UTIs are one of the most common occurring infections worldwide (1). With associated healthcare costs and increasing antibiotic resistance, interest in alternative UTI therapies and prevention has increased. This article explores the current research examining if there are foods that help UTI.
What is a UTI?
Urinary tract infections are bacterial infections involving any part of the urinary tract (i.e. bladder, kidneys, etc.). More common are bladder infections (cystitis), however kidney infections (pyelonephritis) are typically more severe.
Bacteria enters and infects the urinary system causing UTI. Typical diagnosis occurs from a urine test, which will also assist your healthcare provider in determining proper course of treatment
- Frequent urination or urgency
- Painful (dysuria) or burning during urination
- Increased confusion
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Flank or lower back pain
- Groin or lower abdominal pain
- Strong smelling urine
- Nausea & vomiting
Females and older adults are at increased risk for urinary tract infections. Additional risk factors include:
- Previous UTIs
- Poor personal hygiene, particularly peri-care
- Catheter use
- Limiting fluid intake to control urination
- Structural issues causing incomplete bladder emptying
Are There Foods that Help UTI?
Increasing resistance to antibiotics, from frequent and overuse, has created interest in finding alternative treatments for UTIs.
Does Cranberry Juice Help UTI?
Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which are thought to help prevent bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract tissue and decreasing the ability to infect it (2).
While the current evidence does not support cranberry as treatment for UTI, there are FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved health claims for its use in prevention.
According to the FDA qualified health claims, eight ounces of cranberry juice beverage (containing 27% cranberry juice) or 500 mg cranberry supplement daily may reduce the risk of recurrent UTI in women.
While the evidence for cranberry preventing UTI is limited and inconsistent, it is still widely recommended by health professionals. This is due to minimal potential side effects (GI upset, diarrhea, and potential medication interactions) vs. potential risks associated with preventative antibiotic use (3).
Probiotics for UTI
Probiotics are thought to ward off UTIs by restoring healthy, protective bacteria. Further research is needed before this can be a recommended treatment in the course of UTIs (4).
Garlic for UTI
There is evidence to indicate that garlic’s antimicrobial properties could protect against some UTI causing bacteria (5).
There is limited evidence that there are foods that help UTI. Cranberry is considered a safe part of UTI therapy, particularly in women with recurrent infections (7).
Increased fluid intake is likely to be recommended to ward off UTI due to little potential for harm with some likelihood of reduction.