These infections are 50 times more common in women than men. However, if you’re pretty healthy overall, a UTI is just a small bump in the road. But if you have diabetes, spinal cord injuries, urinary tract abnormalities, or you’re pregnant, a UTI can be a serious infection, not to be taken lightly. And if you’re subject to recurrent UTIs, particularly cystitis, or bladder infection, pay attention to the prevention section in this entry.
Do This Now
To ease the pain of a UTI, take these six steps.
- Take 100 milligrams of the over-the-counter medication Pyridium (phenazopyridine) four times a day.
- Drink several large glasses of water.
- If you have a low fever, take a dose of aspirin or Tylenol (1,000 milligrams) or ibuprofen (400 to 600 milligrams).
- Go to the bathroom when you need to. If it is too painful to urinate using the toilet, try urinating in a tub of warm water.
- Add 5 to 10 drops of lavender oil to 1/4 cup castor oil. Massage into your flank (the back of your waist, toward the groin) where you’re feeling pain. Cover with a flannel and top with a heating pad.
- Arrange to give your doctor a sample of urine to test for bacteria so that, if necessary, you can get the right antibiotic.
Why It Works
Pyridium is a kind of aspirin for the urinary tract. It numbs the tissue that lines the urinary tract. Note that it contains a dye that turns your urine bright orange. The dye is a sign that the numbing agent has reached the urinary tract, and you should start feeling better. It is not an antibiotic, however, so it won’t address the underlying infection. If the over-the-counter dose helps some, but not enough, call your doctor for a prescription-strength dose. Watch out for the dye: It stains everything it comes in contact with, including clothing and contact lenses.
We want you to drink lots of water because diluting the urine can reduce the burning and pain, while urinating helps flush the germs out of your bladder and urinary tract.
The warm oils will help ease the pain; lavender is a muscle relaxant, while castor oil acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Chances are, you’re going to need an antibiotic. If your doctor prescribes one, make sure you finish the full prescription.
Herbs and Supplements
Goldenrod. This herb helps you urinate, has anti-inflammatory properties, and is safe even in pregnant women. Take one to two capsules two or three times a day.
Antibiotics for UTIs
Antibiotics. Expect a one- to three-day course (or 7 to 10 days for recurrent infections or other complications). If you’re prone to recurrent UTIs, especially following sexual intercourse, your doctor may prescribe prophylactic (preventive) antibiotics to take after sex.
Herbs and Supplements
Cranberry juice. Studies find that 16 ounces of cranberry juice a day prevents recurrent UTIs. Cranberry juice has potent plant chemicals that prevent bacteria from sticking to urinary tract cells. Drink 16 ounces of juice a day, or buy capsules and take two capsules (500 mg each) 3 to 4 times per day and after sex (this is a minimal dose). Or buy a liquid concentrate, meant to be reconstituted, and take the equivalent of 16 ounces of juice per day.
Bearberry leaf extract. This was traditionally used to prevent UTIs, and it turns out the extract releases an antiseptic substance into the urine. Take 250 to 500 milligrams a day. Don’t worry if your urine is discolored while you’re taking it.
Lactobacillus capsules. There are excellent clinical trials showing good results using these probiotics to prevent UTIs. They help ensure that the rectum and vagina have enough “good” bacteria to check the growth of “bad” bacteria. Plus, probiotics seem to excrete materials that directly attack “bad” bacteria, as well as stimulate an immune response that helps prevent infection. During an infection, take one to two capsules with meals, then two at bedtime. For prevention, just take two capsules before bed. Various studies also suggest that inserting one or two capsules into the vagina once a week for a year can help prevent recurrent infections just as well as prophylactic antibiotics.
Natural UTI Remedies
Aromatherapy. Add up to 10 drops of one or more antiseptic essential oils such as lavender, tea tree, juniper, or chamomile to a sitz bath (a shallow bath, usually in a basin) and soak to help prevent recurrent UTIs.
Acupuncture. Women with a history of recurrent UTIs who received acupuncture for six months had half as many episodes of UTIs in the following six months as those who received a fake treatment, and a third as many as those who received no treatment. Certain acupuncture points help tone, or tighten, the kidney and bladder, while increasing urinary flow. This is important because a major cause of UTIs is incomplete emptying of the bladder.
Eat foods that promote urination. These include watermelon, parsley, and celery. Avoid caffeine and salty foods, which are dehydrating.
Check your birth control. If you use a diaphragm and are subject to recurrent UTIs, check the fit of the diaphragm and keep it in for as short a time as possible. Or switch to a different form of birth control.
Don’t douche. Douching removes beneficial bacteria that keep “bad” bacteria in check.
Urinate after sex. It’s a way of washing out the vagina and getting rid of any harmful microbes.