In fact, 50%-60% of people with vaginas will get at least one bladder infection in their lifetime.
Bladder infections are caused by bacteria that enter the body through the urethra.
They can cause painful and uncomfortable symptoms, including burning, stinging, or pain during urination; bloody or cloudy urine; urine with a foul or unusual odor; increased urinary frequency; and pain in the lower abdomen.
If left untreated, bladder infections can spread to the kidneys, which can pose a more significant risk to your health.
Your provider can diagnose a bladder infection with a simple urine test.
Once diagnosed, your provider will most likely prescribe a course of antibiotics, which is used to kill the bacterial infection.
However, experts are currently researching ways to treat and prevent bladder infections without antibiotics.
Many of these remedies can also help soothe your symptoms while you’re on antibiotic treatment.
Still, it’s a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional before starting an at-home remedy to ensure that it won’t react poorly with any other medications or treatments you’re currently using.
Drinking lots of fluids can help speed up the healing process when you have a bladder infection by flushing out bacteria from your urinary tract.
Water and other non-sugary, non-caffeinated drinks are best.
Drinking adequate fluids on a consistent basis may also help prevent future bladder infections.
Cranberries contain compounds called proanthocyanins, which may help prevent E. coli and other harmful bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract.
Unfortunately, the American Urological Association does not suggest using cranberry juice in place of more established treatments, like antibiotics.
However, your provider may recommend drinking cranberry juice as a complementary treatment to antibiotic use or as a way to help prevent recurring UTIs in people with vaginas.
Vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid) has been shown to increase urine acidity, which may help prevent UTIs.
But there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that upping your vitamin C intake will treat an existing bladder infection on its own.
In fact, drinking excessive citrus or fruit juice may further irritate your bladder.
Probiotic supplements and probiotics naturally found in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and other fermented products help to introduce beneficial bacteria into your gut and body.
One type of probiotic, called Lactobacillus, may help prevent recurring UTIs in people with vaginas.
Some research shows that taking a probiotic alongside antibiotics may be a more effective treatment for recurrent UTIs in children than antibiotics alone.
But more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of probiotics as a standalone treatment for UTIs.
If you’re interested in taking probiotics as a complementary treatment for your bladder infection, reach out to your healthcare provider to see if they can recommend a specific probiotic for your symptoms.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has been touted as a natural remedy for many ailments, in part because it contains some antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Unfortunately, there’s no evidence to suggest that drinking apple cider vinegar will help or treat a bladder infection.
OTC Pain Relievers
If your bladder infection is causing significant pain, talk to your healthcare provider about which over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can help.
Generally, acetaminophen (e.g., TYLENOL®) and ibuprofen (e.g., Advil®) are safe to use when you have a UTI and can help relieve pain and discomfort.
AZO (phenazopyridine) is another OTC option that’s specifically designed to treat pain associated with UTIs.
Using a heating pad or a warm, moist washcloth can help soothe abdominal or pelvic discomfort associated with your bladder infection.
But don’t apply anything too hot directly onto your skin, and take breaks in between uses.
If you have trouble staying hydrated by drinking water on its own, eating a good amount of water-rich foods can help you flush the bacteria out of your system.
Foods that are rich in water include melons, strawberries, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, and spinach.
Avoid Foods that Irritate the Bladder
Acidic and citrus foods may irritate the bladder, which can cause further discomfort when you have a bladder infection.
Avoiding or limiting your consumption of these foods can help keep you as comfortable as possible.
Ways to Prevent Bladder Infections
Below are some of the things you can do on a consistent basis to help prevent this type of infection.
Drink adequate amounts of water each day
Drinking an adequate amount of water every day can help you to stay hydrated, but it can also help to prevent a bacterial infection from developing in your urinary tract.
Many people should aim to drink between six and eight 8-ounce glasses of water (between 48-64 ounces) every day, but these recommendations may vary depending on your age, activity level, and other personal health factors.
It’s also important to keep in mind that we get around 20% of our daily fluid intake from foods.
In most cases, drinking water when you feel thirsty, when you exercise, and when you are in especially hot or humid climates is all you need to do to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Practice good sexual hygiene
As a general practice, always urinating after sex can help flush away bacteria that may have entered the urethra during intercourse.
This can help prevent a UTI from developing.
Wipe from front to back
Another good hygiene practice that can help people with vaginas limit harmful bacterial development is to wipe front to back, especially after a bowel movement.
Avoid wearing tight undergarments
Tight-fitting undergarments and undergarments made out of non-breathable fabrics can encourage bacterial growth.
Instead, wearing loose-fitting, cotton-based underwear can help keep the area dry and limit bacterial growth.
Urinate as soon as you feel the urge
Holding in urine can also encourage bacteria to grow in your urinary tract, which is why it’s important to use the restroom as soon as possible when you feel the urge to urinate.
When to See a Healthcare Professional
However, some people may experience symptoms of a more complicated bladder infection.
If you experience any of the below symptoms and/or if your symptoms don’t improve with treatment, reach out to a healthcare professional as soon as possible:
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Frequently Asked Questions
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Anti-Adhesion Activity of A2-type Proanthocyanidins (a Cranberry Major Component) on Uropathogenic E. coli and P. mirabilis Strains. (2014.)
Bladder Infection (Urinary Tract Infection—UTI) in Adults, Treatment. (2017.)
Combination of Probiotics and Antibiotics in the Prevention of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infection in Children. (2013.)
Contribution of Water from Food and Fluids to Total Water Intake: Analysis of a French and UK Population Surveys. (2016.)
Cranberries and Urinary Tract Infections: How Can the Same Evidence Lead to Conflicting Advice? (2016.)
Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. (2012.)
Daily intake of 100mg ascorbic acid as urinary tract infection prophylactic agent during pregnancy. (2007.)
Lactobacillus for preventing recurrent urinary tract infections in women: meta-analysis. (2013.)
Management of Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections in Healthy Adult Women. (2013.)
Non-surgical management of recurrent urinary tract infections in women. (2017.)
Prevention and treatment of urinary tract infection with probiotics: Review and research prospective. (2008.)
Recurrent Uncomplicated Urinary Tract Infections in Women: AUA/CUA/SUFU Guideline. (2019.)
Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women. (2013.)