10 Of The Most Powerful Natural UTI Remedies, According To A Functional Medicine Expert

10-Of-The-Most-Powerful-Natural-Uti-Remedies,-According-To-A-Functional-Medicine-Expert

Burning, itching, and constantly running to the bathroom are sure signs of a urinary tract infection - an unfortunate reality for a majority of women. In fact, close to 50 to 60 percent of women (1) will have at least one in their lifetime and about one-third of women (2) will require antibiotic treatment for a UTI by the age of 24. And that’s not including the many women who suffer from recurring UTIs.

So what’s the deal? As a functional medicine expert, it is my job to get to the root of your health problems so you can live a life free from the weight of your symptoms. Thankfully, once you understand what causes most UTIs, there’s a lot you can do to treat them naturally. Let’s take a look at some of the best natural remedies for UTIs so you can kick them to the curb once-and for-all.

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What is a UTI?

Urinary tract infections occur when there is an infection caused by bacteria - mainly Escherichia coli, which are responsible for about 80 to 85% (3) of all UTIs - viruses, or fungi. While UTI is a more general term for this type of infection; in reality, infections can occur in the ureters, bladder, urethra, or even the kidneys, which have the important job of filtering your blood and producing urine.

Symptoms of a UTI

Not only are UTIs painful, they make themselves known through their distinct symptoms. A urinary tract infection starts in your urethra and bladder before spreading to your kidneys and becoming more serious. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms you are most likely in the early stages of a urinary tract infection.

  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Cloudy urine
  • Bloody urine (red, pink, or brightly colored urine)
  • Constant urge to urinate
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain

However, if your infection has spread to your kidneys, you may experience more severe symptoms like:

  • Side pain
  • High fever
  • Back pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills

If left untreated, a kidney infection can result in severe health complications. As long as you pay attention to your symptoms and listen to your body, the likelihood that your UTI will result in a kidney infection is rare.

Antibiotics vs natural remedies for UTIs

In conventional medicine, your doctor will run a simple test to detect the presence of bacteria in your urine. Once you are diagnosed with a UTI, your doctor will likely prescribe you one of the following antibiotics depending on the specific bacteria causing your infection:

  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Sulfonamides 
  • Amoxicillin
  • Cephalosporins
  • Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole 
  • Doxycycline
  • Quinolones 

While antibiotics can be necessary - and even life saving - conventional doctors have the habit of overprescribing antibiotics resulting in their own set of side effects. In fact, according to the CDC, close to 30 percent (4) of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary, with some reports claiming that number is closer to 50 percent.

The biggest downside to constant antibiotic use is the damage it does to our microbiome. Antibiotics work by targeting and killing off bacteria. This is great when it comes to pathogenic bacteria that contribute to UTIs, but the problem is, antibiotics don’t discriminate. Since antibiotics can kill any and all bacteria in their path, they can also end up depleting the good strains of bacteria in your microbiome that actually contribute to a strong immune system and maintaining your overall health.

In functional medicine, we understand that antibiotics aren’t always bad and there are times when they are absolutely necessary. However, we aim to do what we can naturally in order to prevent having to prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily. 

Whether that is facilitating healthy urinary tract health to stave off an infection or using natural remedies to fight off an infection before antibiotics are needed, functional medicine looks at treatment through the lens of the question “what is going to give me the greatest results, with the least amount of side effects?”. Sometimes antibiotics fit that bill - especially in the case of UTIs that can escalate quickly without proper intervention.

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The best natural remedies for UTI

Now that you know how bad antibiotics can be if they aren’t needed, you’re probably asking yourself “How can I get rid of my UTI without antibiotics?” and “What is the fastest way to cure a UTI naturally?”. Although I can’t promise you that you won’t ever need to take an antibiotic for a UTI again, these natural UTI remedies can greatly diminish the likelihood that you’ll have to turn to an antibiotic for relief.

1. D-mannose

D-mannose is a naturally occurring sugar that is found in foods like apples, blueberries, and cranberries. D-mannose is effective at preventing UTIs because it’s known for binding themselves to E.coli bacteria (5) - the same E.coli that causes upwards of 80% of UTIs - and making sure they get eliminated through the urine instead of sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. 

One study tested the effects of 2 grams of D-mannose powder in 200 ml of water daily for 6 months and found that it significantly lowered the incidence of recurrent UTIs and has fewer side effects than Nitrofurantoin, an antibiotic commonly used for recurrent UTIs. D-mannose can be taken daily in a glass of water as a preventative measure or multiple times a day if you are trying to get over a current infection. 

2. Probiotics

Probiotics are most often known for improving digestive health, but the truth is, supporting a healthy microbiome can benefit your health in more ways than one. For example, the use of probiotics can enhance your immune system, which can help you prevent infections — including UTIs. In fact, one study found that taking the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus (6) helped cut recurrent UTIs in a group of women by about half. 

3. Vitamin C

We all know Vitamin C is a superstar immune supporter. While this is helpful for fighting off any sort of infection, studies have shown (7) that Vitamin C is also particularly great at treating UTIs by increasing the acidity of your urine resulting in less bacterial growth. 

4. Oregano oil

If you are wondering, “what is the best natural antibiotic for UTI?”, oregano oil is your answer. Known for its powerful antibacterial properties, oregano oil has been shown (8) to kill off E.coli - the same bacteria that causes the majority of UTI cases. You can find oregano oil in capsule form and take it daily.

5. Garlic

Talk about a superfood! Crushed garlic in particular has high levels of the active compound, allicin, which studies have shown to have strong antimicrobial properties against multiple strains of bacteria, including E. coli. (9) So if you’re fighting off a UTI, just add a few more garlic cloves to your next meal!

Tips to prevent UTIs

The best natural remedy for UTIs is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here’s what you can do now to fight off a UTI before it even starts.

1. Pee often

If you’re suffering from recurrent UTIs, this might seem overly simple. But the truth is, regular urination can help flush bacteria from the urinary tract to prevent infections. Research supports this; for example, a 2003 study on 141 girls (10) showed that infrequent urination is associated with recurrent UTIs.

2. Drink enough water

With that being said, what’s the best way to pee frequently? Drinking a ton of water. The same 2003 study found that low fluid intake also plays a role in frequent UTIs. So more water is always the key when it comes to urinary health. How much water does it take to flush out a UTI once you already have one though? It’s recommended to drink as much as comfortably possible but at least 1.5 or 2 liters a day until the UTI and its accompanying symptoms have been relieved. 

3. Urinate after sex

Peeing helps to clear out any bacteria that might have entered your urethra while having sex that can contribute to a UTI. 

4. Stay dry

Pathogenic bacteria love a moist environment. Drying completely after showering or swimming can prevent bacteria from multiplying and causing an infection down there. If you are working out or doing an activity where you are sweating more, make sure to wear loose clothing and/or shower and dry off completely immediately afterwards. This is good practice if you are trying to prevent a UTI or fight off a current infection.

5. Switch out your birth control

Spermicide is a chemical that kills sperm before it has a chance to fertilize an egg. They can be found in different forms such as gels, creams, or diaphragms that are inserted into the vagina. Although these are effective at preventing pregnancy, they can significantly increase your risk and frequency of UTIs.

When to see a medical professional

If you have frequent UTIs or symptoms of urinary tract infections, it’s important to rule out Interstitial Cystitis. Often mistaken for a UTI, this chronic bladder infection is an autoimmune condition that mimics the symptoms of a urinary tract infection but without the infection, leaving many women to be misdiagnosed. The telltale sign as to whether or not your symptoms are actually a UTI and not IC is that your symptoms don’t go away with antibiotic use. This is because your symptoms are due to autoimmunity and there is no bacterial infection for the antibiotic to fight off.

If your UTI symptoms don’t seem to get better after a day of at-home treatments, it is important to see your doctor right away so that they can prescribe you antibiotics to avoid the infection spreading to your kidneys.

How do you know if a UTI is going away without antibiotics?

You should see your urine quality return back to normal and a significant decrease in discomfort. If symptoms return after a day or so of relief, you have not effectively flushed out the infection and should seek medical assistance outside of home remedies.

Seeking help from a functional medicine doctor

If you are struggling with recurring UTIs it’s important to seek out help from a functional medicine doctor. In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, we run extensive labs to look at the root cause of why you are struggling with UTIs and if autoimmunity might be a factor. By looking at your health case in its entirety we can come up with the best treatment plan depending on factors such as diet and lifestyle that could be contributing to the development of these infections. Schedule a telehealth consultation today to learn more about how we can help you with functional medicine.

As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.

  1. Rahn, David D. “Urinary tract infections: contemporary management.” Urologic nursing vol. 28,5 (2008): 333-41; quiz 342.
  2. Foxman, Betsy. “Epidemiology of urinary tract infections: incidence, morbidity, and economic costs.” The American journal of medicine vol. 113 Suppl 1A (2002): 5S-13S. doi:10.1016/s0002-9343(02)01054-9
  3. Staphylococcus Saprophyticus Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/immunology-and-microbiology/staphylococcus-saprophyticus#:~:text=The%20most%20common%20UTI%2Dcausing,infections%20in%20some%20rare%20cases.
  4. CDC: 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions unnecessary CDC May 3, 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0503-unnecessary-prescriptions.html
  5. Michaels, E K et al. “Effect of D-mannose and D-glucose on Escherichia coli bacteriuria in rats.” Urological research vol. 11,2 (1983): 97-102. doi:10.1007/BF00256954
  6. Grin, Peter M et al. “Lactobacillus for preventing recurrent urinary tract infections in women: meta-analysis.” The Canadian journal of urology vol. 20,1 (2013): 6607-14.
  7. Hickling, Duane R, and Victor W Nitti. “Management of recurrent urinary tract infections in healthy adult women.” Reviews in urology vol. 15,2 (2013): 41-8.
  8. Sienkiewicz, Monika et al. “Aktywność przeciwbakteryjna olejku oreganowego (Origanum heracleoticum L.) wobec szczepów klinicznych Escherichia coli i Pseudomonas aeruginosa” [The antibacterial activity of oregano essential oil (Origanum heracleoticum L.) against clinical strains of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa]. Medycyna doswiadczalna i mikrobiologia vol. 64,4 (2012): 297-307.
  9. Ankri, S, and D Mirelman. “Antimicrobial properties of allicin from garlic.” Microbes and infection vol. 1,2 (1999): 125-9. doi:10.1016/s1286-4579(99)80003-3
  10. Mazzola, Brunello L et al. “Behavioral and functional abnormalities linked with recurrent urinary tract infections in girls.” Journal of nephrology vol. 16,1 (2003): 133-8.

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BY DR. WILL COLE

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Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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