Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
The sudden, strong pain and urination urges that come with a urinary tract infection can be so overwhelming that many people would try anything to get relief fast. The most common and effective treatment for a UTI is to take an antibiotic. After starting an antibiotic medication, relief is often felt within 2 to 48 hours. But some people can’t or don’t want to take antibiotics, in which case it might be worth considering a natural treatment for your UTI.
There are several reasons that an antibiotic may not be effective or the right treatment for you, including:
- Escherichia coli is the bacteria responsible for more than 80% of UTIs, and studies show that the E. coli strains most responsible for UTIs are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment. Every time you use an antibiotic, there is an increased risk of bacteria in your body becoming resistant to it, so it’s best to reserve antibiotic use for those cases when it is really needed.
- An antibiotic can cause serious disruption to both the good and bad bacteria in your microbiome, resulting in gut problems (diarrhea and nausea, for example) that can last for days or weeks until your microbiome health gets restored. For this reason, it’s important to eat probiotic-rich foods and consider starting a probiotic supplement shortly after you take a full course of antibiotics.
- Some people are allergic to antibiotics or experience unwanted side effects when taking a course of antibiotics. The most common adverse reaction to antibiotics taken for UTIs is the development of vaginal candida infection, which occurs in up to 22% of women treated for uncomplicated UTIs. Other side effects of antibiotic use include nausea, vomiting, rashes, headaches, and gut distress, such as diarrhea and cramping.
5 natural treatments for a UTI
1. Let it run its course
Without treatment, it is estimated that 25 to 42% of uncomplicated urinary tract infections will resolve on their own. The problem is that it’s up to you to decide if your UTI is uncomplicated and everyone has a different tolerance for pain. If you have a more serious infection that is left untreated or are susceptible to UTIs, the infection could get worse and spread to your kidneys, causing long-term complications. If the pain is unbearable or you have symptoms lasting longer than 24 hours, it is likely that you don’t have an “uncomplicated course” and it’s best to see your healthcare provider for treatment options.
2. Urinate as much as possible
Drink a lot of water to encourage urination and to help flush the bacteria from your urinary tract. Even if you don’t have a lot of urine coming out, try to urinate often and whenever the urge comes to you.
3. Take a probiotic
Studies show that taking a probiotic supplement – and specifically those that contain a Lactobacilli strain – may help treat and prevent UTIs. They do so by interfering with the growth and colonization of bacteria in the bladder.
4. Take vitamin C
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a potent antioxidant that may be a helpful natural UTI treatment as it reduces bacteria by forming nitrogen oxides and creating an environment where bacteria is less likely to thrive. Studies suggest taking 75 to 100 milligrams per day.
5. Take cranberry extract
Cranberry extract and cranberry juice capsules contain a compound called A-type proanthocyanidin (PAC). For people with uncomplicated UTIs, PAC can make it harder for bacteria to adhere to the bladder. Most studies used 500 milligrams of cranberry fruit powder per day.