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5 ways to treat a UTI at home without antibiotics

Laura Goldman,S. Adam Ramin   

5 ways to treat a UTI at home without antibiotics
  • UTI treatment often involves antibiotics — but home remedies like herbs, probiotics, and vitamins can also be effective.
  • UTIs occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract, and can lead to bladder or kidney infections.

One of the most common bacterial infections is a urinary tract infection, or UTI. If left untreated, a UTI can develop into serious health problems, such as a kidney infection.

To treat the UTI, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic, including:

  • Bactrim (trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole)
  • Keflex (cephalexin)
  • Monurol (fosfomycin)

However, antibiotics can also increase bacterial resistance, and in some cases, your doctor may recommend that you can safely and effectively treat a UTI at home without antibiotics.

Here's how to tell if you have a UTI and when it's OK to treat one at home.

Can you treat a UTI without antibiotics?

For some women with no other serious health problems, it can be possible to treat a UTI at home without antibiotics. For instance, mild or uncomplicated UTIs may clear out of the bladder naturally, as a strong immune system can help resolve these infections.

But if you're experiencing the symptoms of a UTI, you should always check in with your doctor first. They can help you determine whether you're able to treat your UTI at home, without antibiotics.

Because they're at higher risk for complications, men and pregnant women should never try to treat a UTI at home, according to Rena Malik, M.D., a urologist and director of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

UTI treatments at home

The following five home remedies can help treat your UTI naturally.

Drink lots of water

Drinking water and staying hydrated can help prevent and treat a UTI. This dilutes your urine, so you'll pee more frequently, helping to flush out the bacteria that are causing your infection.

"We recommend that all our patients who have recurrent UTIs drink about 2 to 3 liters of fluid per day," Malik says. "This can include water, flavored water, and non-caffeinated beverages."

For example, a study of 141 girls from three to 18 years old showed that inadequate fluid intake and infrequent urination were linked to recurrent UTIs.

According to seven meta-analyzed studies, some showed that an increase in fluids helped reduce the rate of overall recurrent UTIs. However, more studies are needed.

Quick tip: You should also avoid drinking fluids that could irritate your bladder and worsen symptoms, such as alcohol and caffeinated beverages.

Consume cranberries

There is some evidence that cranberries may help prevent UTIs. That's because they contain proanthocyanidins (PACs), which may stop bacteria from sticking to your urinary tract lining.

One study found that it's most effective to consume 36 mg of cranberry PAC daily to help prevent a UTI.

According to a 2016 study, women who drank an 8-ounce glass of cranberry juice each day for 24 weeks had fewer UTIs than the control group. It's important to note that the study participants all had a history of recent UTIs.

Adding cranberry juice to your diet may be a way to prevent UTIs as well. A 2015 study showed that people taking cranberry juice supplements that were the equivalent of 16 ounces of cranberry juice could cut UTI risk in half.

"You can drink a very concentrated juice that's 100% cranberry with no sugar added, or you can take a capsule or tablet that has that dosing in it," Malik says.

However, she warns that many cranberry juices contain a lot of sugar but not enough PAC, and many cranberry supplements don't contain enough PAC to be effective — so make sure you know what kind of cranberry products you're consuming.

For reference, an 8-ounce (240-milliliter) serving of an Ocean Spray cranberry juice drink has about 33 to 36 mg of PACs, according to a 2017 article in the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) Journal.

While some cranberry products may be helpful, there are mixed views regarding cranberry use for UTIs.

Get vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may increase the acidity of your urine, which can help kill the bacteria causing your UTI. There have been few studies, with mixed results, on whether vitamin C is effective for preventing UTIs.

In one study, pregnant women who took 100mg of vitamin C daily for three months had significantly fewer UTIs than pregnant women who didn't take vitamin C. However, in another study, participants with spinal cord injuries who took 2,000mg of vitamin C daily did not have fewer UTIs than participants who didn't increase their vitamin C intake.

"[Vitamin C] certainly won't hurt you in a short period of time, but if you're taking it over a long period of time, you should discuss that with your doctor," Malik says.

Fruits and vegetables especially high in vitamin C include:

  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Red bell peppers
  • Kiwi

You can also take a vitamin C supplement.

Try probiotics

Probiotics are microorganisms that help balance the "bad" bacteria that can cause infections in your body, such as E. coli, with the "good" bacteria that assist in digesting food properly.

In addition, the probiotic strain lactobacillus may help prevent UTIs by stopping the bad bacteria from adhering to your urinary tract. That's because lactobacillus produces antibacterial hydrogen peroxide, which makes it difficult for certain bacteria to survive.

Lactobacillus is available in supplements. It's also found in yogurt and fermented foods such as:

  • kimchi
  • miso
  • sauerkraut

In one small study, Lactobacillus was found to be effective in preventing UTIs in premenopausal women. But another review didn't find enough evidence to recommend its use.

Malik says "the jury is still out" on how effective probiotics are for preventing UTIs, and you should talk with your doctor to see if using them could be right for you.

Best probiotic supplements

If you are new to probiotics, our nutritionist-tested guide to the best probiotic supplements is a great place to start.

Consider herbal remedies

If you want to avoid antibiotics, herbal supplements for UTIs are worth a try. There isn't much human research, though, so it's best to talk with your doctor before trying any of these herbal remedies.

  • Garlic extract: Garlic contains allicin, which is partly made up of sulfur and is believed to aid in garlic's healing potential. Test tube studies have shown that allicin has significant antibacterial effects on bacteria that can cause UTIs.
  • Bearberry leaf: Test tube studies have shown that bearberry leaf has antimicrobial capabilities. However, other studies show that this plant does not have a notable effect on UTIs. More research is needed.
  • D-Mannose: This natural sugar can be found in cranberries, apples, and oranges. It's used frequently to treat UTIs. It's believed by some medical professionals that it can inhibit certain bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract.
  • Chamomile tea: Chamomile contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It also works as a weak diuretic, which can be helpful for flushing bacteria out of the urinary tract.
  • Green tea: Some of the compounds in green tea are known to have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effects. These effects have the potential to prevent or help treat UTIs.

What are UTIs?

A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria enter the urethra, the tube that allows urine to travel from the bladder out of the body, and infects the urinary tract. This bacteria can come from the rectum, the skin, or saliva.

A UTI affects different parts of the urinary tract and can reach the bladder and the kidneys in more severe cases.

What causes UTIs?

UTIs can be caused by:

UTI symptoms

This painful infection occurs when bacteria, usually Escherichia coli (E. coli), enter the urinary tract through the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of your body.

These are some of the common symptoms of a UTI:

  • A constant urge to urinate
  • Pain or a burning sensation while urinating
  • Only being able to urinate small amounts
  • Cloudy or strong-smelling urine
  • Pressure in your pelvic area

It's important to see a doctor if your symptoms persist for more than 48 hours or if you have a fever, back pain, or blood in your urine.

Both men and women can get a UTI. However, it's more common in women because they have shorter urethras, making it easier for bacteria to reach their bladders. In fact, almost half of all women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime.

How to prevent UTIs

Additionally, there are a few general lifestyle behaviors you can practice to help prevent UTIs before they occur, including:

  • When you feel like you have to urinate, go — don't hold it.
  • After urinating and especially after a bowel movement, wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from entering your urethra.
  • Urinate before and after having sex.
  • Avoid using scented soaps, bubble baths, or douches.
  • Avoid tight pants.


How do I get rid of a UTI quickly?

There is no quick fix for a UTI. Taking cranberry supplements and drinking water could help flush bacteria out of your system more quickly. However, it can be dangerous to drink too much water in a short period of time. In many cases, taking an antibiotic for a UTI could be the quickest way to get rid of one.

How long does it take for a UTI to go away without antibiotics?

It can take around nine days for a UTI to go away with antibiotics. It could take longer to go away without antibiotics, but everyone is different. It's important to remember that an untreated UTI could lead to complications like a bladder or kidney infection. Make sure to talk to a doctor if you're experiencing UTI symptoms.

Is there instant UTI relief?

No. A UTI may take some time to go away, depending on the person and the extent of the UTI.

Where to place a heating pad for a UTI?

If you have a UTI, you may experience pain in your abdomen and lower back. A heating pad placed on these areas could help provide temporary pain relief.

Insider's takeaway

If you want to treat a UTI at home without antibiotics, there are natural remedies that may help with prevention or treatment. Water, cranberry juice, herbal supplements like garlic and chamomile tea, or probiotics could help. Just make sure your doctor deems them safe for you.

If you do experience the symptoms of a UTI, it's important to check in with your doctor before attempting to treat it yourself. Together, you can determine whether you'll need antibiotics or if you can treat your UTI at home.