Urinary tract infections are one of the most common infections affecting people throughout the world. In the United States, urinary tract infections are estimated to affect about 8 to 10 million people on average each year. Urinary tract infections are more common in women than men. About 20 percent of women in the United States will develop a UTI at some point in their lives, and about 20 percent of those women will have recurring urinary tract infections.1
The good news is that UTIs are not fatal, but they can cause some serious complications if left untreated. Let’s take a closer look at urinary tract infections and some of the most effective home remedies for them, including probiotics.
Understanding Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections describe a bacterial infection of your urinary system, including your urethra and bladder. Your bladder is the organ responsible for collecting and storing urine, while the urethra is the tube that transports urine from the bladder out your body.
UTIs are usually categorized in two forms: cystitis and urethritis. Cystitis is an infection of the bladder, while urethritis is an infection of the urethra. If left untreated, the bacteria can potentially spread up from your bladder into your kidneys, leading to a more serious kidney infection.
UTIs can come with a variety of symptoms, most commonly an urgent and frequent need to urinate. This may also be accompanied by:
- Burning, pain, or general discomfort when you pee
- Cloudy, smelly urine
- Bloody urine
- Cramps, pressure, and soreness in your back, sides, or lower abdomen 2
While UTIs may go away on their own, they can be easily treated with a course of antibiotics along with over-the-counter medication to manage any pain or discomfort.3
Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infections
Certain home remedies may help to support the health of your urinary tract and potentially prevent UTIs.
Probiotics for Urinary Tract Infections
Your body is full of bacteria. In fact, bacteria outnumber your cells 10 to 1.11 Thankfully, many of these bacteria are helpful and necessary to good health. Probiotics are a variety of live bacteria and yeasts that live in your gut and can help to promote digestion. Most probiotic bacteria come from two groups: lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.12
However, these helpful, healthy bacteria also reside naturally within the vagina. Studies have found that during urinary tract infections, these bacteria, known as vaginal Lactobacilli, are gone or significantly reduced. Lactobacilli keep vaginal pH low and acidic, which prevents UTI-causing E. coli from spreading from your digestive tract to your vagina and urethra.
Imbalances in vaginal flora can be caused by a variety of factors, including excessive washing and sudden hormonal changes caused by menopause, pregnancy, or contraceptives.13 Antibiotics, like those used to combat UTIs, can also cause a reduction in vaginal flora, and even after stopping antibiotic use, your body may fail to replenish good bacteria, potentially leading to recurrent urinary tract infections.14
Research on probiotics and urinary tract infections is ongoing and evolving. Some studies have found that replenishing naturally occurring bacteria within the vagina may help to limit urinary tract infections, especially recurrent infections. In one study, ten women who took oral doses of Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus fermentum saw significant results regarding the prevention and treatment urinary tract infections.15 In another study, women with urinary tract infections were given a mix of compounds that included Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei. The results showed a decrease in bacterial load and significant improvements in symptoms.16
Pee Often and When You Need To
The easiest way to avoid UTIs is to pee when you need to. Urinating often and when the urge arises keeps harmful bacteria from growing within your urinary tract. Holding your pee for long periods of time essentially gives bacteria more urine to feed on and more time to grow and spread within your system, eventually leading to a full-blown infection. It’s also recommended to pee immediately following sex to flush out bacteria that may have entered your urethra.4
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day ensures that you are peeing enough to flush bacteria out of your system. One study found that consistently low fluid intake every day can contribute to urinary tract infection.5 Another study found that low fluid intake and infrequent urination resulted in an increased chance of recurrent urinary tract infections.6 Staying hydrated is good for your health in general. Drink at least one glass of water with every snack and meal to maintain healthy fluid levels.
Cranberries are a common home remedy for urinary tract infections, but most people reach for cranberry juice instead of pure cranberries or cranberry capsules. In one study, a group of 160 participants were given cranberry capsules, cranberry juice, or a placebo. The results showed that the cranberry capsules lowered the chance of contracting a UTI by about 50 percent.8
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.9
D-mannose is a simple sugar that is related to glucose. It is synthesized naturally in the body and can be found as a starch in various fruits and vegetables, including cranberries, broccoli, and apples. Studies suggest that D-mannose can help to prevent E. coli and other bacteria from latching onto your urinary tract and causing an infection.10If you are suffering from urinary tract infection, we recommend DrFormulas™ Nexabiotic Probiotics for Vaginal and Urinary Tract Health. This supplement is specially formulated to support vaginal and urinary tract health with 23 different strains and 17.25 billion CFUs of probiotics, along with cranberry extracts and D-mannose.