good Hygiene Practices
Here are some basic hygiene tips that lower the chances of getting a UTI.
- When you go to the toilet, make sure to wipe from front to back. Wiping from back to front increases the chances of nasty bacteria ending up in your urinary tract.
- Make sure to pee after having sex.
- If you’re prone to UTIs, don’t use spermicide.
- Make sure to fully empty your bladder when urinating and don’t hold in urine for too long.
Antibiotics: The Proven Treatment
If you think you have a UTI, make sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist prescriber about possible courses of treatment. Common antibiotic courses include Nitrofurantoin (MacroBid) and Trimethoprim. They quickly kill the source of the infection, relieving you of the uncomfortable symptoms. Both of these UTI medications are available to buy online from e-Surgery from as little as £12.50, delivered quickly and discreetly to your front door.
- Non-surgical Management Of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections In Women (NCBI)
- Urinary Tract Infection In Men (Harvard Health Publishing)
- Cystitis – Treatment (NHS)
- Effect of Increased Daily Water Intake in Premenopausal Women With Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections: A Randomized Clinical Trial (NCBI)
- Water, drinks and your health (NHS)
- Cranberries and Lower Urinary Tract Infection Prevention (NCBI)
- Cranberries for Preventing Urinary Tract Infections (NCBI)
- D-Mannose: A Promising Support for Acute Urinary Tract Infections In Women. A Pilot Study (NCBI)
- D-Mannose Powder for Prophylaxis of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections in Women: a Randomized Clinical Trial (NCBI)
- The Role of Probiotics in Women with Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (NCBI)