Urinary tract infections are a common infection that mostly affects women. While they don’t generally lead to life-threatening issues, urinary tract infections can be deeply painful and uncomfortable and cause disruptions in everyday life. When left untreated, a UTI can contribute to more serious problems like kidney damage, sepsis, and even death.
Although treatment for UTIs usually centers on antibiotics, you may not be able to take antibiotics or would rather try an alternative. Therefore, you may wonder on how to get rid of a UTI at home. Cranberry pills and D-mannose powder supplements have become increasingly popular as natural alternatives for reducing symptoms of UTIs. Learn more about how cranberry pills and D-mannose and how they may work for UTIs.
Symptoms and Causes of UTIs
Urinary tract infections usually only involve the lower urinary tract, comprising the bladder and urethra. This may not always present with obvious signs or symptoms, but the most common symptoms include:
- A persistent urge to urinate
- Burning or discomfort when urinating
- Frequent urinating that comes in small amounts
- Red, cola-colored, or cloudy urine
- Pelvic pain (mostly in women) 1
Urinary tract infections are caused by the spread of invasive bacteria into the urinary tract via the urethra. Urethritis (infection of the urethra) can occur when bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract spreads from the digestive system to the urinary system. 1
From the urethra, bacteria can also reach the bladder where they can feed on waste to multiply. An infection of the bladder is known as cystitis. This is usually caused by an overgrowth of E. coli, a strain of bacteria that is naturally found in the digestive tract, though other number of bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa can also cause cystitis.1
Cranberry for UTI
Does Cranberry Juice Help UTI?
Along with its ability to prevent dehydration, cranberry juice for UTI does have some science to back it up. In a meta-analysis, researchers identified nine clinical trials involving the use of cranberry products for urinary tract infections. In four of those trials, cranberry products were found to significantly reduce the number of urinary tract infections over a 12-month period, particularly in women with recurrent UTIs, compared to placebo and control products.2
How Much Cranberry Juice for UTI?
Ocean Spray released the results of a study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which suggests drinking an 8-ounce glass of cranberry juice every day could help reduce the likelihood of a UTI by 40 percent, at least in women over 40 who frequently have the infection.
Why Does Cranberry Juice Help UTI?
Further evidence suggests that the mechanism involves proanthrocyanidins, a type of polyphenol compound found in cranberries. Proanthrocyanidins have anti-adhesive properties that make it harder for bacteria to stick to the walls and tissue within the urinary tract. These anti-adhesive properties inhibits the spread of bacteria within the urinary tract. Analysis and evaluation of clinical studies support the use of cranberry products in prevent UTIs in young and middle-aged women.3
Cranberry Juice vs. Cranberry Pills for UTIs
As with any other fluid, cranberry juice can help to hydrate you and potentially flush out bacteria in urine, but modern cranberry juices lack the concentration of compounds in pure cranberries that prevent the adhesion of bacteria to your urethra. You’re better suited with cranberry extracts in either liquid or capsule form.
D Mannose UTI Home Treatment
D-mannose is a type of simple sugar that is closely related to glucose. It is found in various plant-based foods aside from cranberries, including:
- Green beans
D Mannose Dosage for UTI
For treating an active UTI: 1.5 grams twice daily for 3 days, and then once daily for 10 days; or 1 gram three times daily for 14 days.
Some studies suggest that D-mannose may be effective in preventing urinary tract infections. In a clinical trial, researchers enrolled 308 women over the age of 18 who had been diagnosed with acute urinary tract infections and had a history of recurrent UTIs. Following an initial round of antibiotics, the participants were given either 2 grams of D- mannose powder daily, 50 mg of nitrofurantoin (a common antibiotic) daily, or nothing at all.
Can D Mannose Cure a UTI?
During the study’s six-month period, 98 of the patients experienced a recurrent UTI. Unsurprisingly, the rate of recurrent UTI was highest in the group that received no treatment at about 60 percent. The rate of recurrence was about 15 percent in the D-mannose group and about 20 percent in the nitrofurantoin group.5
Patients who received D-mannose also had a significantly lower risk of experiencing any adverse side effects compared to those given nitrofurantoin, though the latter was generally well-tolerated.
D-mannose side effects were minimal. About 8 percent of those given D-mannose experienced episodes of diarrhea, but this was the only known side effect and did not require discontinuation. Ultimately, this suggests that D-mannose is comparable to nitrofurantoin in preventing recurrent urinary tract infections.5
More studies are necessary to determine the optimal dosage and the potential side effects. Those with diabetes should be cautious with D-mannose as it is a natural sugar and may cause fluctuations in blood sugar. Some evidence shows an association between high doses of D-mannose and kidney damage, but more research is necessary to confirm this.6
While further studies are necessary to confirm the mechanism of action, D-mannose is believed to inhibit the adherence of bacteria to urothelial cells (the cells lining the urinary tract). This is a mechanism similar to that of cranberry products in general. In vitro experiments show that D-mannose binds and blocks FimH, a bacterial adhesin that is positioned at the tip of enteric bacteria. It is essentially the protein that allows bacteria to stick to surfaces. During bacterial colonization, FimH binds to receptors on the lining of the urinary tract. D-mannose essentially has the same structure to the binding site of these receptors, which essentially acts as competition for bacteria trying to attach to the same receptors.5
With a high enough concentration of D-mannose in the urine, you can potentially saturate FimH adhesins and keep bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract. Some larger in vitro studies involving horses suggest that D-mannose that has been applied locally may reduce the adherence of E. coli, along with other bacteria like Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Streptococcus zooepidemicus.5
Do Probiotics Help with UTIs?
While most people associate probiotics with gut bacteria, the vagina is home to its own complex microbiome. Studies show that the vaginal microflora is primarily dominated by species of Lactobacilli bacteria.7 In women with urinary tract infections, vaginal Lactobacilli populations were found to be significantly reduced or completely gone.8 The presence of Lactobacilli in the vagina helps to maintain an acidic environment in the vagina and next to the urethral opening in women that prevents the growth or spread of UTI-causing bacteria.
However, certain factors like douching, antibiotics, or hormonal changes can deplete populations of good bacteria and cause imbalances in the vaginal microflora. Replenishing these good bacteria helps to return balance to the microflora in both the gut and vagina. Gut microbes often colonize the vagina due to their proximity to the vagina.
Can taking probiotics help with UTIs? Several meta-analyses found no decrease in urinary tract infections in women taking probiotics compared to controls. 9, 10 However, the amount and probiotic strains varied between these studies.
While the exact dosage requires further study, taking a probiotic supplement or incorporating more probiotic-rich foods into your diet may help to balance your vaginal microflora and reduce the rate of recurrent infections as one study found that women who frequently consume fresh berry juices and fermented milk products have lower rates of UTIs.14
Other Home Remedies for UTI
Along with probiotics, d-mannose powder, and cranberry pills, some small changes to your lifestyle can help to reduce the occurrence of urinary tract infections.
The best way to prevent a UTI is to pee when you need to. This keeps potentially harmful bacteria from growing and spreading within your urinary tract. Aside from being uncomfortable, holding your pee just gives bacteria more to feed on, allowing the microbes to grow into a full infection. Holding your pee also increases the amount of time that bacteria spend within your urinary tract, giving them more opportunity to cling to the lining of the urinary tract.11
Staying hydrated is crucial for your overall health and wellbeing, but it may also help to prevent urinary tract infections. Taking in enough fluids throughout the day ensures that you are peeing regularly. Studies have also found that chronic low fluid intake may play an important role in the pathogenesis of urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and chronic kidney disease.12 Another study among young girls found that infrequent urination and poor fluid intake were two factors that were associated with recurrent urinary tract infections.13 While your exact hydration needs will vary based on your health and activity levels, you should be drinking enough water every day that your urine is clear or pale yellow in color.
Practice Safe Sex
While UTIs are not sexually transmitted, introducing anything to your genital area can potentially contribute to an increased risk of infection. Always use a condom or dental dam when having sex, and use lube to prevent irritation. However, avoid spermicidal lubes as they usually contain chemicals that can irritate or cause fluctuations and imbalances in the vaginal pH.
Practice Good Hygiene
While you should regularly wash the exterior of your genital area, you should generally avoid douching. This involves the use of soaps or other fluids to flush out the inside of the vagina. The fact is, the vagina naturally cleans itself. Douching even with just water may cause imbalances in the vaginal microflora or cause changes to the pH that could allow for an increase in E. coli and other potentially harmful bacteria. Furthermore, when using the toilet, always wipe from front to back to prevent introducing fecal bacteria into your urethra.
Combining D-mannose, cranberry extract, and probiotics may help reduce to urinary tract infections. Nexabiotic® Probiotics for Women with Cranberry Extract and D-Mannose combines all of these helpful ingredients in one pill that is easy to take.