1. Stay hydrated
Drinking enough water is one of the easiest ways to help prevent and treat UTIs.
Water helps the urinary tract organs remove waste from the body efficiently while retaining vital nutrients and electrolytes.
Being hydrated also dilutes the urine and speeds its journey through the system, making it harder for bacteria to reach the cells that line urinary organs and to cause an infection.
There is no set recommendation for how much people should drink daily, as each person’s water needs are different. On average though, people should drink at least six to eight 8-ounce (oz) glasses of water each day.
2. Urinate when the need arises
Frequent urination puts pressure on bacteria in the urinary tract, which can help to clear them out.
It also reduces the amount of time that bacteria in the urine are exposed to cells in the urinary tract, reducing the risk of them attaching and forming an infection.
Always urinate as soon as possible when the urge strikes to help prevent and treat UTIs.
3. Drink cranberry juice
Cranberry juice is one of the most well-established natural treatments for UTIs. People have also traditionally used it to help clear general infections and speed up wound recovery time.
Studies on the effectiveness of cranberry juice for UTIs have had mixed results. According to one review, cranberry juice contains compounds that may prevent E. coli cells from attaching to cells in the urinary tract.
Cranberry juice also contains antioxidants, including polyphenols, which have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
There is no set guideline on how much cranberry juice to drink to treat a UTI, but a common recommendation is to drink around 400 milliliters (mL) of at least 25-percent cranberry juice every day to prevent or treat UTIs.
4. Use probiotics
Beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, can help keep the urinary tract healthy and free from harmful bacteria.
In particular, a group of probiotics called lactobacilli may help with treating and preventing UTIs. They may do this by:
- preventing harmful bacteria from attaching to urinary tract cells
- producing hydrogen peroxide in urine, which is a strong antibacterial
- lowering urine pH, making conditions less favorable for bacteria
People who take lactobacillus supplements while on antibiotics for UTIs may develop less antibiotic resistance than people not taking them.
Probiotics occur in a variety of fermented and dairy products, including:
- some types of cheese
People can also take probiotic supplements, which are usually in the form of a capsule or a powder that mixes into water or other beverages.
5. Get enough vitamin C
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to improve immune system function.
Vitamin C also reacts with nitrates in urine to form nitrogen oxides that can kill bacteria. It can lower the pH of urine, making it less likely that bacteria will survive.
As with cranberry juice, people have been using vitamin C in various forms to treat UTIs for thousands of years. But there is a lack of quality research to confirm whether or not increasing vitamin C intake can prevent or treat UTIs.
According to the limited research, taking other supplements alongside vitamin C may maximize its benefits.
In a 2016 study, 38 women with recurrent UTIs took vitamin C, probiotics, and cranberries three times daily for 20 days, then stopped for 10 days. They repeated this cycle for 3 months. The researchers concluded that this could be a safe and effective treatment approach for UTIs.
The National Institutes of Health recommend that for people aged 19 and over, women should get at least 75 mg of vitamin C per day, while men need around 90 mg per day. Adults who smoke should take an additional 35 mg of the vitamin each day.
6. Wipe from front to back
Many UTIs develop when bacteria from the rectum or feces gain access to the urethra, the small channel that allows urine to flow out of the body.
Once bacteria are in the urethra, they can travel up into other urinary tract organs where they can lead to infections.
After urinating, wipe in a way that prevents bacteria from coming into contact with the genitals. Use separate pieces of toilet paper to wipe the genitals and anus.
7. Practice good sexual hygiene
Sexual intercourse introduces bacteria and other microbes from outside the body to the urinary tract. Practicing good sexual hygiene can help to reduce the number of bacteria that people can transfer during intercourse and other sexual acts.
Examples of good sexual hygiene include:
- urinating before and immediately after sex
- using barrier contraception, such as a condom
- washing the genitals, especially the foreskin, before and after engaging in sexual acts or intercourse
- washing the genitals or changing condoms if switching from anal sex to vaginal sex
- ensuring that sexual partners are aware of any current or previous UTIs
Currently, researchers are trying to design vaccines that would prevent many types of bacteria from being able to attach to body cells properly.