If you’ve ever suffered from a urinary tract infection (UTI), you’ve probably been told to drink a glass of cranberry juice, but it turns out diet can go a long way when it comes to finding relief.
“Diet is important in treating urinary tract infection to support the body’s immune system, reduce irritation in the healing process and help the body shed bacteria,” says Desiree Nielsen, a registered dietitian based in Vancouver.
But this doesn’t mean that simply eating and drinking something will quickly fix your UTI, she continues.
“Sometimes, the infection is too advanced and natural methods aren’t going to work; if you are still feeling crummy in 48 hours, go and get that antibiotic prescription,” she tells Global News. “And be sure to take your probiotics alongside that antibiotic too. Urinary tract infections can progress to kidney infections, which are incredibly serious.”
She adds there is also a lot of conflicting information on UTIs online.
“For example, that high vitamin C intake can both clear UTI and make it worse,” she says, adding similar claims of calcium have also been made.
A UTI, the Mayo Clinic notes, is an infection that can affect any part of the urinary system, while most infections target the bladder and urethra. Women are at a greater risk of getting these infections, but men can also be affected.
Symptoms include a strong and persistent urge to urinate, a burning sensation when you urinate, cloudy urine, urinating frequently, among others.
Below, Nielsen shares the top things you should eat and drink if you have a UTI, and things you should avoid.
It’s an age-old remedy and it can work, Nielsen says. But if you are buying cranberry juice, make sure it is unsweetened and not from concentrate.
“Pure, mouth-puckering cranberry juice is high in phytochemicals, called proanthocyanidins, which help reduce the ability of e.coli bacteria to adhere to the urinary tract walls, making it easier to pee them away,” she said.
You should also know, she adds, cranberry juice won’t kill the bacteria, but it will help flush them out of your system.
Take 1/4 cup of unsweetened cranberry juice diluted in water two or three times a day.
Water, lots of it
“Water is critical to dilute the contents of the bladder, leading to less irritation and to encourage urination so you can flush more bacteria from your system,” she says.
Dehydration can also trigger a UTI, so drinking a good amount of water every day is a good preventative measure as well.
Good quality probiotics and fermented foods
“What happens in the gut doesn’t stay in the gut,” Nielsen says. “Taking oral probiotics actually changes the flora of the vagina, and by default, the urinary tract.”
Taking a probiotic during a UTI will help restore microbial balance. “I like Bio-K+ fermented probiotic as a clinical strength option, and recommend also eating good quality fermented foods like homemade sauerkraut and kombucha, daily.”
“Protein is critical to support the immune system and regulate blood sugar rise. When planning a meal, always put 15 to 30 grams of plant protein on your plate.”
What to avoid: sugar
“High blood sugars increase your risk of UTI, which is why it is common in poorly controlled diabetes,” she says. “Sugar can also impair immune function.”
If you do have a UTI, stick to a no sugar and refined flour diet to keep blood sugar levels balanced and avoid the growth of bacteria.
Caffeine, spicy food, alcohol
“Caffeine will irritate the urinary tract, making you feel worse … so will spicy foods and alcohol.”