Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can affect the bladder (cystitis), the kidneys and the tubes connected to them - and while anyone can get them, they are most common in women. Although UTIs can cause pain and discomfort, symptoms generally clear up after a short course of antibiotics or may pass by themselves in a few days. In the meantime, these self-help tips may be of use...
1. Drink more water
Staying well hydrated is one of the best ways to flush the bacteria from your system. Make sure to sip water throughout the day, even if you don't feel particularly thirsty (thirst is a sign that your body is already dehydrated). Although cranberry juice used to be recommended, a recent review of 14 studies found that it has no real benefits – so you might want to just stick with water or try a herbal tea if you get bored of plain H2O.
2. Up your intake of vitamin C
Vitamin C makes urine more acidic, which is good news as that will help to inhibit the growth of bacteria in your urinary tract. If you come down with a UTI, increase your vitamin C intake by eating more fruit and vegetables (like peppers, oranges, kale, broccoli, strawberries and pineapple) or take a daily vitamin C supplement.
3. Soothe the pain with heat treatment
Holding a covered hot water bottle or heat pad to your pubic region can help to sooth the pain of a UTI. Just be careful not to hold it directly to the skin, and limit your use to 15 minutes to avoid burns.
4. Eliminate foods that may irritate the bladder
Certain foods are known to irritate the bladder and can make the symptoms of a UTI worse. Experts recommend cutting back on caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, nicotine, carbonated drinks, and artificial sweeteners when you have cystitis.
5. Try a herbal remedy
Bearberry leaf is a herbal supplement that may help to heal lower urinary tract infections. If you decide to try it, make sure you only take it for a few days as there is potential for it to cause liver damage. Another herb that may help is goldenseal.
6. Change your lifestyle habits
If you're prone to UTIs, you may want to think about changing your lifestyle. Smokers are more susceptible to UTIs, so speak to your GP who can offer support to help you quit. Experts recommend wiping yourself clean from front to back after using the toilet and using only fragrance-free personal hygiene products. Wearing loose cotton clothing and underwear can also help.