What is good food for a UTI? Believe it or not, the food and drink you ingest can have an impact on your infection. Pick the wrong foods, and it may make things worse.
However, choose the right stuff and you could help ease symptoms and speed up your recovery. We explore all the best and worst options below:
What is a UTI?
A urinary tract infection is an infection formed by bacteria entering the urinary passageway. As the infection develops, it can pass up through the urethra and bladder, making its way to the kidneys. This is a highly common infection with 40% of women in the US expected to develop at least one during their lifespan.
According to one study, 70-95% of all UTIs are caused by the E Coli bacteria. This bacteria forms naturally in your gut and is usually no cause for concern. The problem is when it finds its way through your digestive system and out of your rectum. Here, if it comes into contact with your urethral passageway, an infection can form.
When you suffer from a UTI, you are likely to experience pain and discomfort, particularly in your lower abdomen, bladder, and genital area. If the infection gets worse, the symptoms can become more severe, possibly leading to a full-blown kidney infection. Thankfully, like most bacterial infections, this is treatable and easy to prevent.
How can food affect your UTI?
There are often many arguments and debates surrounding the effect of food on urinary tract infections. A study from 2017 claimed that the foods you eat or drink should not be considered independent risk factors for UTIs. However, there has also been a lot more research that indicates your diet and eating habits can have a significant impact on your likelihood to get a urinary tract infection. Similarly, there’s evidence to suggest that eating certain foods and drinking specific beverages can calm the symptoms of a UTI.
One example is a study from 2020 that looked at how vegetarian diets affected urinary tract infections over a 9-year period. It was discovered that participants saw a 16% decline in the risk of developing UTIs during this study. Experts suggest that part of this is down to the lack of acidity in vegetarian diets – but more on that in the next sections.
Foods that are good for a UTI
Generally speaking, you should eat foods that are known to lower the acidity of your urine. When urine is too acidic, it creates the perfect conditions for bacteria to form and cause an infection. So, the theory is that lowering the acidity and adding more alkaline to your urine can reduce the chances of bacteria growing that lead to UTIs.
There is research to back this up, with a 2015 study proving that urine with a more neutral pH prevents the growth of bacteria associated with UTIs.
Foods that can typically help you lower urine acidity levels include:
- Most fruits – particularly citrus fruits
- Probiotic yogurts
- Broccoli, spinach, and other leafy greens
- Dark chocolate
- Apple cider vinegar
As you can see, the link between vegetarian diets and a reduced risk of UTIs is clear. Naturally, diets that revolve around fruit and veg will help to keep your urine at a more balanced pH level.
Foods to avoid with a UTI
It is a smart idea to avoid foods that cause your urine to be overly acidic. This includes the following:
- Most types of beans
Of course, you don’t have to cut these foods out of your diet completely, just be aware that they should be consumed in moderation and alongside the other foods listed above.
Furthermore, avoid any spicy foods as this can irritate your bladder and urethra when you urinate. Thus, you exacerbate the painful symptoms associated with your UTI.
What to drink with a UTI?
Water is the most important thing to drink with a UTI. The more water you drink, the more you will urinate, which helps to flush bacteria out of your body. Moreover, there is evidence that a lack of water – or dehydration – may lead to a UTI. It’s not so much that dehydration is causing your infection, it’s that the lack of water in your system allows more bacteria to grow. If you drink enough to avoid being hydrated, you have a lower risk of developing a UTI while also being able to handle the key symptoms of a UTI.
Alongside this, there’s research out there that suggests cranberry juice can be good for UTIs. There was a study in 2016 that saw the number of urinary tract infection episodes in women with a recent history of UTIs decrease after drinking cranberry juice daily.
What shouldn’t you drink with a UTI?
Avoid any drinks that are overly acidic and can irritate your bladder and urinary tract. A common beverage includes coffee – lay off it until your infection clears up.
Similarly, stay clear of alcohol while you are fighting your infection. It can worsen the symptoms by irritating the bladder and also causing dehydration.
Primarily, you should focus on drinking as much water as possible, with some cranberry juice thrown in there now and then as well.
How is a UTI treated?
Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. The infections are unlikely to leave of their own accord, but drinking lots of water to flush out the bacteria can help to prevent them from getting worse. Still, you should really get a prescription for antibiotics as soon as possible to kill the bacteria.
When to see a doctor?
See your doctor at the first signs of a UTI:
- Pain when you pee
- The urge to pee more often than normal
- Pain in your bladder area
- Pain in your lower back
- Cloudy pee
- Pee with a foul smell
Contact your doctor to get a diagnosis, or do it online with DrHouse. We can assess your symptoms and provide a prescription for antibiotics in just a few moments.
Eating foods and drinking beverages that lower the acidity of your urine can help to prevent UTIs and ease your symptoms if you suffer from an infection.
It’s smart to steer clear of food/drink that can aggravate your bladder and worsen the symptoms when you’re infected, such as spicy foods, coffee, and alcohol. Drinking lots of water is also essential to flush out the bacteria from your urinary tract.
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- Kevin C Maki, Kerrie L Kaspar, Christina Khoo, Linda H Derrig, Arianne L Schild, Kalpana Gupta, Consumption of a cranberry juice beverage lowered the number of clinical urinary tract infection episodes in women with a recent history of urinary tract infection, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 103, Issue 6, June 2016, Pages 1434–1442, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.116.130542