8 Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptoms
Do you have frequent, painful UTIs? You may be surprised by how much you can do at home to treat your discomfort.
How did you treat your most recent urinary tract infection (UTI)? Taking an antibiotic is the gold standard treatment for a urinary tract infection (UTI) — and may be necessary for a bad infection —but it isn’t the only way to alleviate symptoms of a UTI, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (1)
Some remedies don’t require a prescription — and they can be done right at home, in addition to any treatment your doctor has recommended.
Related: The Link Between UTIs and Sex: Causes and How to Prevent Them
But it’s important to be cautious with do-it-yourself home solutions, and be sure to check in with your doctor before trying a new strategy on your own. For example, mixing baking soda and water as a drink to help fight a urinary tract infection (UTI) can be risky if you drink too much of it. About 5 percent of baking soda–related poisonings in California between 2000 and 2012 were from drinking baking soda in an attempt to treat a UTI, according to research published in February 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics. (2)
The following eight viable home remedies — from drinking lots of water to applying heat and wearing loose cotton clothing — may ease your agonizing UTI symptoms or prevent them in the first place:
1. Get Your Fill of Water and Water-Based Foods
One of the first things to do when you have a urinary tract infection is drink plenty of water. That’s because drinking water can help flush away the bacteria that's causing your infection, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). (3) It puts you on the right track for recovery.
Most people can be assured they’re getting the water they need by simply drinking water when thirsty, according to the health and medicine division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (4) But to be safe, you may want to make sure you’re drinking at least six to eight 8-ounce (oz) glasses of water each day. (3) General recommendations have suggested that women get about 91 oz of water daily and men get about 125 oz each day, including water from food, as also noted in that group's report. (4)
2. Load Up on Vitamin C for a Healthy Urinary Tract
Getting plenty of foods high in vitamin C is important because large amounts of vitamin C make urine more acidic. This inhibits the growth of bacteria in your urinary tract, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine's health library. (5) However, if you have an active UTI, you may want to avoid citrus or other acidic foods. These foods are known to irritate the bladder, which is the last thing you need when you’re having pain urinating.
3. Soothe UTI Pain With Heat
Inflammation and irritation from UTIs cause burning, pressure, and pain around your pubic area, says Kandis Rivers, MD, a urologist in the Henry Ford Health System in Wast Bloomfield, Michigan. Applying a heating pad can help soothe the area. (3) Keep the heat setting low, don’t apply it directly to the skin, and limit your use to 15 minutes at a time to avoid burns.
4. Cut Bladder Irritants From Your Diet
When you have a UTI, caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, nicotine, carbonated drinks, and artificial sweeteners can irritate your bladder further, making it harder for your body to heal, according to the Cleveland Clinic. (6) Focus on healthy foods, such as high-fiber carbohydrates (including oatmeal or lentil soup), that are good for your digestive health, says Holly Lucille, ND, RN, a naturopathic doctor in private practice in West Hollywood, California, and the author of Creating and Maintaining Balance: A Woman’s Guide to Safe, Natural Hormone Health.
5. Go Ahead, Empty Your Bladder Again
Every time you empty your bladder — even if it’s just a small amount — you rid it of some of the bacteria causing the infection. (3) Keep making those bathroom runs, advises Dr. Rivers.
6. Consider Herbal Remedies
You may find some relief from taking the herb uva ursi (bearberry leaf), which is sometimes used as an herbal remedy for lower urinary tract infections. (7) But Rivers cautions that it should be taken only for short periods of time — five days or less — as it could cause liver damage.
It’s important to note that even though bearberry leaf may help some, there have been no large randomized controlled trials (the gold standard when it comes to proving the effectiveness of a drug or treatment in medicine) testing it as a remedy for UTIs. (7)
Some preliminary research, including as a study published in 2016 in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, also suggests that D-mannose supplements may help to prevent and treat UTIs. (8,9) Researchers think it might keep bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract. D-mannose is a simple sugar found naturally in fruits, including oranges, apples, and cranberries.
Always be sure to check with your doctor before an herbal supplement. Supplements, herbs, and other medication you might be taking can cause side effects or may interact with one another. The effects can sometimes be serious.
7. Change to Healthier Daily Habits
Lifestyle changes matter because they can help you recover from a UTI and might prevent another infection, according to the NIDDK. (3)
- Quit smoking.
- Wear loose cotton clothing and underwear.
- Wipe yourself clean from front to back.
- Choose only fragrance-free personal hygiene products.
8. Cut Back on Meat and Poultry
Some studies, such as one published in August 2018 in the journal mBio, have linked contaminated poultry and meat to E.coli bacteria strains that can cause UTIs. (10) These studies haven’t proven that eating meat or poultry causes UTIs. In fact, some E.coli can live in the intestines without causing any problems. However, bacteria from the gut can enter the urinary tract and cause infection. This risk is greater in women than men, because women have shorter urethras than men, meaning the bacteria has less distance to travel to reach the bladder.
Cutting back on meat and focusing on fruits and veggies may slightly cut your risk of UTIs. According to a study of Buddhists in Taiwan, published in January 2020 in Scientific Reports, compared with nonvegetarians, vegetarians had a 16 percent lower risk of UTI. (11)
Related: Vegetarian Diet Linked to Lowered Risk Of Urinary Tract Infection
A Note About Cranberry Juice and UTIs
Cranberry juice or cranberry extract in supplemental form has long been used as a home remedy for UTIs.
The thought is that “the proanthocyanidins in cranberries may help prevent bladder infections by keeping the bacteria from clinging to the bladder wall,” says Sonya Angelone, MS, RDN, a nutrition consultant based in San Francisco, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Yet there’s scientific controversy over how effective cranberry juice is at preventing UTIs due to conflicting conclusions in studies on the topic, according to an article published in May 2016 in Advances in Nutrition. (12) Some studies have found it might work, while others have found no effect.
“Bottom line, there is some evidence it may help, and it doesn’t hurt to try it,” says Angelone. Just be sure to chose unsweetened cranberry juice (the sugar in sweetened cranberry juices can actually feed a bacterial infection). Mix this with sparkling water or plain yogurt, she recommends.
Another low-calorie option — choose a cranberry pill that contains d-mannose, she says.
Are Bananas Good for UTIs?
The American Urological Association calls bananas a bladder-friendly food. (13) That’s because bananas aren’t likely to irritate the bladder in most people. Other bladder-friendly fruits and veggies include: pears, green beans, winter squash, and potatoes. While eating bananas may help to lessen bladder irritation, eating bananas alone won’t make a UTI go away.
Can Onions Help UTIs?
Onions, especially raw ones, may cause bladder irritation in some people. (6) If you have an active UTI, eating foods that further irritate the already inflamed tissues of the urinary tract could make UTI symptoms worse.
Can Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar Treat UTIs?
Studies, such as one published in January 2018 in Scientific Reports, have shown that apple cider vinegar has some antibacterial and antifungal properties, but there’s no scientific or medical evidence that drinking apple cider vinegar cures UTIs. (14) Drinking large amounts of apple cider vinegar could lead to throat irritation and tooth decay.
Is Coconut Oil Effective at Alleviating UTI Symptoms?
Some studies have suggested that coconut oil may have antimicrobial properties. (15) However, there’s no research looking specifically at the effect of coconut oil on UTIs.
Additional reporting by Marie Suszynski.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Urinary Tract Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 2019.
- Al-Abri SA, Kearney T. Baking Soda Misuse as a Home Remedy: Case Experience of the California Poison Control System. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics. December 2014.
- How Do Health Care Professionals Treat a Bladder Infection? National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. March 2017.
- Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine. February 2004.
- Urinary Tract Infections. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
- Bladder Irritating Foods. Cleveland Clinic. May 2017.
- Uva Ursi. Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. February 2016.
- Domenici L, Monti M, Bracchi M, et al. D-Mannose: A Promising Support for Acute Urinary Tract Infections in Women. A Pilot Study. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 2016
- Porru D, Parmigiani A, Tinelli C, et al. Oral D-Mannose in Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections in Women: A Pilot Study. Journal of Clinical Urology. January 2014.
- Liu CM, Stegger M, Aziz M, et al. Escherichia coli ST131-H22 as a Foodborne Uropathogen. mBio. August 2018.
- Chen YC, Chang CC, Chiu THT, et al. The Risk of Urinary Tract Infection in Vegetarians and Non-Vegetarians: A Prospective Study. Scientific Reports. January 2020.
- Liska DJ, Kern HJ, Maki KC. Cranberries and Urinary Tract Infections: How Can the Same Evidence Lead to Conflicting Advice? Advances in Nutrition. May 2016.
- 10 Foods Your Bladder Will Fall in Love With. The American Urological Association. September 2018.
- Yagnik D, Serafin V, Shah AJ. Antimicrobial Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar Against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; Downregulating Cytokine and Microbial Protein Expression. Scientific Reports. January 2018.
- Shilling M, Matt L, Rubin E, et al. Antimicrobial Effects of Virgin Coconut Oil and Its Medium Chain Fatty Acids on Clostridium Difficile. Journal of Medicinal Food. December 2013.