Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, can develop in both men and women, but you're 10 times more likely to have one if you're female, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. You may be tempted to handle this common health condition using home remedies, such as vitamin C supplements or cranberry juice. Although these alternative methods may offer some benefits for treating UTIs, it's probable that you will need medical treatment to get rid of the infection.
UTIs develop when bacteria flourish in the urethra or the bladder. This typically occurs when bacteria from the anal area makes its way into the urinary system. The bacteria Escherichia coli, or E. coli, causes the majority of UTIs; however, sexually transmitted infections can also contribute to their development. Although symptoms are not always present, things to be on the lookout for include cloudy, pink or dark urine; urine with a strong odor; and burning during urination. You may also have a frequent need to urinate. Pelvic pain is common in women whereas pain in the rectal area is associated with UTIs in men.
Vitamin C supports the body in several ways, one of which is its role in immune function. Making sure your vitamin C intake is adequate may help prevent infection, according to Huntington College of Health Science's Gene Bruno, MS, MHS. In addition, Bruno reports that vitamin C is effective at halting growth of E. coli, since certain bacteria are not able to thrive in acidic environments. A daily intake of 4,000 mg of vitamin C lowers the pH of urine, thereby making it more acidic and less habitable; however, this amount is 2,000 mg over the upper tolerable limit for adults and may cause health problems over the long term, according to the Food and Nutrition Board.
Cranberry juice, an excellent source of vitamin C, is perhaps the most well-known home remedy for UTIs. A study published in January 2011 in the journal "Clinical Infectious Diseases," however, provides a blow to the validity of cranberry as an effective treatment. Researchers found that consuming a cup of cranberry juice twice a day did not prevent UTIs from reoccurring in women who had previously developed an infection. Still, cranberry juice may be beneficial as a preventative method rather than a treatment. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that cranberries can prevent bacteria from binding to the urinary tract, although it is not as effective if bacteria has already attached to cells in this area.
Drinking large amounts of cranberry juice does not offer additional benefits for your urinary health and may cause an upset stomach. You should also talk with your doctor if you take aspirin, blood-thinning medications or liver-affecting drugs, as cranberries may interact with them, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Consulting your doctor is highly recommended if you have a UTI because you likely need an antibiotic to clear up the infection.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Urinary Tract Infection in Women
- MayoClinic.com; Urinary Tract Infection (UTI); June 2010
- "Smart Supplementation"; Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids; Gene Bruno, MS, MHS; 2002
- University of Georgia National Center for Home Food Preservation; Using and Preserving Cranberries; Elaine M. D'sa, PhD; October 2003
- "Clinical Infectious Diseases"; Cranberry Juice Fails to Prevent Recurrent Urinary Tract Infection: Results from a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial; C Barbosa-Cesnik, et al.; January 2011