Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common bacterial infections that affect any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most UTIs are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria from the digestive tract. Women are more prone to UTIs than men due to their shorter urethras. Symptoms of a UTI include a burning sensation when urinating, frequent urination, cloudy, dark or strange-smelling urine and pelvic pain. While antibiotics are the standard medical treatment, certain foods and beverages may help prevent and fight UTIs due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. This article explores different foods and drinks that may help cure UTIs.
Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs), which prevent bacteria from adhering to the lining of the bladder and urinary tract. PACs inhibit the pathogenic E. coli bacteria’s p-fimbriae, hair-like projections that allow them to adhere to cells lining the urinary tract. With the p-fimbriae obstructed, E. coli can be flushed out before an infection develops. Drinking cranberry juice regularly may reduce the risk of recurrent UTIs by nearly 40%. Pure unsweetened cranberry juice or cranberry extract capsules are recommended for UTI prevention and treatment. The antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of cranberries also help fight infection and reduce UTI symptoms like pain and inflammation.
Like cranberries, blueberries contain PACs that prevent E. coli from binding to urinary tract cells. The anthocyanins in blueberries also exhibit antibacterial activity against the E. coli bacteria. Blueberries are high in vitamin C, which boosts the immune system to fight infection. The antioxidants in blueberries, including vitamin C, anthocyanins and flavonoids like quercetin, reduce inflammation and damage from free radicals. Blueberry juice, extract or fresh/frozen berries can be consumed to harness these UTI-fighting compounds.
Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and wound-healing properties. Bromelain limits E. coli growth and prevents bacteria from adhering to cells in the urinary tract. It also reduces inflammation, a key symptom of UTIs. The vitamin C in pineapple further boosts immunity against infection. Fresh pineapple juice or flesh can be consumed to reap its protective effects against UTIs.
Kefir is a cultured milk product rich in probiotics, which are beneficial gut bacteria that crowd out harmful bacteria and promote proper immune functioning. The lactobacilli probiotics in kefir prevent the growth and adhesion of E. coli that cause UTIs. Regularly consuming kefir may reduce UTI recurrence by replenishing healthy bacteria in the urinary tract. The probiotics and antioxidants in kefir also reduce inflammation. Kefir can be consumed plain, with fruit or in smoothies.
Greek yogurt provides probiotics that maintain a healthy urinary tract microbiome and improve the body’s defense against UTIs. The Lactobacillus bacteria in yogurt produce lactic acid, which prevents the growth of E. coli. Greek yogurt also contains calcium, vitamin D and zinc, which support immune function. Additionally, it is high in protein, which is important for wound healing. Enjoy plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt to maximize the probiotics and nutrients that fight UTIs.
The active compound in ginger called gingerol exhibits antibacterial activity against various strains of E. coli. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties also help reduce UTI symptoms like pain and burning sensations. Fresh ginger root can be juiced, infused in water as a tea or added to dishes and drinks. Ginger supplements in extract or capsule form provide concentrated doses of its UTI-fighting nutrients.
Garlic has antimicrobial properties that combat E. coli and other UTI-causing bacteria. The sulfur compounds allicin and ajoene in garlic inhibit bacterial growth and prevent them from attaching to the bladder lining. Garlic also reduces inflammation in the urinary tract. Raw garlic, supplements, or garlic powder can be consumed to take advantage of its UTI-curing potential.
Like kefir and Greek yogurt, regular yogurt contains probiotics that destroy harmful bacteria and promote the growth of good bacteria in the urinary tract. By replenishing healthy bacteria, yogurt may prevent recurrent UTIs. The lactobacilli in yogurt also produce hydrogen peroxide, which kills E. coli bacteria. Opt for plain, unsweetened varieties of yogurt with active cultures to obtain probiotics that combat UTIs.
Broccoli is packed with nutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C, sulforaphane and kaempferol that make it a superfood for fighting UTIs. Vitamin C boosts the immune system, while sulforaphane and kaempferol restrict the growth and adhesion of E. coli to urinary tract cells. Broccoli’s anti-inflammatory benefits additionally alleviate UTI discomfort. Eat raw or lightly steamed broccoli florets to maximize the retention of its protective compounds.
Green tea contains antioxidant polyphenols like epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which inhibit E. coli growth and prevent bacteria from binding to urinary tract cells. Drinking green tea regularly may protect against recurrent UTIs by 60%. The anti-inflammatory effects of green tea also help ease UTI symptoms. Sipping on freshly brewed, unsweetened green tea can aid UTI treatment and prevention.
Dissolving baking soda in water raises the urine’s pH, creating an alkaline environment that restricts bacterial growth and adhesion. The antiseptic properties of baking soda also directly combat UTI-causing bacteria. To leverage baking soda’s UTI-fighting potential, mix 1 teaspoon into an 8-ounce glass of water and drink up to 3 times per day. Monitor sodium intake with other foods when using baking soda.
The citric acid in lemon juice raises the acidity of urine, which kills off UTI-causing bacteria. Lemon’s antioxidant vitamin C and anti-inflammatory properties also support the immune system and reduce UTI symptoms. Mix the juice from 1 lemon into water or tea and drink it daily. Avoid adding sugar to maximize lemon juice’s therapeutic effects.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) contains acetic acid, a natural antibacterial that kills UTI-causing bacteria. As a fermented food, ACV also provides probiotics that restore urinary tract health. Plus, ACV’s anti-inflammatory properties help relieve UTI discomfort. Add 1-2 tablespoons of organic, unfiltered ACV to water or juice and drink daily to treat and prevent UTIs.
Staying hydrated is key when you have a UTI, as it flushes out bacteria by promoting frequent urination.Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can irritate the bladder. Drink more water when taking UTI medications like antibiotics, which can cause dehydration. Give water-rich fruits and vegetables a try too.
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods should be limited or avoided when treating a UTI, as they may exacerbate symptoms:
- Alcohol – Irritates the bladder
- Caffeine – Stimulates the bladder
- Spicy foods – Irritate the bladder
- High-sugar foods – Feed bacteria growth
- Dairy – Can increase inflammation
- Citrus fruits – May cause burning
- Tomato-based foods – Can be acidic
In addition to diet, certain lifestyle measures can help cure and prevent recurrent UTIs:
- Urinate when the need arises rather than holding it in
- Wipe front to back after using the toilet
- Urinate before and after sexual intercourse
- Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol/caffeine
- Take showers instead of baths
- Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight clothes
- Avoid using scented feminine products
When to See a Doctor
While home remedies can help mild UTIs, promptly seek medical care if you experience:
- Fever or chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Back or side pain
- Blood in urine
- Frequent or intense urination
- Symptoms last more than 2-3 days
These may indicate a kidney infection that requires urgent antibiotic treatment. People at higher UTI risk like pregnant women, diabetics and the immunocompromised should also see a doctor right away.
Medical Diagnosis and Treatment
To diagnose a UTI, doctors will review your medical history and conduct a urinalysis to check for signs of infection like bacteria, leukocytes and nitrites. They may also order a urine culture to identify the specific strain and antibiotic sensitivities. Based on the results, a short 3-5 day course of antibiotics like Bactrim or Macrobid is typically prescribed. For recurrent UTIs, a single dose antibiotic may be given after sexual activity or low-dose daily antibiotics taken for 6-12 months. Follow all antibiotic instructions carefully to fully eradicate the bacteria. Always finish the entire course even if symptoms subside sooner.
Foods and Supplements to Aid Antibiotic Treatment
Certain foods and supplements can enhance antibiotic effectiveness and restore urinary tract health:
|Probiotics||Replenish good bacteria killed by antibiotics|
|Cranberry products||Prevent recurrent infection|
|Vitamin C||Boosts immunity and reduces inflammation|
|Zinc||Supports immune function and wound healing|
|D-mannose||Prevents bacterial adhesion|
|Water||Flushes out bacteria and prevents dehydration|
While antibiotics remain the first-line treatment for UTIs, certain foods and supplements can help cure infection and prevent recurrence as natural alternatives or adjuncts to medication. Cranberries, blueberries, pineapple, probiotics, green tea and lemon juice exhibit antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that disrupt infection-causing bacteria like E. coli while soothing UTI symptoms. Maintaining good hydration, urinary hygiene and prompt medical care are also key for resolving UTIs. Incorporating more of these UTI-fighting foods and beverages into your diet can help reduce the frequency, discomfort and complications of urinary tract infections.