How to Cure a UTI Without Antibiotics?

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Written by: Jessica Guht
Jessica Guht
Categorized as UTI
Created on:
Jessica Guht
Categorized as UTI

UTIs are one of the most common types of infections, and antibiotics are their standard treatment. However, some people may want to avoid antibiotics and instead try an alternative treatment, especially those with recurrent infections or a history of antibiotic resistance.

In this guide, we have compiled various alternatives to antibiotics for UTI treatment and what to look for as you try these methods to ensure a more severe infection does not develop.

Table of Contents

What Is a UTI?

A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract, most notably involving the bladder and kidneys. A bladder infection is considered a lower UTI, while a kidney infection is an upper UTI and a much more severe infection.

In general, when someone refers to a UTI, they are referring to a bladder infection.

UTI Symptoms

The symptoms of a UTI include:

  • urinating frequently
  • urgently feeling a need to urinate
  • pain or burning when urinating
  • passing small amounts of urine when you urinate
  • strong-smelling urine
  • cloudy, pink, or red urine

If the UTI spreads to the kidneys, the following symptoms may appear:

What Causes a UTI?

While a UTI can result from any pathogen infecting the urinary tract, including a fungus or virus, the most common culprit is bacteria. E. coli, in particular, is one of the most common bacteria responsible for UTIs, and these bacteria typically enter the body through the urethra and then travel up the urinary tract to the bladder.

There are some risk factors that increase the chances of contracting a UTI, the biggest being gender. Because the female body has a smaller urethra which means bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to the bladder, women are more likely to get a UTI. 

Additional risk factors include:

  • certain birth control types
  • being sexually active
  • menopause
  • blockages in the urinary tract
  • catheter use
  • a suppressed immune system

How Are UTIs Commonly Treated?

The standard treatment for most UTIs is antibiotics, which help to clear bacterial infections.

Some of the most common antibiotics used to treat UTIs include:

Antibiotics begin working right away, and you generally notice symptom relief in just a day or two, although the course of antibiotics is generally longer. 

Can You Treat a UTI Without Antibiotics?

The unpleasant side effects of antibiotics and growing cases of antibiotic resistance can lead many to wonder if an antibiotic is truly needed to treat their UTI. In short, an antibiotic is not always required to cure a UTI, but it certainly makes the infection go away quicker.

Not only that, but there are some cases where an antibiotic is needed, such as cases where bacteria are not being cleared by the body, which is more common in those with a suppressed immune system or those at risk of complications, such as pregnant women. In these cases, an antibiotic is needed to treat the UTI.

Furthermore, men are less likely to get a UTI, which is why, when they do have one, it is considered complicated and requires antibiotics.

However, for most healthy women with uncomplicated lower UTIs, antibiotics may not be needed to treat their UTIs.

When To Start Thinking About Other Treatment Options

Women who experience recurrent UTIs, in particular, may want to look for treatment options other than antibiotics to avoid excessive exposure to these drugs. When this is the case, natural alternatives and home remedies may help to clear up uncomplicated UTIs.

Are There Any Risks of Trying to Cure a UTI Without Antibiotics?

When it comes to curing a UTI without antibiotics, what you are truly doing is aiding your body as it naturally fights the infection. In comparison, an antibiotic directly interferes with the bacteria, either killing them or preventing them from growing.

Without an antibiotic, you always run the risk that your body will not be able to clear the infection completely. If this is the case, the bacteria may continue up the urinary tract until they reach the kidneys. This upper UTI, also known as a kidney infection, is a much more severe infection that increases the risk of sepsis, or full-body infection occurring when the bacteria enter the bloodstream.

Antibiotics provide quick treatment of bacterial infection, which is why, without an antibiotic, the risk for these more serious conditions increases.

That is not to say that anyone who forgoes antibiotics will see these complications arise, with estimates showing that 25-42% of uncomplicated UTIs go away on their own.

However, those with complicated UTIs are recommended to seek medical treatment, and these factors include:

  • bacteria resistant to antibiotics
  • changes in the organs or urinary tract (e.g., reduced urine flow, swollen prostate)
  • conditions affecting the immune system, such as cardiac disease, HIV, or lupus

Furthermore, just because one UTI went away on its own does not mean that another will, as all infections can be different. If your symptoms do not get better over a few days, or if they worsen significantly, talk to your doctor about medical treatment.

How to Cure a UTI Without Antibiotics?

For those looking for an alternative to antibiotics, the following remedies can help your body remove the infection and relieve discomfort. 

OTC Medication

For those looking to avoid antibiotics, OTC medications are a great option that can still offer some relief.

Phenazopyridine is one option that builds up in the bladder and relieves pain when urinating. It offers quick relief, with those who take it noticing a difference in just 20-60 minutes. However, taking this medication for more than three days is not recommended, as it can mask UTI symptoms and prevent you from noticing if your infection is getting worse.

Also, phenazopyridine is a dye medication that turns your urine orange, so don’t be concerned by the change in your urine’s color. However, be aware that it can stain your clothes permanently, so be careful.

Garlic

Garlic has long been used medicinally for various physical ailments, including infections from viruses, fungi, and bacteria. It offers these benefits because of its sulfur-containing compound allicin, which shows strong antibacterial effects against a range of bacteria, including E. coli.

While garlic can be consumed in its raw form, there are also supplements available that provide garlic in an extract or capsule form. However, there is a risk of increased bleeding with garlic supplements, and it can also interact with some medications, including HIV drugs and blood thinners. If you’re considering garlic supplements to treat your UTI, check with your doctor first to ensure it is safe.

D-Mannose

This type of sugar naturally occurs in many foods, including apples, cranberries, and oranges. However, those looking for its UTI benefits will often want to opt for its powder or tablet forms.

While researchers are not entirely sure how D-mannose works, they believe that this sugar helps to keep bacteria from adhering to your urinary tract.

Despite the need for further investigation into its mechanism of action, studies involving D-mannose as a treatment for UTIs have been promising. A 2016 study found that, after 15 days of supplementation, 90% of the women in the study had their infections resolved.

However, since D-mannose is a type of sugar, this treatment option may not be the best choice for those with difficulty regulating their blood sugar levels. It is recommended that these individuals speak to a doctor before trying this treatment.

As for how much D-mannose you need to cure your UTI, while there is not yet enough evidence to determine the ideal D-mannose dose, most research on this treatment has safely tested doses of 1.5 to 2 grams up to 3 times a day.

Cranberry Juice

One of the natural remedies most commonly associated with UTIs is cranberry juice, with research from 2020 showing that it is effective for UTIs. However, it should be noted that it may be more effective for some individuals than others.

The healing benefits of cranberry juice come from the polyphenols in cranberries, which can help prevent E. coli from attaching to the urinary tract. If the bacteria cannot adhere to the urinary tract, they cannot cause infection and are more easily removed from the body when you urinate.

In addition, cranberries are rich in antioxidants, which provide them with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The anti-inflammatory properties, in particular, can help relieve any painful symptoms from your UTI, while its antibacterial properties work against the bacterial infection.

Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found throughout the body, most notably in the gut, oral cavity, and vagina. Each of these areas of the body has a unique and diverse microflora of bacteria, and having enough good bacteria is crucial for managing the ill effects of any harmful bacteria.

2018 research has shown that probiotics in the Lactobacillus group may be able to treat UTIs through various mechanisms. One way is by preventing harmful bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract, which then allows urine to flush the bacteria out of the body.

Additionally, probiotics help lower urine’s pH, creating conditions that are not as favorable for bacteria and making it harder for them to survive.

Some foods that contain probiotics include dairy and fermented foods such as:

  • yogurts
  • some cheeses
  • kefir
  • sauerkraut

Probiotics are also available as supplements.

What Can You Do to Ease UTI Pain?

While your body is working on removing the infection, it’s common to experience pain as the bacteria are cleared out. Still, no one wants to endure this pain for longer than necessary, and thankfully, there are some tips you can implement to ease this pain.

OTC Pain Reliever

The first step for easing pain from a UTI is using an OTC pain reliever such as ibuprofen. This can help reduce inflammation, which results when the bacteria embed themselves in your urinary tract. Not only can OTC pain relievers help relieve general discomfort, but they can also make urinating less painful. This is important because urinating whenever the need arises is crucial for helping to clear out your urinary tract of bacteria.

Heat Therapy

For those with UTI pain, heat therapy can help to ease the pain and make your day more bearable as your body fights the infection.

Try applying a heating pad to your lower abdomen or back whenever you feel pain. The heat will help relax your muscles and ease any discomfort. While it’s not recommended to use a heating pad while you sleep, using it before bed can help to relax your muscles and reduce your pain so that you can fall asleep easier.

Yet another option is to take a bath, and adding Epsom salts may boost the benefits. Epsom salts contain magnesium and sulfate, which are believed to help provide pain relief. Enjoying them while you submerge yourself in hot water can further ease your pain as the warmth relaxes your muscles.

What Can You Do to Prevent Future UTIs?

While your primary concern may be getting rid of a current UTI, you are also probably wondering what you can do to ensure you don’t find yourself in this situation again. The good news is that, to help prevent a UTI, you only need to modify a few habits.

Drink Up

Drinking water helps when you have a UTI, and it also helps to prevent them. 

When you are consistent with drinking enough water each day, you urinate more often, which then helps to clear bacteria from your urinary tract before they can cause an infection. It may seem frustrating to need to visit the bathroom more often, but it’s definitely preferable to a UTI.

Watch Your Wiping

For women, in particular, the direction you wipe after passing a bowel movement is critical to prevent UTIs. This is because E. coli, the bacteria most commonly causing UTIs, is often found around the anus. So, if you wipe from back to front, you increase the risk of spreading this bacteria to your urethra.

To prevent UTIs, make sure to always wipe from front to back.

Have Sex Safely

Being sexually active is a risk factor for UTIs because the act of sex offers a way to introduce bacteria to your urinary tract. But, there are precautions you can take to limit the risk.

First, always urinate after sex, as this helps to flush out any bacteria that might have made their way into the urethra.

Additionally, steer clear of certain birth control methods, such as spermicide-treated condoms, unlubricated condoms, and diaphragms, as these forms of birth control have been related to higher instances of UTIs.

When to See a Doctor?

If you opt for natural remedies for a UTI, it’s essential to remain vigilant about your symptoms and their intensity. Even if you start with a mild infection, it can quickly worsen and spread to other parts of your body.

If you notice your symptoms persisting at the same intensity after a few days, or they worsen at any time, seek medical guidance immediately.

The best tip is to see your doctor as soon as you suspect a UTI, but let them know that you are interested in herbal remedies instead of antibiotics. This way, your doctor can let you know what to monitor for.

A convenient option is meeting with an online doctor using DrHouse, which allows you to have this discussion without having to leave your house (and your heating pad).

FAQs

How Long Does It Take for a UTI to Go Away Without Antibiotics?

Without antibiotics, it usually takes a UTI about a week to go away and for symptoms to subside.

Can You Flush Out a UTI Without Antibiotics?

Yes, it is possible to flush out the bacteria causing a UTI without antibiotics. Natural remedies such as cranberry products, D-mannose, and probiotics keep bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract, allowing urine to flush them out.

How Can I Get Rid of a UTI Without Going to the Doctor?

For those looking to avoid the doctor, there are natural remedies available as treatment options for a UTI. Another option is speaking to an online doctor using DrHouse, which allows you to gain medical advice without having to leave your house.

What Is the Strongest Natural Antibiotic for a UTI?

Garlic is a powerful natural antibacterial substance with abilities that can be boosted when taken in an extract form. But beware, bad breath may accompany this treatment.

Is It Possible to Recover From UTIs Without Taking Antibiotics?

It is possible to recover from a UTI without taking antibiotics, with reports citing that 25-42% of uncomplicated UTIs resolve on their own. Still, complicated UTIs require antibiotic treatment.

How Do You Cure a Urine Infection Without Antibiotics?

Various natural remedies can help your body fight the infection by keeping the bacteria from attaching to your urinary tract, relieving pain, and changing urine’s pH levels to create an unideal environment for bacteria.

Key Takeaways

UTIs are common infections, with their standard treatment being antibiotics. However, there are many reasons why someone may want to avoid antibiotics, especially for those who experience recurrent UTIs and want to avoid excessive exposure.

Various non-antibiotic remedies are available, including OTC medications, cranberry products, D-mannose, and garlic. There are also ways to relieve pain, such as using a heating pad and drinking lots of water.

Overall, those who choose to avoid antibiotics must monitor their body closely because it’s possible that their treatments do not work, and the infection will become more severe. An online doctor can help you know what to look for and is always available to provide medical guidance should your symptoms worsen.

Sources:

  • Bergamin, P., & Kiosoglous, A. (2017). Non-surgical management of recurrent urinary tract infections in women. Translational Andrology And Urology, 6(S2), S142-S152. doi: https://doi.org/10.21037/tau.2017.06.09 
  • Klimberg, I., Shockey, G., Ellison, H., Fuller-Jonap, F., Colgan, R., Song, J., Keating, K., & Cyrus, P. (2005). Time to symptom relief for uncomplicated urinary tract infection treated with extended-release ciprofloxacin: a prospective, open-label, uncontrolled primary care study. Current medical research and opinion, 21(8), 1241–1250. https://doi.org/10.1185/030079905×56358 
  • Bayan, L., Koulivand, P. H., & Gorji, A. (2014). Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 4(1), 1–14.
  • Garlic. (2021). In Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed®). National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
  • Domenici, L., Monti, M., Bracchi, C., Giorgini, M., Colagiovanni, V., Muzii, L., & Benedetti Panici, P. (2016). D-mannose: a promising support for acute urinary tract infections in women. A pilot study. European review for medical and pharmacological sciences, 20(13), 2920–2925.
  • González de Llano, D., Moreno-Arribas, M., & Bartolomé, B. (2020). Cranberry Polyphenols and Prevention against Urinary Tract Infections: Relevant Considerations. Molecules, 25(15), 3523. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25153523 
  • Nemzer, B., Al-Taher, F., Yashin, A., Revelsky, I., & Yashin, Y. (2022). Cranberry: Chemical Composition, Antioxidant Activity and Impact on Human Health: Overview. Molecules, 27(5), 1503. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27051503 
  • González de Llano, D., Moreno-Arribas, M., & Bartolomé, B. (2020). Cranberry Polyphenols and Prevention against Urinary Tract Infections: Relevant Considerations. Molecules, 25(15), 3523. doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25153523 
  • Akgul, T., & Karakan, T. (2018). The role of probiotics in women with recurrent urinary tract infections. Türk Üroloji Dergisi/Turkish Journal Of Urology, 44(5), 377-383. doi: https://doi.org/10.5152/tud.2018.48742 
  • Gupta, V., Nag, D., & Garg, P. (2017). Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections in Women: How Promising is the Use of Probiotics?. Indian Journal Of Medical Microbiology, 35(3), 347-354. doi: https://doi.org/10.4103/ijmm.ijmm_16_292 

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