If you’ve experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI), well, you understand there’s a reason the acronym rhymes with “cry.” You sit on the toilet darn near blubbering because you can’t pee but you feel like you have to-oh how you feel like you have to! And when/if you do manage to get a little out, it burns with the fire of ten thousand suns. Then you go about your day crunched over and cramping and absolutely miserable.
So what evil forces are at work here when you are suffering like that? Your urinary system is made up of your urethra, which carries urine out of the bladder when you pee, your bladder, which holds your urine, your ureters, which carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and your kidneys, which filter waste from the blood to produce urine. A UTI happens when bacteria makes its way up the urethra. This can happen in any number of ways… you hold in urine instead of going to the bathroom, having a catheter, and for women not peeing after intercourse increases the risk. But no matter the case the result is the same-misery. If your UTI goes on for more than a few days or gets worse, it is important to see your doctor. If the infection spreads through your urinary system and to your kidneys, you can end up with a nasty situation on your hands. But to fight them off in the beginning, here are some home remedies for UTI’s that can help get things flowing smoothly (and painlessly) once again.
When it comes to herbs that ease UTI’s, here are the main properties to look for:
Anti-microbial properties: Helps to wipe out the bacteria causing the infection.
Diuretic properties: Diuretics are used to treat a number of problems, and work by increasing the amount of sodium your kidneys excrete in urine. When they excrete sodium, they take water along with it, and the amount of fluid in your blood goes down. Less fluid means less pressure on the arteries, this is why it’s used to treat high blood pressure. In the case of UTI’s we just want to encourage an increased amount of urine to keep flushing out bacteria and relieving discomfort.
Anti-inflammatory properties: When the lining of the urethra becomes inflamed it can cause serious discomfort. By lessening the irritating inflammation, you can relieve the associated pain. It’s no fun feeling scared every time you need to pee.
Anti-spasmodic properties: Anti-spasmodics can help relieve any painful spasm or cramp caused by a UTI. Generally a spasm takes place in the bladder.
1. Drink Water-A lot of Water
This may not sound like the most extraordinary remedy, but it is one of the most important things you can do when you have a UTI. It can help flush out bacteria, and (almost) more importantly, it gives you something to actually push out when you pee! A lot of home remedies for urinary tract infections are drinks because you should always be flushing fluid through your system to give it a helping hand in getting rid of the nasty bacteria.
You will need…
-An ice cold glass of fresh water
Drink like a fish stranded in the desert at the first hint of an infection. Get your 8 glasses, and then some more. Keep clearing out your urinary tract and you may be able to bounce back rather quickly-or at least be comfortable!
2. Go Pee!
It may sound obvious, but when you need to pee-UTI or not- do it! If you hold it in, you increase the chance that bacteria will develop and multiply and cause an infection. If you do have a UTI, every time you pee you get out a little bit more of that bacteria. Even though it can be uncomfortable, peeing every chance you get is a vital part of recovering.
3. Drink ‘Soda
No, not soda as in a sugary soft drink, soda as in baking soda, that miraculous substance that can help anything from heartburn to, of course, UTI’s. Baking soda is an alkaline substance-the opposite of acidic-which means it can help neutralize or lessen the acidity of your urine. If you find yourself resisting the urge to pee because of a burning sensation, baking soda can help ease the discomfort.
You will need…
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-8 ounces of fresh water
Stir the baking soda into the water until it dissolves, and then drink the whole glass. Do this first thing in the morning. Don’t do this for more than a week, or if you are trying to avoid salt, since baking soda is high in sodium.
4. Enjoy Parsley Water
Aside from the fact that it makes a wonderfully refreshing after dinner drink, parsley water can help relieve a urinary tract infection and speed up the healing process by acting as a diuretic. Diuretics are used to treat a number of problems, and work by increasing the amount of sodium your kidneys excrete in urine. When they excrete sodium, they take water along with it, and the amount of fluid in your blood goes down. Less fluid means less pressure on the arteries, this is why it’s used to treat high blood pressure. In the case of UTI’s we just want to encourage an increased amount of urine to keep flushing out bacteria and relieving discomfort. Parsley is thought to work by inhibiting a Na+-K+ (sodium and potassium) pump. By inhibiting the reabsorption, sodium levels rise. To balance out the concentration, kidneys excrete more sodium in the urine. More sodium means more water which means an overall increased output of urine.
You will need…
-Roughly 1 cup of fresh parsley OR 2 tablespoons of dried parsley
-1-2 cups of water
Bring water to a boil and add the parsley if you are using fresh-which is preferable in my opinion. Reduce the heat so it simmers steadily and let the leaves infuse the water like this for 6-10 minutes. Strain the leaves out and drink the water hot. If it’s a hot summer day, pop it in the fridge for refreshing parsley “iced tea.”
If you use dried parsley, simply place it in a cup of boiling water, cover, and steep for 8 minutes before straining and drinking.
5. Chew Some Celery Seeds
Celery seeds also act as a diuretic, due mainly to one of the constituents of celery oil, butylphthalide. If parsley water just isn’t your thing, chewing a handful of celery seeds can help increase the production of urine. If you want to get some more fluid, make celery seed water (follow the method for dried parsley.)
You will need…
-A handful of celery seeds
Once or twice a day, snack on celery seeds right after a meal-it can also help with digestion, so why not? If you do this daily, some anecdotal evidence suggests it can help prevent UTI’s.
6. Mmm Cucumbers
This is an easy one for me-I love cucumbers! I don’t know why, but they’re one of my favorite snacks. While other kids at lunch were busy swapping candy bars, I was eyeing the cucumber slices. Thanks to their high water content, cucumbers are a great way to get to get extra fluid through your system when you find yourself having a hard time drinking enough water.
You will need…
-1 cucumber, sliced
Rinse and slice a cucumber-enjoy!
7. (Maybe) Avoid the 4 C’s
Chocolate, citrus, carbonation, and caffeine-these are 4 things that you should avoid if you find yourself getting UTI’s frequently. All of them can irritate the lining of the bladder, and potentially make it easier for bacteria to adhere. Citrus will increase the acidity of your urine, which will make it even more painful to pee. When possible, try to steer clear of as much of these as you can-it’s not easy, but it can make life more bearable. On the other hand, some people can find citrus actually helps, hence the “maybe” in the title.
8. Use Heat
It’s not just peeing that hurts when you have a urinary tract infection-the inflammation and irritation can cause a constant, nagging discomfort that makes you feel painfully cramped up. When this happens, applying heat over your bladder can bring some serious relief. The gentle warmth will relax your muscles, melting away the pain caused by spasms or inflammation.
You will need…
-A hot water bottle (or something similar)
Fill up your bottle with water that is hot, but still comfortable to the touch. It should be “toasty” not burning hot. It shouldn’t feel like a hot hard lump, but rather feel like a water bed. This way, the surface of the bottle can lie flatter than if it was bulging and rounded with water. Wrap it in a dishtowel and lie down, placing it right over your bladder. You can lightly rest your hands on it to increase contact, but don’t press on it-when you’re so uncomfortable it can be tempting to try and “push” the pain away, but it doesn’t work. Leave the bottle on for as long as needed.
9. Ginger Tea
No list dealing with any condition that involved any kind of inflammation would be complete without ginger. Its chemical make-up allows it to block prostaglandin synthesis, a process which creates little messengers (aptly called prostaglandins.) Prostaglandins communicate about a variety of biological processes, such as inflammation. They also transmit pain signals to neurons. It can therefore help to prevent inflammation, reduce current inflammation, and reduce pain. This is the same process that OTC anti-inflammatory medications-just without all the nasty side-effects!
11. Cranberry Juice
Cranberry juice is bit further down than you might expect on a list of home remedies for a UTI, but its helpfulness is not set in stone as much as people seem to think. The idea behind it is that the bacterium that causes UTI’s have fimbria (hair-like) appendages-that make it possible to cling onto the lining of the urethra. The combination of acidic substances in the juice may make it harder for the fimbria to stick to things, thus reducing chance of infection and/or making it harder for bacteria to multiply. Studies seem to show that it does indeed help, however, it is the most effective on women who have had UTI’s before, or suffer reoccurring infections. You also need to drink a decent amount of it to get the effects, and many people in the studies withdrew because they found themselves with a stomachache. All of that being said, its worth trying-and you may just find that it really does work for you.
You will need…
If possible, get “real” cranberry juice, or at least juice that isn’t loaded with sugar. Drink a full 8 ounce glass three times daily. To potentially prevent infections, drink 1-2 daily.
12. Start Feeling Blue
Blueberries are from the same genus as cranberries, Vaccinium, and may also help ward off potential UTI’s by affecting the fimbria of the bacteria trying to attach itself to the urinary tract. Blueberry juice isn’t as easy to come by as cranberry juice (and is usually mixed with things like grape or apple juice), so try consuming these tasty berries whole instead.
You will need…
-1-2 cups fresh blueberries
Rinse your berries and enjoy them daily. They make the perfect addition to just about any breakfast; I absolutely love them in oatmeal.
13. Hot, Hot, Horseradish
Originally from Europe and a member of the cabbage family, horseradish is known for spicy, pungent, sinus-clearing spread made from the white roots of the plant. A natural compound in the plant, allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), has a strong antimicrobial effect. While cranberries and blueberries may be bacteriostatic, meaning they inhibit the reproduction of bacteria, AITC is bactericidal, which means it kills bacteria outright. It does so by attacking the cellular membrane of the bacterium, making it impossible to be viable or survive.
You will need…
-1/2 teaspoons fresh horseradish (root)
-A glass of water or milk
Grate the fresh horseradish, and start by taking 1 teaspoon twice a day. The max dosage is 1 ½ teaspoons three times daily, stopping if stomach upset occurs. If you have a hard time with the spice, a glass of water or milk nearby can help. I find milk to be preferable as water can sometimes seem to spread the spice around!
14. Cream of Tartar & Lemon
This is an old home remedy, not a shiny “this-new-study-just-found” type of remedy, but I love it anyways. Sometimes these old gems work better than anything else you can hunt down, and sometimes they don’t make any difference at all. Cream of tartar may work because it changes the pH of your urine, making a less-friendly environment that makes it harder for bacteria to thrive in. Add in a bit of lemon or lime juice for vitamin C, and you’ve got a powerful bacteria killing concoction that can dry a UTI right up.
You will need…
-1 ½ teaspoons cream of tarter
-Lemon or lime juice (preferably fresh)
Stir cream of tartar into ½-1 cup of warm water. Add a dash of lemon or lime juice, and drink 1-2 times a day. This can also help prevent UTIs when taken daily.
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By Claire Goodall
Claire is a lover of life, the natural world, and wild blueberries. On the weekend you can find her fiddling in the garden, playing with her dogs, and enjoying the great outdoors with her horse. Claire is very open-minded, ask her anything 🙂 Meet Claire