Many women have experienced a urinary tract infection more than once. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common. They happen when bacteria from the skin or rectum enter the urethra — the tube that allows urine to leave the body — and infect the urinary tract. Bladder infections are the most common type of UTI, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
RELATED: 7 Home Remedies for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Symptoms
Both men and women can get a UTI, but they are especially prevalent among women. About 40 to 60 percent of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
Natural remedies, including apple cider vinegar (ACV), are often touted for their ability to treat UTIs. Apple cider vinegar is a sour, acidic substance made from fermented apples and water. It’s often used to flavor foods or as an ingredient in salad dressings.
Vinegar has been used for centuries to clean and disinfect. It’s also been used as a food preservative because of its ability to keep bacteria from spoiling food.
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Fact or Myth: Can UTIs Be Treated With Apple Cider Vinegar?
Don’t believe the hype you may have heard regarding apple cider vinegar for UTIs. While some studies have suggested that apple cider vinegar has some antibacterial and antifungal properties, there is no scientific or medical evidence that drinking apple cider vinegar cures UTIs. In general, most experts do not think that the things we eat or drink play a significant role in treating or curing UTIs, according to the NIDDK.
Related: Urinary Tract Infections During Pregnancy: Symptoms, Treatment, and Common Questions
Signs and Symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections
The most common UTI symptom is pain or burning during urination.
According to the CDC, other symptoms of a UTI or bladder infection may include:
- Frequent urination
- Blood in urine
- Feeling the need to urinate, even if your bladder is empty
- Pressure or cramping in the groin, lower abdomen, or lower back
Related: 7 Surprising Risk Factors For Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Safe to Drink?
Apple cider vinegar is safe to drink in small amounts, though drinking apple cider vinegar is not likely to cure a UTI or other urinary tract problems.
Most experts recommend diluting no more than 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water before drinking. That’s because apple cider vinegar is a strong acid and could irritate your throat if consumed frequently or in large amounts, notes the Mayo Clinic. Drinking undiluted apple cider vinegar may erode tooth enamel, the hard outer surface that protects teeth from decay, as an eight-week randomized trial demonstrated.
Vinegar also may interact with certain medicines, including diuretics, laxatives, or insulin. It’s best to check with a doctor before drinking apple cider vinegar for a UTI or any other purpose.
Should You Douche With Apple Cider Vinegar?
Douching with apple cider vinegar is not recommended.
Douching is rinsing out the inside of the vagina with water or a mixture of fluids. Douches sold in stores may contain prepackaged mixes of water and vinegar. There is no scientific evidence that douching with apple cider vinegar cures UTIs.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends against douching for any reason, including to cure UTIs.
Douching can change the natural acidity of a healthy vagina, which may lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. This can lead to yeast infections or other infections of the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries, notes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.
The laboratory study cited earlier showed that undiluted apple cider vinegar could kill microbes responsible for vaginal yeast infections in a petri dish. However, applying apple cider vinegar directly to the skin may not be safe and could even result in a chemical burn, research has suggested.
Proven Treatments and Therapies for Urinary Tract Infection
While apple cider vinegar has not been shown to cure UTIs, there are proven UTI treatments that can help to rid the body of infection and alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.
- Antibiotics are the gold standard treatment for UTIs. These drugs kill the bacteria that are causing the infection. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics for a UTI. Pain and the frequent urge to urinate typically begin to go away after a few antibiotic doses, though it’s important to finish the entire course of treatment as prescribed by your healthcare provider. UTIs that aren’t fully treated can return more easily.
- Other drugs, such as phenazopyridine (Pyridium), may be prescribed to help ease painful urinary symptoms before the antibiotics have time to work.
- Drink a lot of water and urinate often. Drinking at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day helps ensure you’ll urinate often, which allows harmful bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract. Make sure you urinate as soon as you feel the urge; bacteria can grow when urine stays in the bladder too long, says the Mayo Clinic.
- Place a heating pad on your back or abdomen to help alleviate pain from a UTI or bladder infection.
In addition, screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may also be helpful, since they can be linked to UTIs.
Prevent UTIs and Other Urinary Tract Problems
Making some changes to your daily routine may help prevent future UTIs:
- Drink six to eight glasses of water each day.
- Urinate when you feel the urge to go.
- Urinate shortly after having sex to flush away bacteria that may have entered the urinary tract during sex.
- Always wipe front to back after urinating or having a bowel movement.
- Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothing.
- Certain forms of birth control, including diaphragms, spermicide, and unlubricated condoms, can increase UTI or bladder infection risk. The NIDDK recommends using condoms with a nonspermicidal lubricant.
- If you handle raw meats, be sure to practice good food preparation hygiene, since raw meat can contain bacteria that cause UTIs.
- Consider cranberries: While they cannot treat a urinary tract infection, they do contain natural substances that can help prevent infection, per research.