Researchers believe there is a strong relationship between UTIs and coffee consumption. While the beverage does not cause infection directly, it can worsen symptoms.
This article explains the relationship between coffee and UTIs, how caffeine affects the bladder, and what you should do if you believe you have a urinary tract infection.
Table of Contents
- Can Coffee Cause a UTI?
- Can Coffee Make a UTI Worse?
- How Does Caffeine Affect Your Bladder?
- So Should You Avoid Drinking Coffee With a UTI?
- What Else Should You Avoid Drinking With a UTI?
- What to Do if You Have a UTI?
- How Can DrHouse Help You?
- Key Takeaways
Can Coffee Cause a UTI?
Coffee and other caffeinated drinks cannot cause UTIs directly. However, they can irritate the bladder’s lining, making it more susceptible to infection.
UTIs occur when bacteria travel from the anus or the skin up the urethra – the small tube in your genitals where pee comes out. When they start to multiply, they damage the surrounding tissue, causing inflammation and immune response. The body then attempts to get rid of the infection by making you feel like you need to pee all the time.
Researchers believe coffee irritates the urinary tract by causing urine salt levels to increase. These salts then disrupt the bladder’s lining, making it easier for harmful urinary tract bacteria to cause infection. Therefore, professionals often recommend lowering your caffeine intake if you have a UTI.
Can Coffee Make a UTI Worse?
Some evidence suggests that once you have a UTI, drinking coffee may make it worse. For instance, studies show that high caffeine intake increases the need to urinate. It may also worsen lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in some at-risk populations, including men.
How Does Caffeine Affect Your Bladder?
Caffeine is a diuretic which means that it helps your body eliminate water. If you are healthy, you won’t usually notice this effect. However, if you have a UTI or other bladder issues, you may see an increase in the frequency you need to go to the bathroom.
Caffeine affects the bladder in three ways.
First, it is a diuretic. When you consume caffeine, it increases the rate of water loss in your body. This process can then increase the concentration of salts in your urine, as described above. It also increases your urgency to pass liquid, potentially leading to dehydration.
Second, caffeine directly affects the bladder’s smooth muscle. The substance may cause nervous system changes, altering how it operates and potentially leading to involuntary bladder contractions. Therefore, drinking coffee while you have a UTI may increase the need to pee.
Lastly, caffeine may also directly irritate the muscle, increasing the risk of incontinence. People with pre-existing bladder weakness may notice they can’t wait to find a bathroom.
Scientists first isolated caffeine in 1820. The drug has a direct effect on your brain and central nervous system. It is known for giving some people the “jitters,” a state of temporary anxiety. It can also cause indigestion, headaches, irritability, and nervousness.
So Should You Avoid Drinking Coffee With a UTI?
Most scientific publications recommend avoiding drinking coffee if you have a UTI. For example, a review of studies in the medical literature suggests that cutting caffeine consumption reduces LUTS.
Most people cut caffeine consumption gradually, perhaps by half a cup of coffee per day to reduce withdrawal symptoms. However, you should eliminate your consumption if you have a UTI.
You can do this by:
- Consuming caffeine-free hot beverages, such as herbal teas
- Drinking caffeine-free colas, coffees, and teas
- Drinking other types of drink more often, such as water and milk, to keep you hydrated
- Reducing your consumption of cacao products (since these also contain chemicals similar to caffeine)
What Else Should You Avoid Drinking With a UTI?
If you have a UTI, avoid all caffeine-containing drinks or foods, as discussed above.
Caffeine is most abundant in espresso, brewed coffee, and energy drinks. However, you can also find it in high concentrations in green tea, oolong, and regular black tea. Decaffeinated drinks still contain some caffeine, so you should avoid them too.
You should also avoid drinking alcohol if you have a UTI. Wine, beer, and spirits can increase the acidity of your urine and make your symptoms worse.
Furthermore, alcohol may interact with antibiotics your doctor prescribed for your UTI. If you drink while taking sulfamethoxazole, metronidazole, or tinidazole, you may experience a severe reaction, such as flushing, vomiting, headache, nausea, or rapid heart rate. (Keep in mind that some medications and mouthwashes contain alcohol, so you will need to avoid these, too).
Dark chocolate also contains caffeine. Therefore, you should avoid drinking cacao or any cacao-containing products.
What to Do if You Have a UTI?
The first step is to consult your physician. They will then perform a diagnosis.
Some doctors simply listen to you explain your symptoms and then prescribe antibiotics. However, others may ask for a urine sample. Lab analysis can reveal what type of bacteria is causing the infection and which antibiotics you need.
If you have recurrent UTIs, physicians may also use a scope to look inside the bladder. Inspection can provide insights into why you get infections.
The next step is treatment. UTIs don’t usually go away on their own, so doctors regularly prescribe antibiotics. The most popular medications are ceftriaxone, cephalexin, nitrofurantoin, fosfomycin, trimethoprim, and sulfamethoxazole. Depending on your doctor’s recommendation, you should take antibiotics once or twice a day for three to seven days.
If your UTI is more serious, physicians may recommend alternative treatments. Patients with complications, such as kidney infections or sepsis, may require intravenous antibiotics in the hospital.
In addition to antibiotics, you can also speed your recovery by:
- Drinking water more often (and avoiding any caffeinated products or beverages)
- Consuming cranberry juice, fruit, or jam
- Refraining from sexual intercourse until you complete your course of antibiotics
- Getting plenty of rest
Most patients with complicated UTIs taking antibiotics start to feel better after a day or two.
How Can DrHouse Help You?
If you think you may have a UTI, don’t wait for it to get worse. DrHouse can help you understand your symptoms and give you the advice you need to make an informed decision.
Our team of experienced doctors is available 24/7 to answer any questions about UTIs or other related illnesses. Our online clinicians can also provide prescriptions and treatment plans.
All you need to do is start an on-demand visit with one of our board-certified clinicians and within 15 minutes, you can have a diagnosis, prescriptions (if necessary), and treatment plan.
We’re here to help you get back on your feet quickly and safely. Don’t wait any longer – start an online visit with DrHouse today!
- Coffee can make it more likely you will contract a UTI and make symptoms worse.
- You should avoid caffeine-containing food and drink until your UTI symptoms go away
- If you get recurrent UTIs, you may want to eliminate caffeine from your diet completely
- If you have a UTI, you should go to your physician immediately for diagnosis and treatment
- Urinary Tract Infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/uti.html
- Belyayeva M, Jeong JM. Acute Pyelonephritis. [Updated 2022 Sep 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519537/
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- Le Berre M, Presse N, Morin M, Larouche M, Campeau L, Hu YX, Reid I, Dumoulin C. What do we really know about the role of caffeine on urinary tract symptoms? A scoping review on caffeine consumption and lower urinary tract symptoms in adults. Neurourol Urodyn. 2020 Jun;39(5):1217-1233. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1002/nau.24344
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- Maserejian NN, Wager CG, Giovannucci EL, Curto TM, McVary KT, McKinlay JB. Intake of caffeinated, carbonated, or citrus beverage types and development of lower urinary tract symptoms in men and women. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Jun 15;177(12):1399-410. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1093/aje/kws411.
- Miller JM, Garcia CE, Hortsch SB, Guo Y, Schimpf MO. Does Instruction to Eliminate Coffee, Tea, Alcohol, Carbonated, and Artificially Sweetened Beverages Improve Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms?: A Prospective Trial. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2016 Jan-Feb;43(1):69-79. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1097/WON.0000000000000197.
- Le Berre M, Presse N, Morin M, Larouche M, Campeau L, Hu YX, Reid I, Dumoulin C. What do we really know about the role of caffeine on urinary tract symptoms? A scoping review on caffeine consumption and lower urinary tract symptoms in adults. Neurourol Urodyn. 2020 Jun;39(5):1217-1233. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1002/nau.24344.