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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Treating UTIs Naturally

Apr 28, 2023 09:31AM ● By Alora Frederick, RDN, LDN
More than half of all women will contract a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) at least once during their life. According to the National Institutes of Health, 27 percent of women have reported a recurrence of a UTI within six months of the first infection. Many more women silently suffer from habitual UTIs which greatly impact their overall well-being. Any woman that suffers from a UTI deserves to break free from the vicious cycle of recurrent, painful UTIs.

Under normal circumstances, UTIs are quickly resolved with conventional treatment of antibiotics. The bacterial infection is killed off with an antibiotic and the woman should feel immediate relief. However, more and more women are not getting relief or resolution of the infection with antibiotics. This is an unfortunate instance where antibiotic resistance is at play. Recent studies have found that more than 92 percent of bacteria that cause UTIs are resistant to at least one common antibiotic. Bacteria that resist the effects of antibiotics add fuel to the fire and perpetuate the vicious cycle of recurrent UTIs for women.

Aside from antibiotic resistance, there are other consequences of antibiotics when they’re used to treat a UTI. It may take several weeks to months to restore gut microbiota after antibiotic use. This process can be accelerated or slowed down with nutrition, supplements and lifestyle. When stuck in the pattern of UTI followed by antibiotics followed by UTI, a woman’s microbiome does not get the chance to recover and replenish. This further exacerbates the issue given the role of the immune system in the GI tract. Seventy percent of the immune system is based in the gut. The abundance and diversity of strains of beneficial bacteria support a robust and healthy immune response. Antibiotic use markedly diminishes the richness of beneficial bacteria in the gut. With diminished beneficial bacteria the immune system suffers. This plays into a loop of a compromised immune system, a higher chance of UTI infection, the need for antibiotics and more.

Fortunately, there are methods of replenishing and fortifying the gut while on antibiotics in order to maintain a robust immune system. Nutrition, supplements and lifestyle factors all are invaluable resources for mending the gut during and after antibiotic use. Prebiotic-rich foods should be enjoyed on a daily basis in order to feed and encourage the regrowth of beneficial strains of bacteria. Prebiotic foods include apples, asparagus, chicory, chives, dandelion, garlic, green bananas, ground flaxseed, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, leeks, oats and onions.

Fermented foods should also be prioritized for their rich probiotic content. Kefir, yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and any other fermented food would introduce probiotics back into the gut through food sources. Be mindful when picking pickles as not all are created equal. A truly fermented pickle will likely be refrigerated. Pickles that are shelf-stable are typically soaked in vinegar and do not contain live cultures of beneficial bacteria.

Supplementing with specific strains of bacteria is indicated during and after antibiotic use. Women may feel best with a high-potency (50 billion-plus) probiotic when treating a UTI. Strains of bacteria from the Lactobacilli family are particularly relevant for supporting and preventing UTIs. Saccharomyces Boulardii works to combat antibiotic-associated diarrhea and spore-based probiotics promote bacterial equilibrium in the gut. Other natural compounds that help to prevent and treat a UTI include Uva Ursi, marshmallow root, D-Mannose and cranberry. The old wives’ tale of using cranberry for a UTI is in fact valid. This is because of the plant compound called proanthocyanidins found in cranberries that prevent E. coli bacteria from attaching to urinary tract cells.

Lifestyle factors like sleep quality and stress management are also invaluable tools for the recovery and prevention of UTIs. Women that are trapped in a series of back-to-back UTIs should know that it is possible to break the pattern.

Alora Frederick, RDN, LDN, is an integrative and functional dietitian in Waltham, MA. She is currently accepting new patients at Johnson Compounding and Wellness for virtual nutrition appointments. Schedule a free,15-minute, introductory call at