The urinary system comprises of the kidneys, bladder, urethra, and ureters (the two tubes that transfer waste from the kidney to the bladder), and these organs all work together to eliminate waste from the body in the form of urine. When pathogens invade any of these organs, it may result in a Urinary Tract Infection.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are quite common. They affect both men and women, although women tend to be more prone to infection. Fortunately, treatment is possible through medications, lifestyle adjustments, or simple home remedies. Before delving into the various treatment options that are available, its important to first learn about the symptoms and causes of UTI.
UTIs occur in any part of the urinary tract. Therefore, your symptoms will depend on which organ has been infected. Based on the type of UTI an individual may be suffering from, one or more of the following signs can manifest:
Category 1: Lower UTI Symptoms
- Urethritis (Infection of the Urethra)
Urethritis causes urethral discharge, strange smelling urine, and burning sensation when urinating.
- Cystitis (Infection of the bladder)
Cystitis is associated with discomfort in the lower abdominal area, pelvic pressure in women, discolored urine (which may appear cloudy or bloody), as well as frequent and painful urination.
Category 2: Upper UTI Symptoms
- Acute Pyelonephritis (Infection of the Kidneys)
Afflicted patients may experience high fever, shaking, chills, nausea, vomiting, as well as pain in upper back and flanks (sides).
What Causes UTIs?
Infections of the urinary tract occur when bacteria enters the urethra and begins spreading to other parts of the renal system. Some viruses and fungi can also cause UTIs.
Furthermore, certain factors cause bacteria to remain in the urinary tract, hence becoming the root cause of infection. Usually, the kidney filters blood to eliminate unwanted toxins through urine. However, urine also flushes out pathogens that line the urinary tract. Anything that prevents the urinary tract from emptying completely will therefore cause urine and bacteria to collect, thus increasing risks of infection.
Urinary tract infections can strike anyone, even infants. Being female, however, raises the risk of infection. This increased susceptibility can be attributed to the female anatomy. The short distance between the anus and urethral opening increases the chances of infection in women. As a result, E Coli bacteria from the colon can easily escape the anus and infiltrate the urethra. Since women have a short urethra, it will not take long for the bacteria to enter the bladder. If the condition remains untreated, it will eventually reach the kidneys.
Besides gender, other factors may increase the risk of developing urinary tract infections. These include:
- Sexual activity
Sexual intercourse introduces bacteria into men’s and women’s urinary tract. The body’s immune system is designed to get rid of these pathogens within 24 hours, but these defenses sometimes fail and allow an infection to take root.
- Poor Bathroom Hygiene
When women wipe from back to front after visiting the bathroom, this might transfer bacteria from the rectal area to the urethra and thus cause an infection.
- Birth Control Methods
Certain birth control methods increase the risk of UTIs. For instance, diaphragms add pressure to the urethra and decrease bladder emptying in women. Some women also experience irritation because of spermicides, which opens the door to bacterial infection of the urinary tract. In addition, latex condoms may increase friction and irritate the skin in some individuals, thus increasing UTI risk.
- Low Estrogen
Many women develop UTI after menopause. This happens due to low estrogen, which causes a microbial imbalance in the vagina.
- Bladder Catheters
Catheters are small and flexible tubes inserted in the bladder that help individuals who cannot urinate normally get rid of fluid waste. Long-term use of such devices makes it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder thereby increasing UTI risk.
- Obstructions Within the Renal System
Obstructions in the renal system may delay urine flow and cause bacteria to accumulate in the bladder and other parts of the urinary tract. This will then lead to an infection. Obstructions may be due to factors such as kidney stones, tumors, or an enlarged prostate.
- Weak Immune System
Individuals with a weakened immune system due to chronic diseases like HIV and cancer are at risk of developing UTIs.
Best Home Remedies to Get Rid of UTI in Men and Women
The following are suggestions for home remedies to get rid of UTI in men and women:
- Up Your Fluid Intake
Drinking more fluids is essential when trying to treat infections of the urinary tract. By increasing fluid intake, you’ll urinate more often. This helps your body flush out the bacteria causing the infection. In addition, your urine will be less concentrated with acidic content. Diluted urine doesn’t burn as much and hence it will be less painful to pass when you have a bladder infection.
To get the best results with this remedy, make sure to only choose healthy beverages. Water is a better choice to stay hydrated instead of alcoholic, sugary, or caffeinated drinks. You should also aim for at least 10 glasses of water a day to support fast recovery from a urinary tract infection.
- Drink Cranberry Juice
According to some studies, cranberry juice has been found to be a helpful remedy for men and women who have recurring urinary tract infections. This juice flushes out bacteria and keeps them from sticking to the bladder wall. The mild antibiotic properties of cranberries can be attributed to certain compounds like proanthocyanidins.
If this remedy is suitable for you, it offers a great way to increase fluid intake. However, avoid cranberry juice that’s too sweet because excess sugar could lead to other health problems.
- Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree oil is known for its anti-bacterial properties. Therefore, it’s a great natural remedy that can help you fight off bladder infections. There are many ways to use tea tree oil when treating UTIs. Here are a few suggestions that you may find helpful:
- Method 1
Add 10 drops of tea tree oil to bathing water and use it to wash the urethral opening.
- Method 2
Take warm baths mixed with six drops of tea tree oil and 4 drops of plain yogurt. Follow this remedy for about 10 days even if UTI symptoms disappear within the first few days of treatment.
- Method 3
Another effective way to harness tea tree oil’s therapeutic power is mixing it with other essential oils to make a potent pain reliever. Simply mix it in equal proportions with juniper and sandalwood oil and then rub the mixture on the bladder area. This should help to relieve pain associated with UTIs. To achieve the best results, apply the oil mixture once daily for about 3 to 4 days.
Pineapple is a watery fruit that can also help you increase your fluid intake when treating a urinary tract infection. More importantly, this fruit contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called Bromelain. Pineapple can also complement antibiotics prescribed by your doctor to get rid of UTI symptoms.
If you opt for pineapple juice, stick with fresh varieties or make your own homemade smoothies. This will help you to avoid extra sugar and unhealthy preservatives contained in the canned versions.
Besides pineapples, blueberries possess bacteria inhibiting properties as well. These delicious fruits keep bacteria from multiplying in your urinary tract while providing an abundance of anti-oxidants that help to strengthen your immune system. With a strong immune system, your body will be able to prevent the spread of bacteria that cause UTIs. What’s more, infections will most likely not return.
There are many ways to include blueberries in your daily diet. For instance, you can add a handful of them in your favorite cereal every morning when having breakfast. Alternatively, just snack on blueberries in between meals. You can also make homemade blueberry smoothies and juice. This will keep you hydrated in a healthy way without having to burden your body with unhealthy sweeteners and preservatives.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a great remedy that can help in the treatment of urinary tract infections. This remedy is an ideal option if you prefer something natural to treat UTIs instead of chemical antibiotics. Apple cider vinegar contains enzymes, potassium, and other minerals that keep bacteria from growing and spreading in the urinary tract.
The best part about this natural remedy is that it’s simple to administer. All you have to do is add a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water or lemon juice and drink it two times a day. To neutralize the taste of apple cider vinegar, you can add honey or any other natural sweetener to your drink.
- Baking Soda
Another great alternative natural remedy for UTIs is baking soda. Baking soda’s alkaline nature neutralizes acidic urine so that you don’t have to endure the painful, burning sensation of an infected urinary tract when peeing. However, be careful not to overdose on baking soda because it can mess up the healthy bacterial balance in your intestines. Half a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with one glass of water should be enough. Take the solution once or twice per day until symptoms start to clear.
- Herbal Remedies
Some herbal remedies can provide relief to people who are suffering from a urinary tract infection.
- Uva Ursi: Uva Ursi is a natural extract you can buy at most herbal drugstores to help fight UTI. This plant-based herb contains a number of ingredients that give it antiseptic properties to kill the bacteria that causes UTIs. It also stimulates urination and will help you flush out bacteria from the urinary tract.
- Goldenseal and Oregano: An alternative natural remedy you can try is goldenseal and Oregano grape root. This herb helps your body fight off E-Coli, a common bacterium in the large intestines that causes urinary tract infections.
Before using any herbal remedy, it’s important to consult your doctor. Some herbs are not ideal if you’re under medication or happen to suffer from an underlying medical condition. For instance, Uva Ursi is contraindicated for people with kidney or liver disease, as well as pregnant and nursing women.
- Use Heat to Relieve the Pain
Infections of the urinary tract are accompanied by irritation and inflammation, which causes pain and pressure around the bladder region and pubic area. Applying heat to the painful area might provide some relief. An excellent way to do this is by using a heating pad or hot water bottle.
To do so, wrap towel around a heat pad to minimize heat and limit contact time to 15 minutes so as to avoid burns. If hot water compresses and heating pads fail to work, anti-inflammatory meds might be your next best option.
- Boost Immune Response with Vitamin C
Vitamin C fights off the spread and growth of bacteria. So, if you have an infected urinary tract, this nutrient will make a great addition to your diet. Some of the best sources of vitamin C include oranges, grapes, lemons, tomatoes, papayas, guava, watermelons, and kiwi fruits. In addition, Indian gooseberry will make a great tasting cup of lemonade that’s packed with vitamin C to help you tackle UTIs.
- Restore Microbial Imbalance with Probiotics
Probiotics consist of bacteria that provide a good microbial balance in the human body. These compounds will keep bad bacteria at bay while at the same time increase beneficial bacteria. There are many foods that contain probiotics. Yogurt, in particular, is a rich source of probiotics that can help you keep good bacteria at healthy levels. Live and active cultures in yogurt will also work to restore a healthy microbial balance after a bout of antibiotics, which are medications that tend to wipe out the body’s natural balance of good bacteria. Besides yogurt, you may opt for a pharmaceutical-grade probiotic supplements too.
- Avoid Irritants That Can Cause Bladder Discomfort
The lining of the bladder is sensitive to certain types of fluids and drinks. For instance, alcohol and caffeinated beverages tend to irritate the bladder. You should also avoid spicy foods, nicotine products, and artificial sweeteners since they cause the same effect on your bladder. Keep in mind, however, that everyone is different. So, if you find that a certain food or beverage causes UTI pain to flare up, make sure to avoid it.
UTIs can be treated with antifungal, antiviral, as well as anti-parasitic drugs. However, antibiotics are the standard medical treatment for urinary tract infections. Some of the antibiotic medications commonly prescribed include:
Long-term intake of antibiotics may be required in instances where UTIs keep recurring. For uncomplicated infections, you can expect to take a regular dose of antibiotics over a period of 3 to 4 days. However, most doses will run for over a week in order to get rid of bacteria in the urinary tract completely. It’s important that you finish the prescribed dose even if symptoms clear away within a few days. Completing your dose will prevent the infection from recurring.
UTI antibiotic drugs are usually taken alongside painkillers. Such medications contain analgesic properties that numb the bladder in order to relieve burning pain when urinating. UTI painkillers cause discolored urine as a side effect, which is perfectly normal.
When to See a Doctor
With proper care and medication, UTIs will pass within a few days. However, if symptoms persist for more than 5 days or happen to be very uncomfortable, make sure to seek medical help.
It’s quite common to try over-the counter products that fail to soothe pain or improve UTI symptoms. The reason for this is that some types of bacteria in your body are resistant to antibiotics. In such cases, a urine culture test will be required to determine an effective treatment.
For severe urinary tract infections, medication needs to be administered intravenously. This means you’ll have to visit the hospital to get your antibiotic shots.
If you develop a fever or symptoms suddenly get worse in the middle of treatment, make sure to see your general practitioner. It’s also wise to see your doctor if you have a UTI and happen to be diabetic or pregnant, or suffer from a compromised immune system.
How to Prevent UTI’s
If you’re at risk of developing urinary tract infections, here are a few prevention measures you can take:
- Drink more water to increase urine flow. Urinating more often flushes the urinary tract so bacteria will not have a chance to build up and cause an infection.
- Empty your bladder after sexual intercourse.
- Change birth control methods if you find spermicides and diaphragms uncomfortable. If latex condoms are irritating, opt for those made of a different material.
- If you’re a woman, always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement. This will prevent transfer of bacteria from the anal region to the urethral opening.
- Avoid holding urine for long periods.
- Wear comfortable underwear, preferable breathable fabric.
- Opt for pads rather than tampons if you are prone to infection.
- Wash the anal and genital area on a daily basis, and especially before and after sex.
- Avoid vaginal after having anal sex.
Lower UTIs are not life threatening and they are also the most common. However, these infections become serious when they spread to the upper renal system. When the infection reaches the kidneys, it can move to the blood. This is a critical condition known as Sepsis, which may cause a drop in blood pressure to dangerously low levels, shock, and even death.