Today’s post addresses a health issue that are surprisingly common, especially among women—urinary tract infections (UTIs). Around half of all women experience at least one UTI in their lifetime, and while men can get UTIs too, women get them up to 30 times more often than men. (Extremely unfair!)
UTIs (sometimes called a “bladder infection”) occur when harmful bacteria gets into the urinary tract. And since women’s urethras are both relatively short and located perilously close to sources of UTI-causing bacteria (the anus and the vagina), there’s really no mystery about why women get UTIs so much more often than men do.
But knowing how they happen doesn’t make having a UTI suck any less! As someone who has dealt with recurring UTIs over the years, I can honestly say that there are few things in the world that make me feel more miserable than the burning sensation and I-have-to-pee-but-can’t feeling that comes along with urinary tract infections.
But the good news is that there are plenty of ways to lessen your suffering! Whether you’re already taking antibiotics but are still experiencing discomfort, or you deal with recurrent UTIs and are certain this is just a “run-of-the-mill” infection, today’s post is filled with useful tips and remedies that can help you rest easier.
Note: I am not a doctor, and this blog post should not be taken as medical advice. If you are experiencing intense pain, fever, nausea, or vomiting, seek medical attention right away, because untreated UTIs may worsen and spread to the kidneys and other parts of the body.
Essential Oils For UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)
Antibiotics are still the most common method used to treat UTIs, but due to increased antibiotic resistance on a global scale, doctors and researchers are becoming increasingly interested in alternative and natural treatments. The possibility of using essential oils to treat UTIs, especially oils that possess antibacterial properties that work against antibiotic resistant strains, is being explored in health studies all over the world.
In this section, we’ll explore some of the most promising essential oils for UTI and bladder infection treatment.
Defend Essential Oil Blend
Defend is a blend of several essential oils with powerful antibacterial properties. The reason I wanted to mention it here at the top is because all five of the single essential oils that are considered beneficial for UTI treatment are actually ingredients in Defend.
Personally, that realization simplified things a lot! Instead of having to choose between five single oils, I can grab my trusty bottle of Defend and get the benefits of all five. :-)
Oregano oil is well known for its ability to pack a punch against bacteria. A 2012 study found that oregano essential oil slowed and even stopped the growth of Escherichia coli and other harmful bacteria—even including strains that resisted other treatments like antibiotics.
Clove essential oil also showed promising results against drug resistant bacteria in a 2016 study, in which researchers observed that clove oil had strong inhibiting and killing effects against several strains of E. coli.
The major component of cinnamon essential oil is cinnamaldehyde, representing 70–80% of its overall makeup. Cinnamaldehyde has natural antimicrobial properties, and in a 2011 in vitro study, was shown to interfere with the adherence of UTI-causing E. coli.
According to a 2013 review, particular monoterpenes and phenols found in rosemary essential oil (as well as thyme and sage) contribute to its antibacterial activity against E. coli and other pathogens.
In a 2016 study, researchers concluded that eucalyptus essential oil may kill or slow the growth of E. coli, S. aureus, Listeria innocua, and several other harmful pathogens.
How To Use Essential Oils To Relieve UTI Pain
Apply It Topically
To help reduce discomfort, dilute 2 drops of Defend (or your essential oil of choice) in 1 teaspoon of carrier oil, then apply to your abdomen or the soles of your feet. Cover the application area with a hot compress or heating pad and rest for several minutes.
Another simple way to use Defend to relieve symptoms is through aromatherapy. Fill your diffuser’s reservoir with fresh water, add as many drops of Defend as are recommended by the manufacturer, then turn it on and relax for a while.
Add It To A Bath
I like this approach because it’s sort of the best of both worlds between topical application and aromatherapy. It’s very relaxing and a great way to take your mind off the misery of dealing with a UTI.
If you add Defend or any other essential oil directly to your bath water, it will just float on the surface and not do you much good. So instead, I recommend stirring 5-8 drops of Defend into 1 cup of Epsom salt, then adding the infused Epsom salt mixture to your bath water.
Other Remedies For Urinary Tract Infections
D-mannose is a type of sugar found in cranberries and other fruits, and is available as a dietary supplement. Rather than killing bacteria, D-mannose makes it harder for bacteria to adhere to the walls of the urinary tract so that it can be flushed out during urination.
In addition to giving your immune system a boost, vitamin C increases the acid content of urine, which also makes the urinary tract less hospitable to bacteria. For those who suffer from frequent UTIs, consider this 2007 study found that women who took 100 mg of vitamin C daily showed a reduction in symptomatic UTIs.
Cranberry has a long history as a home remedy for urinary tract infections, and although recent research has found somewhat mixed results, there have been promising results on the effect of cranberry on recurrent UTIs. One 2015 study found that treatment with cranberry juice capsules equivalent to two 8-ounce servings of cranberry juice minimized the occurrence of UTIs by half in a randomized trial.
According to a 2020 review of alternative therapies for UTIs, the mixed results from studies on cranberry may be due to the fact that different studies used different cranberry formulations (juices, beverages, capsules, etc.) So if you plan to use cranberry as a home remedy, seek out 100% pure cranberry juice (or capsules of pure cranberry) to ensure you’re getting its beneficial components.
Lactobacilli are the dominant microorganisms in “vaginal flora” (the naturally occurring bacteria that live inside the vagina) and play an important role in maintaining vaginal health. Taking certain probiotic supplements (particularly ones containing Lactobacilli) may help maintain the balance of bacteria in the urinary tract and reduce the incidence of recurrent UTIs.
Do’s And Don’ts To Prevent UTIs
Finding a helpful remedy for a urinary tract infection is great, but you know what’s even better? Preventing the infection from happening in the first place!
Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts that can help you avoid the conditions that can lead to a UTI:
DO Wear Cotton Underwear
Both women and men should wear breathable cotton underwear to stay fresher and drier throughout the day. If you wear pantyhose, be sure to pick the cotton-lined variety.
DO Urinate After Intercourse
Make a habit of urinating after sexual intercourse, even if you don’t feel like you “have to go.” Urination is a simple and effective way to flush bad bacteria out of the urinary tract before it can cause problems.
DO Practice Good Hygiene
For the most part, the vagina does an excellent job of keeping itself clean and healthy. But you can do your part by practicing good hygiene, including bathing regularly, washing your hands frequently, and wiping front to back after using the toilet.
DO Drink Plenty Of Water
Like I mentioned before, urination helps flush bacteria out of the urinary tract, and drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help ensure that you’re urinating regularly. Drinking water also dilutes your urine, which naturally reduces bacterial concentration.
DO Eat Probiotic Foods
Fermented and cultured foods are packed with probiotics that can help maintain a healthy bacterial balance in the urinary tract. Find opportunities to incorporate more probiotic foods and drinks into your diet, like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, kefir, and sour pickles, among others.
DON’T “Hold It”
When you feel the urge to urinate, take a break and go do it! Holding your urine can lead to a backup of bacteria in your bladder, which may ultimately result in a UTI.
DON’T Apply Essential Oils To Genitals
This may go without saying, but I’m going to say it here anyway. The vulva, vagina, and urethra should be off limits when using essential oils, because essential oils are highly concentrated and can easily irritate the sensitive mucous membranes in these areas.
DON’T Ingest Essential Oils
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: avoid ingesting essential oils. In my opinion, the potential benefits just don’t outweigh the risks!
DON’T Apply Undiluted Essential Oils
Essential oils are highly concentrated, which means it’s always best to dilute them with a carrier oil before applying them to your skin. To learn more about carrier oils and how dilution works, check out this post.
Do you have any tried-and-true methods for dealing with UTIs?