Juicing for a UTI
If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve had a UTI (urinary tract infection) at some point in your life. If you’re extra unlucky like my mom, you could suffer from them several times a year. Of course men can get UTIs too but the chances for women are much higher due to our physiology. Some experts put incidence among women as high as 1 in 2 (source).
Urinary tract infections can be inconvenient and uncomfortable. You’ll find yourself taking antibiotics more than you’d like. And even that’s not guaranteed to leave you infection-free. Jeffrey Henderson MD says that in the last 10 to 15 years he has seen a big increase in antibiotic-resistant UTIs. Yikes.
Desperate to help my mom, I decided to research some natural ways to treat and prevent UTIs. Let food be your medicine, as they say. Juicing is my current obsession so I started there. I was surprised at the results I found! Read on to learn about juicing for a UTI.
What is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection is just that - an infection in your urinary tract. But how does it happen?
Most of us are familiar with the concept that urine is sterile. This is true - your urine doesn’t contain any nasties like bacteria, viruses or fungi. Unfortunately these microorganisms have other ways to enter and infect your urinary system.
Infections usually begin in the tube which connects your bladder to the outside world - your urethra. Bacteria can easily enter here from the anus (that’s why it’s drilled into us girls to always wipe front to back). E. coli is the main culprit, generally found in the digestive system.
From the urethra these germs can travel up to your bladder and elsewhere. The main types of UTI based on location are:
- Urethritis – infection in the urethra
- Cystitis – infection in the bladder
- Pyelonephritis – infection in the kidneys.
Why do I get UTIs?
As I’ve already mentioned, women are at higher risk for developing a UTI than men. The reason for this is twofold, and actually quite obvious if you think about it. Firstly, in women’s bodies, germs are more easily transmitted from the anus to urethra simply because of proximity. Secondly, once the bacteria make a move, they have a shorter distance to cover in females - men have longer urethras.
Other risk factors for UTIs are sexual intercourse, vaginal infections, certain types of contraceptive devices and poor air circulation in your nether regions (source)
For more detail, check out this video:
Symptoms of a UTI
Symptoms of a UTI will differ depending on the region of the urinary system involved. Some of the most common include:
- A burning sensation during urination
- Increased frequency in the urge to urinate. Even if you find little to nothing comes out when you do go.
- Pain in the lower back or lower abdomen.
- Urine with a strong odor
- Change in the appearance of your urine - it may look cloudy or dark
- Fever and/or chills
- Blood in the urine
How Can Juicing Help for a UTI?
Juicing seems to be an elixir of good health - it was for me anyway. It helped me lose weight and improve my energy levels. But can it help with something as specific as a urinary infection? The answer is yes, to some extent.
I’m not saying you should turn your back on conventional medicine. Quite the opposite in fact. I believe that food and other natural remedies can be used alongside other treatments, where appropriate. The juices I’ve listed in this article may be enough to prevent a mild UTI getting worse or to ward off future infection. In more serious cases, there’s no avoiding antibiotics, I’m sorry to say.
Below are four evidence-backed ways in which juicing can help with a UTI.
1. Water Content
The number one tip for keeping urinary tract infections at bay is to up your water intake. The reason for this is that water increases the volume of urine you produce - physically washing the bacteria out of your urethra.
If you can’t stomach drinking more than eight glasses of unflavoured water throughout the day, juicing is a healthy alternative. Unlike flavoured waters which can contain artificial ingredients and sweeteners, juicing is 100% natural.
I don’t suggest drinking eight glasses of juice a day - natural sugars are still sugars. Instead, add more water to your regular juice recipe to increase the volume. It won’t affect the taste too much and you’ll get the added bladder benefits. You can also look for recipes which use fruits with a high water content such as watermelon.
You’ve probably seen cranberry supplements on sale at your local pharmacy as a UTI remedy. If not, chances are someone has recommended that you guzzle back cranberry juice to cure your UTI. Sound familiar?
The reason behind this is a family of naturally-occurring chemicals called proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins are a type of polyphenol found primarily in cranberries and blueberries. It was originally believed that cranberry and similar juices battled bacteria by changing the pH of your urine making it less hospitable.
Now it’s believed that proanthocyanidins stop bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder - like Teflon for your urinary system!
Four trials found that cranberries “significantly reduced the incidence of symptomatic UTIs in 12 months compared with placebo/control”. It was noted, however, that side effects were common and many participants dropped out of trials of this nature. It’s true that cranberry juice is an acquired taste!
3. Vitamin A
If you get UTIs regularly and are already taking antibiotics, adding more vitamin A to your diet could help them work better, a study has found.
In this study, twelve patients suffering from recurrent UTIs were given “a single dose of 200,000 IU vitamin A in addition to antimicrobial therapy”. During a six month follow up period, infection reduced from 3.58 to 0.75 per 6 months.
Researchers concluded that “vitamin A supplementation may have an adjuvant effect on the treatment of recurrent urinary tract infections”. An adjuvant is a substance that enhances the effect of a medicine, e.g. caffeine helps some painkillers work better.
Luckily there are plenty of fruits and vegetables which are great sources of vitamin A. These can easily be incorporated into your juicing regimen. Leafy greens are a good start, with kale topping the list for this nutrient.
4. Vitamin C
Although research suggests that cranberry doesn’t work by changing your urine’s pH, there are other fruits that do have this mechanism. Specifically, fruits with a high vitamin C content.
Vitamin C by another name is ascorbic acid. This acid enters your urine and limits the growth of bacteria - at least that’s the theory. Too much vitamin C can irritate your bladder, however, so don’t go overboard.
Did you know that some vitamins can make you happy? Read more here.
The Top 10 Juicing Ingredients for Fighting UTIs
If you’re ready to battle urinary tract infections the natural way, you’ll want to stock up on the following juicing ingredients:
- Cranberries - for their high proanthocyanidin content
- Blueberries - like cranberries, blueberries have a high proanthocyanidin content
- Kale - 100 grams of this superfood contains 200% of your daily allowance of both vitamin A and vitamin C.
- Pineapple - 87% water content and 100 grams contains 79% of your daily vitamin C dose
- Carrots - 100 grams contains a whopping 334% of your daily vitamin A requirement
- Strawberry - it’s 92% water
- Watermelon - also 92% water
- Cantaloupe melon - it contains 90% water
- Guava - 100 grams of guava fruit contains 380% of your daily vitamin C dose.
- Orange - 100 grams contains 88% of your daily vitamin C
Juicing may be delicious and nutritious but there are some things to watch out for - especially when it comes to juicing for UTIs. If you’ve tried cranberry juice, you’ll know it can be hard to stomach. In some cases, I mean this literally. Side effects like GERD (acid reflux) nausea and diarrhoea are not uncommon with cranberry juice.
Too much cranberry juice can also cause kidney stones if you’re susceptible. This is due to their high oxalate content.
As I always say when discussing natural remedies - if you have a health condition or take a regular medicine, check with your doctor before starting. Especially if you take blood thinners - cranberry juice can interact and cause bleeding (source).
Finally, always see a doctor if you don’t notice an improvement in your UTI symptoms after a 2 - 3 days or if you have one or more of these warning signs:
- Lower abdominal pain
- Pain in the back
Kidney infections can become serious and usually require antibiotics. Your doctor will most likely take a urine sample to identify the bacteria involved and give you a prescription.
How to Prevent a UTI from Reoccurring
Along with dietary changes like juicing, here are some other tips to stop your UTI from coming back, again...and again...and again.
- Don’t hold onto your urine if you can help it. When you need, to go, go as soon as possible. Always empty your bladder completely.
- Wipe front to back after urinating
- Shower instead of taking a bath
- Don’t use scented products in your downstairs area. I’m talking about feminine hygiene sprays and scented shower products.
- Shower before and urinate after intercourse
- Avoid using certain contraceptives - diaphragms, unlubricated condoms, or spermicidal jelly.
- Avoid tight clothing on your bottom half. Wear cotton underwear not nylon.
Final Thoughts on Juicing for a UTI
Hopefully with these tips you can wave goodbye to your UTI. If not, you might be able to reduce the frequency a bit and cut down on antibiotic usage.
I’ve been trying to start my mom on juicing for a while now and I think I’ve convinced her now that I’ve shared the benefits of juicing for a UTI. She’s tried every antibiotic in the book so after checking with her doctor, I think we will try some vitamin A fruit juices together.
How about you, have you found a natural way to beat UTIs? I’d love if you would share your story in the comments. If you have a favourite juice recipe with vitamin A, C or proanthocyanidins, please send me a link too!