The pain and burning due to a urinary tract infection (UTI) can be very uncomfortable and annoying. Urinary tract infection is the second most common infection after respiratory infection. It is estimated that each year, 8 to 10 million people in the United States get a urinary tract infection. Women are more likely to develop UTI than men; although men over 50 often get them because of an enlarged prostate. Anything that interferes with urine flow can contribute to an infection. The longer urine stays in your urinary tract, the more time bacteria will have to get a grip and multiply.
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Blood in the urine (hematuria) or cloudy, strong-smelling urine
- Bacteria in the urine (bacteriuria)
If you think you have a UTI, see your doctor. Your doctor can analyze your urine sample to make sure that you really have a UTI and can prescribe antibiotics. Many antibiotics have unpleasant side effects, which may include kidney damage.
These natural strategies may help heal your UTI or prevent you from getting one in the future:
Stock up on cranberry juice: This tart may be a delicious way to keep UTI from cramping your style. Some doctors think cranberries slow the growth of bacteria by making your urine more acidic. Other studies show that cranberries keep bacteria from clinging to your urinary tract. The bacteria just slip right through and out of your body.
However it works, to prevent UTI, you may want to add about 3 ounces of cranberry juice to your diet every day. One study found that the protective effects of cranberry juice appeared only after four to eight weeks. For the most protection, drink cranberry juice regularly.
Drink plenty of water: Most doctors agree that water can help wash bacteria out of your body. Drink at least six to eight glasses of water every day. If your urine is pale yellow, you are not getting enough water. A dark color means you need to visit the water fountain or sip it through your bottle, a little more often.
Take some Vitamin C: Like cranberry juice, vitamin C supplements may make your urine more acidic, thus making it more difficult for bacteria to grow.
Help yourself to herbs: Some herbs, like goldenrod and parsley can increase your urine flow, making you less likely to get a UTI. You can find them at your local health food store, or look for fresh parsley in your grocery store.
The next time you find some decorative parsley on your plate, don’t just toss it aside. Try eating it for an extra bit of urinary protection. But beware of staying outdoors too long afterward. Parsley can increase your sensitivity to the sun.
Another herb, bearberry, has an antiseptic effect, so it neutralizes bacteria before bacteria can...
do its dirty work. Bearberry was used effectively for years to battle UTI before sulfa drugs and antibiotics came along. Unfortunately, this herb can be toxic. If you have kidney disease, consult your doctor before trying any herb for UTI.
Be careful how you wipe: If you are a woman, don’t wipe from back to front. You may drag bacteria from your anus toward your urethra, giving germs a chance to set off an infection.
Don’t fight the urge: Go to the bathroom whenever you feel the urge, and empty your bladder completely each time. You may be tempted to resist the urge to urinate, if you are too busy, or you think it’s going to be painful. Just remember the longer urine sits in your bladder, the more likely it is to stagnate and allow bacteria to grow.
Urinate before and after sex: Keep the area around the opening as clean as possible. Make sure your genital area and your partner’s are clean before intercourse to reduce the risk of a bacterial infection.
Skip the douches and sprays: If your skin is sensitive, keep powders, soaps, cream bath oils and gels, and other hygiene products away from your genital area. Scented douches and feminine hygiene sprays may smell pretty, but they can also irritate urethra.
Stop smoking: In case you need another reason to ditch your cigarettes, smoking increases your risk for bladder infections.
And be on the lookout for a vaccine against this common infection. Although still experimental, researchers hope it will prevent E. coli bacteria from attaching to the sides of your urinary tract and causing an infection.
Take extra precautions: A recent study discounted many of the old recommendations for preventing UTI, if you are prone to these infections, taking extra precautions can’t hurt. Try wearing cotton panties instead nylon, avoiding tight pants, wearing thigh high stockings rather than pantyhose, and avoiding tampons or changing them often if you do use them.
If you end up with a bladder infection despite your best efforts, take care of it right away. That means seeing your doctor. Putting off treatment could allow the bacteria to travel to your kidneys or into your blood stream, causing a more serious infection. Frequent, painful urination, as well as fever, lower back pain, chills, nausea, and confusion, are symptoms of a kidney infection. An untreated kidney infection can cause permanent kidney damage.