Treating a UTI at home

Treating your own urinary tract infection at home requires an understanding of what the problem is. Most acute UTIs are caused by E. coli, but that leaves 10-20 per cent that are not caused by this bacteria, which means that some treatments will work better than others, depending on the type of infection you have.

Understanding biofilms in recurrent UTIs

If you get frequent UTIs, you need to understand biofilms and educate yourself on how they are contributing to recurrent UTIs. If you do not experience frequent UTIs, you don’t need to do a more advanced antibiotic regime or biofilm treatment.

About E. coli biofilms

Safety when treating UTIs at home

While we think that you can treat many UTIs at home, if at any stage you have severe pain, bleeding, fever, kidney pain, or other intolerable symptoms, you must go to the doctor or hospital to be treated immediately with antibiotics. You can cause real damage to the organs that keep you alive by letting them suffer with an infection too long.

If your immune system isn’t up to scratch (i.e. if your body needs a push to get better), you need to be taking the more hardcore route, then working on your immunity and urinary tract when you don’t have an infection, as a preventative. Damaging your urinary system is a recipe for more and more infections, because scar tissue provides a better home for bad germs to fester. Got it?

Safety lecture over, let’s get started.

First you have to make sure you have an uncomplicated urinary tract infection

  • Burning, stinging pain when you urinate
  • May appear suddenly or come on over the course of the day
  • Feeling like you need to urinate, and then you go to the toilet, and nothing much comes out
  • Another sign of infection is cloudy urine – white blood cells (pus) are what your body uses to fight infections, so cloudy urine means there is increased immune-system action in your urinary tract

Worse versions of a classic uncomplicated UTI are lower abdominal pain, dark, strong-smelling urine, fever, and progression to the kidneys which you’ll definitely feel, which is when it starts getting complicated. Unless you really know what you’re doing, see your doctor about these symptoms because it can get real serious real quick.

If you are not used to UTIs, see your doctor to make sure that’s what it is. If you get recurrent UTIs, you may need a more advanced drug treatment, which can take a year to fully clear you of chronic UTIs.

What else could I have?

You need to rule out chlamydia, gonorrhoea or trichomonas, or Mycoplasma genitalium so make sure you get tested if your UTI doesn’t resolve completely after your treatment. These sexually transmitted infections can cause the same symptoms.

You could also have what’s known as non-specific urethritis, which feels like a UTI, but can actually be chronic, undetectable UTI. Alternatively this type of urethral irritation may be caused by printed toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc – something you are reacting to, not an infection.

If you get tested, there will be no infection detected, but you must make sure you are being tested with the correct tools and not dismissed as being crazy. Check the things that are touching your vagina, change them to hypoallergenic, and see what happens, while getting PCR testing for urinary pathogens.

How do I make a UTI go away?

1. Keep your system flushed

Interestingly, UTI bacteria actually clings on harder when you try to wash it away, so ‘washing away the bacteria’ really isn’t a thing. In fact, it makes them stronger. That’s why we have to keep the system flushed with liquid and use other strategies.

Water by itself won’t help. It will start to help in that sense once the bacteria are either forced to unlatch from your poor urethra, or are killed. But really, it just eases the burn while we do our other strategies. Keep drinking.

2. Do urinary alkalisers work?

They work a bit to take the sting out of the uric acid in your urine hitting the raw, inflamed walls of your urethra. Unfortunately, they do not eliminate your problem and in fact might make it worse by making the area uninhabitable by the good bacteria that normally live in there. We discuss urinary alkalisers here, including a simple recipe using bicarb if you must. No need to spend money on urinary alkalisers!

3. Cranberry

Cranberry does not mean the drink you buy at the supermarket. It means a no-added-sugar, pure form of the juice or high-dose tablets. The best way to take cranberry is to take high-dose tablets, and lots of of them. Read about cranberry for UTIs. 

There are a handful of other herbs used to treat UTIs, including goldenrod and bearberry. They might be a better option than cranberry, or another herb used in conjunction.

4. Probiotics

You need more good germs to fight off the bad germs, so take a high-quality probiotic supplement, particularly if you take antibiotics, or have taken them in the past year, or if you have a long history of lots of antibiotics. Make sure it is a women’s probiotic. You can apply the probiotics around your vulva and take them internally – they go through your system (not your urinary system, but they end up in the vagina and urethra).

5. D-Mannose

If you can get your hands on some of this from a health food store, get it! The bacteria like it, so attach themselves to it, and then they get urinated out. Read about D-Mannose here. 

6. Reflexology

You can do the bladder and ureters points on your feet (and possibly kidneys) to get rid of a urinary tract infection at home. This actually works, weirdly enough, but you need to be firm, persistent, and cover all the relevant areas. Solve your own acute UTI at home with reflexology. 

7. Hiprex (methanamine)

Hiprex is the brand name for a substance known as methanamine. This is a urinary treatment that works by turning into formaldehyde in your bladder, thus killing off the bacteria as it flows through your urinary tract. Hiprex is not a cure for an acute UTI, but can help manage symptoms over the longer term.

8. Vitamin C

Add at least 100mg of vitamin C to your diet every day. This has been shown to have a bacteriostatic effect and was much more effective at preventing recurrent UTIs than doing nothing at all. While vitamin C isn’t going to cure you, it can help keep symptoms at bay while you use other treatments.

Vitamin C doesn’t make your urine more acidic, but actually stops it from being so alkaline (thus making it appear to become more acidic). This process involves nitrates-reducing bacteria. You remove their source of nitrate and you kill them. If you give vitamin C to a person without a UTI, their urinary pH doesn’t change.

This is interesting because there aren’t really that many ways to adjust your urinary pH – your body does that via your kidneys. Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, but citric acid – from, say, orange juice – is actually a slight urinary alkaliser. So just drinking orange juice won’t work as well! Pure ascorbic acid, vitamin C. (And don’t eat too much – more than two grams and you risk diarrhoea, since vitamin C draws water to the bowel.)

 

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.