It is better to prevent UTI naturally rather than treat it later with antibiotics. Who could argue? However, there are plenty of suggestions out there that do not withstand a fact-check. We will look at three categories of suggestions on how to prevent UTI naturally:
- Clinically proven myths
- Clinically proven facts & Alternative therapies with inconclusive results
Prevent UTI Naturally: Myths
Although several health habits and behaviors are commonly cited in medical and nursing textbooks as potential causes of urinary tract infection (UTI) in women, few have been studied in a systematic fashion. Let’s shine the light on the myths of natural UTI prevention.
Many women believe that taking cranberry pills or drinking cranberry juice is a well-established folk remedy. However, there has been more research, recently, on the lack of effectiveness of cranberry and the lack of scientific rigor when a study claimed a success.
As one of the researchers puts it “… it is not possible to infer any benefit from cranberry capsules in the prevention of UTI even among high-risk individuals.”
Proponents of cranberry products argue that PAC-A found in cranberry supplements helps prevent UTI naturally by decreasing ability of E.coli bacteria stick to the bladder walls.
However, cranberry pills manufacturers are inconsistent in how much beneficial PAC-A they guarantee to be available in each pill upon consumption. The fact is, PAC-A is temperature and light sensitive substance and by the time you are taking a cranberry pill, there might not be much left.
Besides, if you drink cranberry juice instead of taking cranberry pills, you are consuming a lot of sugar, which is not good for you.
At the same time, there is a new generation of cranberry supplements such as Ellura. It’s a very costly alternative, however, each capsule really contains 36 mg of PACs.
Our Verdict: skip the juice and drug store pills, save on supplements that are clinically proven to contain at least 36 mg of PAC per pill to prevent UTI naturally.
Many women use vitamin C to prevent UTIs, but only two trials, with contradictory results, have been reported.
In one study, patients took 500 mg of ascorbic acid four times daily. Researchers did not find any clinical benefit since UTI was as common in the intervention group, as it was in the control.
Another non-randomized trial found that taking 100 mg of the ascorbic acid reduced rate of UTI recurrence in pregnant women. This study, however, has been criticized for low intervention dose (unlikely to make a difference). In addition, it was unclear if a urine culture was done when the women had symptoms of a UTI.
At the same time, taking too much of ascorbic acid for prolonged periods of time could make you more prone to form kidney stones.
Our Verdict: Eat more fresh berries and drink water with lemon juice instead. Not only fresh fruits and berries full of vitamin C but also contain flavonoids that have antibacterial effects.
Pee after sex?
Peeing after sex is, theoretically, a good idea. A urine stream, supposedly, flushes out bacteria which might have been introduced in your urethra opening during sex, therefore peeing mechanically prevents UTI. Is this true?
According to a clinical review, “lack evidence for their efficacy but are unlikely to be harmful”. Meaning, the research community doesn’t know for sure but you might as well do it anyways.
However, their peers disagree: “Women, who usually urinated within 15 min of intercourse, had a lower likelihood of developing a UTI than women who did not urinate afterward.”
There are a couple of things to consider about this method:
- You have to pee as soon as possible, E. coli grow quickly. After the bacteria enter your bladder, peeing will not help. Therefore, if you are having a “sex marathon”, by the time you get to the bathroom it might be already too late.
- You have to produce a powerful stream of urine (think, your brother’s water gun, rather than a dripping faucet) in order to flush out the germs. So if you did not drink enough water before sex or sweated it out during sex, it might not be an effective method.
Our Verdict: No definitive scientific evidence that urinating after sex really works but common sense suggests it could be a good thing to try. Therefore, pee if you can.
“I went shopping to prevent UTI naturally”, what a great excuse to buy yourself more underwear. However, heartless science suggests that “…the use of other tight underwear or clothes has not been demonstrated to correlate with higher rates of UTI”.
At the same time, consider this, thongs fit right in between your butt cheeks and if you are moving around, that the piece of fabric will move too, dragging the germs toward your vagina. UTI, actually, starts with bacteria invading your vagina and later making their way toward the urethra.
Our Verdict: This recommendation has not been scientifically proved, but it does make sense if you think about it. Shopping always makes sense 🙂
“Our search revealed little evidence to support the avoidance of bubble baths to prevent urinary tract infections”, suggests a research that compared children who take baths versus children who do not.
However, do take a shower and ask your partner to do the same. Several studies showed that washing genitals before and after sex could decrease chances of a UTI. Although, some studies suggest the opposite.
I, personally, add couple more drops of pure tea tree oil, rosemary, and lavender to my liquid soaps. Tea tree oil is potent against E. coli and a combination of essential oils is even more effective. I use it instead of soap in hopes to prevent UTI naturally and because it smells really nice.
Our Verdict: Clean is sexy, but don’t be over-zealous since the scientific jury is still out.
Prevent UTI Naturally: Facts
Since supplement companies do not tend to sponsor clinical research, most of the undeniable evidence supports antibiotics as the only clinically proven way to prevent UTIs. Next, to it, behavioral studies that compare hygiene habits, diet, and sexual preferences.
“Although several individual habits could have only small proven associations with UTI, several of these behaviors together might substantially increase the risk of initial or recurring UTI,” as suggested by a scientific literature reviewer. Therefore, do not put all eggs in one basket, or, in other words, try all options.
Vaginal pH is acidic. Blood is alkaline. Estrogen levels are the lowest before, during and after periods. All these factors predispose you to an altered vaginal flora. Altered vaginal flora means fewer lactobacilli (beneficial vaginal bacteria) and more opportunistic bacteria, such as E. coli and G. vaginalis. Both types are implicated in being a part of recurrent UTI cycle.
And indeed, several studies showed a mild correlation between using tampons and more frequent UTIs.
Our Verdict: Skip tampons, especially if you are also prone to BV and a yeast infection.
Again, there are dozens of studies that arrived at the opposite conclusions.
However, many urologists would agree that drinking special probiotics (such as RepHresh Pro-B) as well as adding more probiotics to your diet will help you to create a natural defense against UTIs by supporting your healthy vaginal flora. You can even put probiotics directly in your vagina. This, in turn, could prevent UTI naturally.
Our verdict: Do it, unless you are suffering from an immunosuppressing disease, the risk of even mild side-effects is low.
Eat your veggies
Your mom was right, you have to eat that broccoli. And many, many, many other veggies. In fact, a variety is a key. In order to support your healthy bacteria, you have to consume different types of fiber. Not only a diet rich in veggies is great at keeping your urine pH healthy but it also introduces a bunch of phytoncides that on their own could be a potent antibacterial.
Our Verdict: A healthy diet is good for you for so many reasons, so put together a healthier shopping list next time.
Herbal teas and supplements have a variety of functions:
- Could reduce bladder inflammation
- Serve as an antimicrobial
- Promote urine flow
Read our comprehensive review of herbal medicine for UTI here.
Our Verdict: Together with the naturopathic community, we stand behind herbal remedies for UTI prevention.
Who hasn’t yet heard about D-Mannose?
Read the posts above along with links to a variety of clinical trials that show it’s potency to prevent UTI naturally.
Our Verdict: Definitely try it (check side-effects first).
Heal your vagina
If you have a vagina, make sure it’s healthy (if you have a prostate, get that checked). If you are prone to UTIs after sex, ask for a vaginal culture test to see what’s going on there. I bet you, they’ll find E.coli and other nasties. To prevent UTI naturally, you must first heal your BV, a yeast infection, and E.coli infestation.
Our verdict: You can’t move on past recurrent UTIs if you do not pay attention to your vaginal health.
Persistent infections form bacterial biofilms. Educate yourself and discuss with your naturopathic doctor how to proceed.
Our Verdict: Bacterial biofilms is an unfortunate reality that our current official UTI prevention and treatment protocols do not address. Check with a naturopathic doctor about the best way to proceed.
And, if you’d like an action plan, read about 8 Holistic Strategies to Prevent UTI.