How to Treat a UTI at Home Naturally and Safely
Urinary tract infection. UTI. Bladder infection. Cystitis.
No matter what you call it, nothing makes you more antsy for a quick fix than a UTI. Every year an estimated 2 million people, the majority being women, suffer with one.
UTIs are caused by the introduction of pathogenic bacteria into the urinary tract. Most, though not all, are due to the presence of Escherichia coli bacterium (E. coli). These bacterium have hairlike projections which easily attach to the tissue of the urethra and bladder walls. Typically our immune system can irradiate an invasion of e. coli (or other pathogen), but in cases of weak immunity, poor hygiene or low-estrogen (in women) this bacteria can make itself right at home.
And that’s just what happened to me as I hit week 27 of my pregnancy with my last child. Suddenly I found myself experiencing the unpleasant symptoms of a UTI… and I was determined to find a way to treat it at home.
Bladder Infection 411
While a few individuals with bladder infections may experience no symptoms, most infections state their presence loud and clear with signs and symptoms that can include:
- Blood in the urine
- Cloudy urine
- A strong urge to urinate with little urine produced
- Low-grade fever
- A frequent need to urinate… that gotta go feeling just doesn’t go away!
- General discomfort (malaise)
- And/OR pain, burning or stinging upon urination
Conventionally, all acute infections are treated using the same approach: prescription antibiotics.
While I believe prescription meds can play a valuable role in health care, they’re wise to avoid when possible. These potent drugs destroy all bacteria in their path, including the essential and healthy good bacteria found in the digestive tract.
Furthermore, it’s become common knowledge that the unnecessary use of prescription antibiotics contributes to recurrent infections from increasingly resistant bacteria. (Source 1, Source 2) And the longer you take antibiotics, the greater your potential for negative side effects.
Anytime you can avoid taking them, do! And it IS possible to completely treat a UTI at home without them.
Before You Get Started
As a holistic health professional I’m eager to share my knowledge of natural remedies. Their efficacy often rivals prescription drugs and they always come with fewer side effects. However, it’s important to be informed about natural remedy safety and to approach any treatment plan with common sense.
FIRST, be aware that urinary tract infections are categorized as upper tract infections (dangerous infections that involve the kidneys) or the more common, less dangerous, lower tract infections which involve the bladder, urethra and/or prostate (in men).
Lower tract infections can be treated at home, but do not attempt to cure an upper tract infection at home! Upper tract infections are caused when a lower tract infection is left unchecked and the bacteria ascend the urinary canal from the bladder to the kidneys. Once the bacteria takes root in the kidneys, you’ll find yourself really sick.
If you’re attempting to cure a lower tract infection at home, be sure you consult your health care provider immediately should you develop symptoms such as: a mid-grade fever, low back pain, or increasing pain and malaise.
SECOND, track your healing progress to ensure you don’t develop an upper tract infection. I strongly recommend purchasing a home-use urine test (I use these) to monitor your progress. The analysis of urine tells a lot about the internal workings of your body!
The urine dipstick will provide the following important information regarding your bladder health:
- pH level: For your best chance at curing your infection, maintain a balanced to slightly alkaline pH between 6.5 and 7.5 to help in slowing bacterial growth.
- Protein: You should have a zero reading here. If there is any indication of protein in your urine sample it’s wise to consult a health professional for further care. Protein can be an indication that you’re battling an upper tract infection and the kidneys are involved.
- Blood: It’s not unusual to have some red blood cells present in the urine, especially if there is inflammation present in the bladder. A high reading here needs to be closely monitored.
- Nitrite level: The nitrite portion of the test reflects whether there are nitrites in the urine. NitrITES are converted from nitrATES by bacteria, hence, a positive nitrite reading indicates infection.
- White Blood Count level: This portion of the test checks for the presence of leukocytes, which are white blood cells present in the case of inflammation and perhaps infection. If these guys are present, you know something’s up.
How to Treat a UTI at Home
–> STEP ONE: RELIEVE THE BURN
In order to effectively treat a UTI you’re going to need to feel comfortable passing large amounts of urine to flush out the infection and keep a lower tract infection from becoming an upper one. Throughout the day urine varies in acidity/alkalinity based on the body’s various metabolic processes , the type of foods you eat, your fluid intake and whether there is an infection present.
A burning sensation while urinating is caused by acidic urine irritating the already inflamed tissue of the urethra. You can quickly alkalize your urine (and temporarily relieve this symptom) by drinking an 8 oz glass of water with 1 t. of baking soda added. Drink this only between meals and only as necessary!
Maintaining a diet high in alkalizing foods is hugely beneficial. Think lots of raw fruits and vegetables, soup, smoothies, little meat, and NO refined foods, flours or sugars.
FYI: Controversy exists concerning what pH level is most conducive to bacteria eradication in the urinary tract. Many claim that an acidic environment is better but not all bacteria responsible for UTIs are inhibited in acid environments. In fact, e. coli is very acid tolerant! Further evidence indicates that UTIs benefit from an alkaline pH. If you’re experiencing a burning sensation then by all means take steps to alkaline your urine.
–> STEP TWO: DISINFECT YOUR BLADDER
Cranberry (Juice or Tablets)
When it comes to treating a bladder infection many think of downing a glass of cranberry juice. Historically, cranberry juice (plain, full-strength, unsweetened) and even cranberry tablets have been used to treat cystitis. In truth, both cranberries and blueberries contain many of the same compounds proven to be effective against UTIs, namely D-mannose (a naturally occurring sugar) and antioxidant anthocyanidins. The only addition cranberries offer is their ability to acidify urine. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3)
D-mannose and anthocyanidins are two compounds that strengthen and tone the bladder walls while also inhibiting the adhesion of the e. coli bacteria. This buys you time to flush the infection out.
Directions: I recommend drinking several ounces of the pure juice, which I include in a probiotic smoothie (my favorite recipe is below) 3-4 times a day. Drink 1 first thing in the AM, then as part of lunch & dinner and then one before bed.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract is a potent antimicrobial that has demonstrated effectiveness against UTIs (Source 1, Source 2.) I use this in addition to cranberry or blueberry juice. Be sure to use a high quality product, either Citricidal (the most potent) or GSE Liquid Concentrate.
Directions: Take the recommended dose/serving along with a full glass of pure, filtered water. Drink this between breakfast and lunch, and then between lunch and dinner.
–> STEP 3: BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Urinary tract infections are a great indication of the state of your immune system. As I mentioned, a well-groomed immune system will have NO problem handling the presence of an unwelcome bacteria (whether e. coli, or any other detrimental bacteria).
Shifting to a real food diet will do wonders for boosting your immune strength. But with a UTI present it won’t be enough. For an added boost I recommend taking goldenseal and garlic.
Goldenseal is a potent, broad-spectrum antibacterial herb. The primary medicinal component in goldenseal is berberine, which is also what’s responsible for producing the downright gag-inducing taste. Berberine triggers the body’s white blood cells (NK cells in particular) to seek out bacteria for destruction, while also stimulating blood flow to the spleen, increasing the body’s ability to filter the blood and generate more immune-activating substances.
Garlic is likewise a potent antibacterial, antispasmodic and immune-modulating herb which has broad-ranging health benefits.
Directions: I recommend taking Goldenseal in tincture form or capsule form before bed, followed by a full 8 oz of water. Take Kyolic garlic dosed according to the manufacturer’s directions with meals.
–> STEP 4: BRING ON THE PROBIOTICS
In the interest of keeping this post from growing so long you won’t want to read it (maybe I’m already losing you?), I won’t go into the details of why probiotics are an absolutely MUST for health. You can read more about them here and here.
Suffice it to say, your best front-line fighters for urinary tract health are probiotics, and lots of them! I experienced great success with my UTI by following the above regiment of supplements in addition to increasing my intake of kefir. You can experience the same by taking a high-quality probiotic supplement or ingesting large amounts of your favorite cultured foods.
Here is my favorite recipe for bladder health:
- 1/2 cup organic kefir
- 1/4 cup cranberry and/or blueberry juice*
- 1/4 cup pure coconut water
- 3-5 drops of stevia
- Blend first 3 ingredients together. Sweeten to taste with stevia. (I do NOT recommend sweetening with anything other than stevia in the instance of a urinary tract infection.)
- Drink a glass of this every 2-4 hours throughout the day when treating a UTI.
- * Use ONLY 100% pure, no sugar added juice! Lakewood Organics is a great brand you can find at Meijer, Giant Eagle, Whole Foods, in bulk from Amazon, or any other natural health food supplier
More Tips for Success
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day! Try to down 8oz of water or herbal tea per hour. I highly recommend trying Traditional Medicinals tea, Weightless Cranberry which not only contains cranberry but parsley, uva ursi and cleavers – three herbs well recognized for their affinity for bladder health.
- Do not rush when urinating, and be sure to empty your bladder completely each time you go.
- Do not take vitamins at bedtime, especially if they contain mineral supplements, as urine containing the excess water-soluble vitamins and minerals that remains in the bladder during sleep may irritate the tissue and further promote symptoms.
- Avoid irritating beverages like orange juice, coffee, black tea, and alcohol.
- If your infection clears up but you still feel like there may be inflammation present, consider taking a food derived enzyme like papain (found in papaya) and/or turmeric capsules in addition to sticking with your real food diet.
- Adding additional Vitamin C to your diet is another great immune-support!
TO YOUR HEALTH!
Have you ever treated a UTI at home?
What worked for you?
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