Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be very uncomfortable or painful. While most UTIs begin in the lower parts of the urinary tract, an untreated infection can travel up into the kidneys and cause renal dysfunction. In most cases, you will feel frequent urges to urinate — whether you need to or not — and will experience burning with urination. Most infections will require antibiotics, but it may be possible to use natural remedies to help prevent UTIs. There is no known harm in combining these remedies with prescription treatments. Women are much more likely to suffer from urinary tract infections than men, especially if you’re over 40 and/or have reached menopause.
Home remedies. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that drinking cranberry juice can help in relieving and preventing urinary tract infections. Formal clinical trials have not been conducted, however, due to the expense involved, so the claims cannot be proven at this time. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Studies have shown the greatest effect [of cranberry juice] in women who have frequent urinary tract infections. Studies involving children and older adults have had mixed results.” Bear in mind that most juices in your neighborhood grocery store that are labeled as cranberry juice are probably a cocktail and may contain very little actual cranberry juice. Look for real cranberry juice at your local health store, or buy fresh cranberries and puree or juice them yourself.
Symptom management. Drink lots of water throughout the time you’re infected, and make sure to drink no less than the daily recommended amount to avoid recurrence. Avoid irritants such as alcohol, caffeine and citrus juices until the infection is gone. A heating pad may help relieve the persistent urge to urinate. If you don’t have a commercial heating pad, dry rice wrapped in a cloth and heated in the microwave or a hot water bottle works very well and retains heat for quite some time. Wear clean underclothing made of natural fibers to encourage proper air circulation; synthetic fibers may provide exactly the kind of warm, moist environment that will encourage bacterial or fungal growth. Always make sure to consult your doctor for additional treatment measures, however, as untreated UTIs can lead to complications.