How to treat a UTI at home

Reader's Digest Editors

For women, that burning sensation when you urinate usually means one thing—a urinary tract infection (UTI), here are some ways you can treat it at home

One in five women suffer at least one such infection—commonly known as cystitis—at least once a year; men suffer UTIs less frequently. If you’re prescribed antibiotics, be sure to finish the course. Meanwhile, drink cranberry juice—it really works—and follow this advice to shorten the infection and ease the pain.

 

Drink up

• At the first sign of infection, mix a cold, frothy drink with bicarbonate of soda. Dissolve 1⁄4 teaspoon of bicarb in 125ml (4fl oz) water. Drink 2 glasses of plain water, then the mixed drink.The bicarb makes the urine less acidic, which reduces the stinging or burning sensation when you pee.

• Throughout the day, drink a glass of water every hour or so.When you flood your urinary tract with water, you flush out bacteria. Also, the more water you drink, the more you dilute your urine, so it’s less irritating.

• It’s not an old wives’ tale: scientific research has shown that cranberry juice really does help women to get rid of urinary tract infections faster. It also helps to prevent them occurring in the first place.There’s nothing in the juice to stop bacteria from multiplying, but it contains a chemical that prevents bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract. And, if bacteria don’t stick, they are easily flushed away by your urine. Drink a 300ml (1⁄2 pint) glass every day, both as a way to prevent UTIs and to treat them.

• Avoid citrus drinks, tomato juice, coffee and alcohol.All of these drinks may make urination more painful.

 

Try these infection-busting teas

• Make a cup of garlic tea. It sounds pretty disgusting, but if you’re suffering cystitis pain, you’ll try anything. Garlic contains powerful bacteria-killing compounds that make it ideal for battling the bugs that cause UTIs. Peel a couple of fresh garlic cloves, mash them well, then drop them in warm water. Let them steep for five minutes.

• To help your immune system fight the infection—and boost your fluid intake at the same time—make echinacea tea using tea bags or by steeping 2 teaspoons of the raw root in hot water. Drink 3 cups of tea a day.

• Make a tea of lovage (a member of the carrot family) by pouring a cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of the minced, dried root. Steep for 10 minutes, then strain and drink. This garden herb contains components with antiinflammatory and bacteria-killing powers. It’s also a diuretic, which helps to flush out the system.

• Try drinking nettle tea. Nettle is a diuretic. It will make you urinate more, which will help to flush bacteria out of your system. Use a teaspoon of the dried herb to a cup of hot water. Drink 1 cup a day.

 

Herbal antiseptics

• When the urine is alkaline, as happens in strict vegetarians, the herb uva ursi is particularly recommended. Others can also use the remedy, but should, temporarily, follow a strict diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables and very little meat. Also called bearberry (because bears like its red berries) uva ursi is a short, woody shrub whose leaves have been used for hundreds of years to treat urinary tract infections because of their antiseptic properties. Take one or two 100-200mg capsules three times a day at mealtimes. Stop taking this herb when you feel well again, and do not take it for longer than a week, as long term high doses can cause liver damage. If you’re taking uva ursi, don’t also take vitamin C; it will make your urine more acidic and counteract the beneficial effects of the herb.

• Goldenseal is a natural weapon against the E. coli bacteria, the culprit behind so many cases of UTIs. It not only fights bacteria, but also stimulates your immune system and helps to heal inflammation in the urinary tract.Take 500mg to 1000mg of goldenseal-root extract once a day for up to a week.

 

The power of prevention

• The most important thing you can do is to urinate regularly—at least every 4 hours—and ensure the bladder is truly empty each time: when you think you’ve finished,wait (women should stand up) then try a second time.

• Vitamin C and bioflavonoids protect your bladder from clinging bacteria.Take up to 1000mg of vitamin C and up to 600mg of bioflavonoids a day.

• If you use spermicides or a ‘cap’ (diaphragm), consider another type of birth control. These can contribute to UTIs by altering the bacteria in the vagina, which can then get into the urethra. Diaphragms are also mechanically irritating.

• Use gentle unperfumed soaps and avoid scented bath oils and bubble baths.

• Avoid certain foods including asparagus, spinach, beetroot, raw carrots, tomatoes, citrus fruits, strawberries, red meat and milk—all of which can aggravate cystitis.

• Be careful to keep the genital and anal area clean. Always wash before you make love and go to the toilet afterwards. Urine will flush away any bacteria that has been introduced into the urethra during intercourse.

• After using the toilet, always wipe from front to back to avoid the transmission of bacteria to the urinary tract.

• When underwear is warm and damp, it’s an ideal breeding place for bacteria. Instead of synthetic fibres, wear loose-fitting cotton underwear that ‘breathes’, and avoid nylon tights and tight trousers.

• For the same reason, don’t hang about in a wet, tight-fitting bathing suit. Change into dry clothes as soon as possible after you’ve been for a swim.

• A recent Finnish study found that women who frequently eat cheese and yoghurt have fewer UTIs, possibly because these foods contain beneficial bacteria that help keep troublesome bacteria in check. Eat two or three pots of bioyoghurt, which contains ‘friendly’ bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus, each day. This is an especially useful tip if you are taking antibiotics, which not only kill harmful germs but bump off the good bacteria, too.