Treat and Prevent UTIs Without Drugs | Chris Kresser

Treat and Prevent UTIs Without Drugs

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Urinary tract infections (UTIs), which are infections anywhere along the urinary tract, including the bladder and kidneys, are the second most common type of infection in the United States. (1) Read on for five ways to prevent and treat a UTI without antibiotics.

UTI treatment without antibiotics
It is possible to get rid of a UTI without antibiotics. iStock/Tom Merton

UTIs can be caused by poor hygiene, impaired immune function, the overuse of antibiotics, the use of spermicides, and sexual intercourse. The most common cause, accounting for about 90 percent of all cases, is the transfer of Escherichia coli bacteria from the intestinal tract to the urinary tract.

For those of you who have experienced a UTI, there isn’t much you wouldn’t do to avoid another one. While I personally have never had a UTI, my patients have told me how symptoms like pain, burning, nausea, and even bloody urine can be debilitating, and for those who get chronic UTIs, the fear of infection can be enough to prevent engagement in any activities that could trigger one. For people who get them frequently, sometimes a specific cause cannot even be pinpointed. This can be frustrating and scary.

Fortunately, there are a few methods of natural UTI treatment and prevention that have worked extremely well for my patients, to the point where they no longer worry about getting a UTI.

These treatments don’t require a prescription, are inexpensive, and are completely drug-free. While your doctor may not know about them, I hope this article will help you completely avoid UTIs—or at least significantly reduce their frequency and severity. I recommend working with a Functional Medicine practitioner who is focused on treating the root cause of your UTIs.

UTIs can be debilitating, but it is possible to get relief without requiring a prescription. Check out this article for five ways to cure UTIs without antibiotics. #functionalmedicine #wellness #chriskresser

What Is the Standard Treatment for a UTI?

Doctors typically use antibiotics to treat UTIs, and the type and duration depend on your health condition and the type of bacterium found in your urine. (2) Commonly prescribed antibiotics are:

  • Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim)
  • Amoxicillin
  • Ampicillin
  • Ciprofloxacin (Cipro)

These antibiotics are often unnecessary and may cause more problems in the future by destroying the beneficial bacteria that prevent pathogenic bacteria from growing. Long-term use of antibiotics can also lead to antibiotic resistance in strains of bacteria like E. coli in the gut, and a UTI caused by these bacteria will be even more challenging to eliminate and can cause more serious issues like a kidney or bladder infection.

Furthermore, antibiotics do very little to prevent the infection from happening in the first place. So, while drugs may be an easy fix for the short term, in the long run, you will continue to be susceptible to UTIs, and these infections may be worse than if you had never taken a course of antibiotics in the first place!

UTI treatment without antibiotics
Cranberries contain D-mannose, which is an effective natural remedy for UTIs. iStock/Terryfic3D

Curing and Preventing UTIs Naturally: D-Mannose

Treating UTIs with D-Mannose

D-mannose is by far the most effective supplement for both treatment and prevention of UTIs. Similar to glucose in structure, D-mannose is a naturally occurring sugar that is found in a number of fruits, including apples, blueberries, and cranberries. (3) This sugar is the reason that cranberry juice has been commonly recommended as a UTI treatment, though it is far easier to get the recommended dosage from a supplement. D-mannose is effective because it attaches to E. coli bacteria, causing them to stick to each other and preventing them from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. (4) The bacteria can then easily be eliminated from the body during urination.

D-mannose, even in large quantities, does not cause any adverse effects, and cannot be metabolized the way other sugars can, meaning this supplement is safe for people with diabetes and others who are avoiding sugar for any reason. This treatment is also safe for children and the elderly.

Symptom relief can be seen as quickly as the following day, and most symptoms of UTI are generally resolved after 48 hours of treatment. Additionally, taking D-mannose during a time where you feel you are most prone to UTIs, such as before intercourse or during prolonged antibiotic treatment, can help prevent a UTI from ever developing in the first place. This is especially helpful for those who are prone to chronic UTIs and want to be able to engage in normal life activities without fear of infection.

The typical dose of D-mannose for UTI treatment is 500 mg, in capsule or powder form, taken with or in a glass of water or juice every two to three hours for five days. It is a good practice to continue taking the supplement even after symptoms have diminished to ensure complete elimination of the bacteria in the urinary tract. This dose can also be taken as a preventive, or prophylactic, method.

While there has not been any peer-reviewed research to support the effectiveness of D-mannose in treating or preventing UTIs, clinical and anecdotal experience suggests it is highly effective for the majority of infections, both acute and chronic. Some of my patients who have used D-mannose as a UTI treatment method have even described its effects as “miraculous”—so it’s definitely worth a shot!

Four Alternative Treatments for Chronic UTIs

One caveat with D-mannose is that it is only effective with UTIs caused by E. coli infection. While this accounts for about 90 percent of cases, 10 percent will not benefit from this treatment. In this case, supplements that help disrupt biofilms can be useful in treating and preventing UTIs.

Biofilms are an accumulation of microorganisms and their extracellular products forming structured communities attached to a surface such as the lining of the urogenital tract. (5) The development of a biofilm can make infections extremely hard to treat, since they commonly return shortly after treatment is stopped.

The antibacterial resistance of pathogenic biofilms is one of the major reasons why those who get a UTI are highly susceptible to getting more in the future—if the biofilm is not completely eliminated, the infection will eventually return at some point.

1. InterFase Plus and Biofilm Defense

This is why the use of biofilm disruptors can be helpful for preventing the recurrence of chronic UTIs. The biofilm disruptors that I recommend to my patients are InterFase Plus from Klaire Labs or Biofilm Defense from Kirkman. These contain specialized enzymes to disrupt the biofilm matrix embedding potential of pathogens, and dissolve the sugar and fibrin components of most pathogenic biofilms. By destroying the biofilms, the recurrence of UTIs despite proper hygiene can be reduced. (6)

2. Lauricidin

Lauricidin is another supplement that may help in treating UTIs, particularly those that are caused by types of bacteria other than E. coli. Lauricidin (a proprietary form of monolaurin) has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial activity, and is specific against pathogenic bacteria so it won’t disrupt beneficial bacteria in the gut. It is highly effective at combating gram-positive bacteria in the families of: (7)

  • Streptococcus
  • Staphylococcus
  • Corynebacterium
  • Listeria
  • Bacillus
  • Clostridium

It works by disturbing the integrity of the bacterial cell membrane, blocking replication and making it easier for the immune system to destroy the pathogen. Lauricidin is only helpful, however, for UTIs not caused by E. coli, which is gram-negative and has a different kind of outer cell membrane than gram-positive bacteria.

3. Nattokinase

Nattokinase is another enzyme that has been shown to dissolve biofilms. (8) Produced by the bacteria found in the fermented food natto, this enzyme is proteolytic and can help break down the fibrin proteins that maintain the structure of biofilms.

Because of its fibrin-breaking ability, it’s important that nattokinase supplements are not taken by people with bleeding disorders, or by people who are taking Coumadin (warfarin), aspirin, or any other drug that influences blood clotting, unless supervised by a physician.

4. Apolactoferrin

Apolactoferrin (or lactoferrin) is one more supplement that I recommend to my patients with recurrent UTIs. This multifunctional protein lactoferrin is a component of the immune system with antimicrobial activity, and is part of the innate defense, found mainly in secretions and mucosal surfaces. (9)

Lactoferrin has been shown to block pathogenic biofilm development by binding to iron and causing the bacteria to “wander” across surfaces instead of forming cell clusters and biofilms. (10, 11) One study found that the amount of E. coli bacteria in the kidneys and bladder of mice was significantly reduced 24 hours after oral lactoferrin treatment, compared to a control group. (12) More research is necessary to demonstrate the effectiveness of lactoferrin in treating UTIs, but I believe it is worth trying, especially if dealing with chronic UTIs.

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  1. I just wanted to add that for years a close friend had UTIs and tried many of the above as well as traditional treatment to no avail. While talking one day she mentioned that she had been using a particular brand of menstrual pad to deal with some mild urinary incontinance. I suggested switching to unbleached cotton reusable pads instead and within two weeks her symptoms cleared up. It seems that the bleaching agents or something else in the pads was causing enough inflammation to trigger problems. I would think trying to a. switch to a fragrance free detergent, b. switch to mild or no soap, c. switch to cotton or un-dyed underwear, and d. switch to unbleached feminine products would all be worth a try.

  2. Thank you for the great article, Chris! I follow the Paleo diet religiously as well and have never felt better, except for a bad post-nasal drip – that’s the only thing left after several inflammatory issues. Now, I immediately feel the difference when I go to a restaurant – so I am pretty firm on the Paleo lifestyle. I feel so well now that don’t even have any other cravings.

    I did try 1 bottle of the InterFase Plus based on another post of yours, it did not work for the post-nasal drip. I’ll try it again, or the Biofilm Defense

  3. I had UTIs very often until I started taking Probiotics. More recently I gave up most grains on the gap diet and never resumed eating them. After a couple of UTI free years I was able to rid myself completely by taking tons of Probiotics getting relief after only 4 hours. I am now also Paleo and Weston A Price so that helps too. I will get D-Mannose for a back up, it sounds excellent, thank you for this article. People need to know how much damage all these antibiotics given like candy do to us!

    • Some. I’ve just started suggesting them about 6 months ago, and they seem to help – but it’s hard to say because I’m always giving them in conjunction with other stuff.

      • Hi Chris-
        Can you recommend a natural treatment for vaginal yeast?? I have heard that Boric Acid is a good one .

        • Garlic. Peel one clove and insert. I am not kidding. Do this overnight, remove and insert a fresh clove if necessary until symptoms are gone. I have done this for decades now. It has saved me a lot of time and money on prescriptions. Garlic is an anti-fungal agent and inhibits the proliferation of yeast.

          • Yes, this does work! I have done it for years also. Now to try the D-Mannose for my first ever UTI. I was on amoxicillin and now they want me to take Macrobid. I took one pill against my better judgement and no more. I have been taking the D-Mannose and Cranberry Probiotic for a few days and I have to see if it will work. I am not willing to risk the serious side effects of Macrobid because I am hypersensitive. After only one pill, I was dizzy, my blood pressure was up, heart rate up, rash. I am scared to death of the listed side effects and hoping the D-Mannose works.

  4. Cranberry juice (I use the unsweetened, undiluted stuff) taken in a shot glass at morning, noon and night has always worked for me. My doctor says it doesn’t work for everyone but I’m betting that some people use the Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail instead of the real thing. I try to use it on an empty stomach because I just see it working better that way, even if that’s not true. My mind thinks it is. 🙂

  5. Evidently, I am one of the few guys who had a sever bladder infection. I became extremely dehydrated and was urinating a lot of blood and tissue. They prescribed sulfa drugs. I don’t know much about these drugs but they cured me quick. I haven’t had anything else like that before or since.

  6. The dangers of fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro) cannot be overstated. One UTI I had was so painful I was screaming in the bathroom; it felt like a knife in my urethra. All I had was 100% cranberry juice (undiluted with other juices or water) at home so I started drinking it. It didn’t give me much immediate relief so I went to the emergency room. I now wish I hadn’t. I had to wait forever in the ER but I still had my super sour cranberry juice with me and continued to drink it. By the time the Dr. saw me my acute pain was gone; I guess it took a few hours to take effect. However, they prescribed Cipro and gave me my first “horse pill” (as the nurse said) there in the hospital and sent me home. That was in 2007. This is the year 2012 and I am happy to say that my digestive system has finally recovered from the major damage this antibiotic caused it. 5 years. *sigh* just google the damage that these antibiotics cause… Thanks for this article, if only I had known these things before I picked up the first tablet of Cipro and put in my mouth…

  7. I used to get recurring UTIs and I got great advice from a friend. You simply drink copious amounts of water with lemon squeezed into it. I would drink something like a glass of water every 15 minutes. After a few glasses, I’d start to feel much better. Usually what happened is that i’d feel so good, I’d forget to continue drinking, and all the symptoms would come right back. Resume the water with lemon – it’s gone again.
    The great thing is that you already have water and probably lemon at home.

  8. I would note that if you try natural treatments and they don’t work within a few days, you probably need antibiotics. I ended up with a rather bad kidney infection some years ago because I was relying on natural treatments and couldn’t get to a doctor when they weren’t working. I haven’t had one in a very long time though.

  9. I am so glad to see this! But I am wondering if any of these can be long term solutions? I’m currently takin care of my bed ridden uncle, he has a catheter, and is constantly getting UTIs, can I give any of these on a daily long term basis? Thanks!

    • It’s particularly important for catheterized patients to use something that can disrupt biofilm (I mentioned a couple of choices in the article).

      • I suffer greatly with bladder infections but when tested nothing turns up, have been on Kephalexin 500 mg for years plus other antibiotics have recently read about d manose and coconut water which I’ve been on plus a very strict diet, but can only go a couple of days before I feel another infection coming on, I also catheterised my bladder daily,would apolactoferrin help me, willing to try anything, and where do I get it from?

        • United Medical Laboratories in Virginia.

          Get a culture done by them. They do it the old way and more bacterias show up.

          The doctors could find nothing in my samples but clearly something was wrong. Low and behold there was bacteria and it was serious indeed.

          Pay the money and get them to test you..

      • Hi Chris. I have suffered with a low level bladder infection for about 2 years (this one). I keep it low level with healthily diet etc., but it’s still very bothersome. There are several pills recommended here in the article. Since I don’t know whether mine is e-coli or not, can you tell me what pills would handle both? Or tell me which two I could take together to cover my bases? The only thing I know is antibiotics a few times did not work and cranberry (non-sugar, natural, even the one with dandelion), even in large does not help at all. It actually makes it worse. I would appreciate a recommendation. The Drs. are sweet but oblivious on this topic I’ve found. I need help. Very kindly, Leah

  10. Great article Chris. I can attest to the misery of frequent UTI’s. In the past I have suffered from Interstitial Cystitis which is an autoimmune condition. It is treated with a drug called Elmiron plus weekly installations of acid into the bladder, to burn off the scarred lining. It begs the question as to whether the treatment is worse than the condition.

    Since adopting a gluten free then later, Paleo way of life I have not had a single UTI or flare up of the IC. I’m not a doctor but I do believe that my body was reacting to the inflammatory components in my diet. It was a chance finding, since I changed my way of eating for other reasons.

    Hearing people talk about UTI symptoms strengthens my resolve to stay Paleo. It works for me.

    • Hi,
      I have found great…huge improvements going AIP-Paleo. However, my list of food intolerances keeps growing. How do I make it stop? Has your list grown as well?
      Paola

    • I went on a gluten-free then Paleo diet as well and occasionally juice things like lemons, apples and greens to keep my intestines in good working condition. Going Paleo helped to stop my chronic UTIs and yeast infections too! I’m going to look into this D-Mannose. It sounds lovely. I think diet is a great first line of defense. Antibiotics may work a few times but with diet you can encourage healthy bacteria and prevent the bad ones from even causing these kinds of issues. Awesome post.

  11. I spent about a year with chronic UTIs before discovering that fresh pineapple helps. I think it’s the Bromelain in it. I now eat it on a regular basis because the cause of mine is the birth control I’m using, and I’m stuck with that.

    Thanks for the other ideas, too. I have a daughter that also gets these at times, so adding blueberries and apples will help. 🙂

  12. I wish I had seen this post yesterday. I was diagnosed with a bladder infection and given Microbid to treat it. After being on the medication for almost 24 hours, I do not feel much better. Is a bladder infection a UTI that has gone untreated? Is there any danger taking D-Mannose as a daily supplement?

  13. Does E. coli have a beneficial function in the intestinal tract? If so, does D-mannose affect gut function negatively when taken regularly? I know Chris said above that D-mannose has no adverse side effects – so does that mean that D-mannose does NOT affect the function of E. coli in the gut?

    Thank you for this article, Chris, I very much appreciate it! I haven’t had a UTI in several years, thank goodness, but I had quite a few there for awhile when I was in poor health (and lab tests confirmed they were being caused by E. coli). I am much healthier now, and I like to think I’ll never get another UTI, but I would certainly love to know that I have some non-antibiotic options if they come back.

  14. I used to get UTIs all the time. All I know is, I went gluten-free and haven’t had one in years. I wish I had known about D-Mannose… I took so many antibiotics 🙁

  15. Great post Chris! I’ve had several staff members hitting me up for cipro prescriptions and I usually decline, recommending the ol’ cranberry juice! This is both for professional reasons (why is the dentist prescribing UTI antibiotics?) and just on principle (my aversion to antibiotics as anything other than a last resort). Now I have some great information to pass on – Thanks!

  16. I get UTI-like symptoms from oxalates, though, of course, it isn’t an infection. It’s very painful and uncomfortable. Would any of the above supps help the oxalates not be able to do their damage in the bladder? (I understand a low-oxalate diet is key to prevention.)

    Thanks much.

    • I used to be really sensitive to oxalates and still am on a moderate oxalate diet. It helps me to take as much magnesium as I can handle and I stay on a pretty strict auto-immune paleo diet. As my leaky gut healed, my oxalate problem has been better.

  17. I used to have chronic UTIs back when my immune system was not in good shape. And I still am prone to them. A few years back I learned about D-Mannose, and that’s what I use now if I get the feeling I might be getting one. It’s works amazingly well, and I haven’t needed antibiotics since I discovered it.

    I highly recommend it for people that are prone to UTIs, and even sometimes will take it proactively if I’m doing something that may or may not be a contributing factor, just to prevent it in the first place.

    • What about 14 year old boy, who as doctor said has no UTI, but gave him two rounds of antibiotics. The boy still urinates frequently and has clear discharge that smells fishy? Very frustrated about the whole thing…., would D-Mannose help?

      • I am not a doctor. But, it sounds like a trich infection, or an infection caused by bacteria similar to mycoplasma that’s treated with flagyl. The doctor should culture the discharge.

  18. D-mannose is definitely a miracle……..I have not had a problem since I tried it three years ago. If I feel a UTI coming on, I use it immediately. Previous to using d-mannose I was experiencing a UTI every two to three months. But try and convince an MD; they just roll their eyes after I tell them I purchase it at a health food store.

      • I purchase it at the local health food store. But pay attention to the dosage. Herein they recommend 500mg. My regular capsule only contains 25mg D-Mannose and cranberry extract, etc. However, I presently have symptons again. That being bloat, pain, and cloudy urine. I believe this may have been brought on by a 21 Day Detox that I was trying. About a week in the kidney pain started and that has been major pain when urinating and my urine has become VERY cloudy which indicates much bacteria. :(. Exactly what I was trying to prevent. I am beginning to think I have food allergies that may be bringing to on since I get infection all too frequently and my recent several months of avoiding white flour and sugar showed a complete cessation to all and any symptons. But I fell off the wagon after Christmas. Guess I’d better get back on.

        • I’m not a doctor, but cloudy urine and kidney pain I don’t believe are from detoxing. I’ve done a lot of detoxing, and have never had kidney pain except occasionally with heavy metal detoxing administered by my doctor. You may have an advanced UTI infection. I would consider getting medical attention asap. In the meantime, consider taking more D-Mannose. I take 1 tsp of D-Mannose powder (recommended dose on bottle, which is 2g of D-Mannose) (or equivalent in capsules) 2-3 times per day, or even 4 times with acute symptoms. And I drink a lot of water. Something else that helps me is vaginal care/support probiotics, which also contain special strains of good bacteria to help the urinary tract. Vitamin Code (the one I prefer) and Ultimate Flora — both brands make ones that contain 50 billion bacteria. Google and look at the images to see what the packages look like. Available at Whole Foods in fridge. But a neighborhood supplement store might have them cheaper.

        • Kim…did it happen to be a sugar detox??? I started noticing symptoms after I tried to cut out ALL sugars from my diet. :/

    • I would like to have some advise about my chronic bladderinfection. I already feel like i tried everything. I have it fot two years now every day! I have to urinate constantly. I have a six months old daughter and when i was pregnant i had to get 8 hours of antibiotics before she came because i have the gbs streptococcus b in big amounts. The bacteria was gone for 3 months and came back after that. I spend thousand of euro s on docters and treatments nothing works! I read here about something i didnt try, biofilm and lactoferine and the other supplements against the streptococcus. Could you advise me what to take im still breastfeeding and what to do and where to go to? I feel like we dont know here in the netherlands what to do about this problem i have. Thank you! Chantal

      ow for almost 3 minths

      • What i mean is,
        Is it possible to give these supplements during breastfeeding, and can i go somewhere i havent been yet who can treat this? Thank you!!

        • Dear Chris, could you please advise me cause nothing works for my chronic.streptococ b uti. I wrote to the distributors.of.lauricidin en biofilm disruptors but they cant help me out with my question if its safe while breastfeeding.. and dont advise it to take it. I really dont know what to do..

          • If you still have this….staph and strep are two bacteria that large doses of Vitamin C are very effective against. Try 1500 mg 3x a day, and see how it responds.

      • Have you researched interstitial cystitis? Its symptoms present like a utility but there is no bacteria present when tested.

          • thank you very much londa marie.
            at this stage i would try anything even collidal silver.
            there is a problem though because i don’t know the dosage
            for a chronic inflammatory uti and i also don’t know the duration.
            the information on thw web is confusing.
            would love to get advise from someone who tried.

          • thank you for the suggestion i will look into it.

            has anyone tried gse was it effective?

            would love to hear about it.

          • hi all,

            would love to get some advise about collidal silver. the dosage and strength to purchase, also the duration to use to chronic internal uti pain.
            if anyone has used it with success ,pls reply.

            with appreciation,
            rose

    • This article literally means more to me than any other I have EVER read. I have suffered from UTIs my entire adult life. Once, when 27, I went through three rounds of antibiotics, only to end up literally deblitated on the couch in extreme pain, and my doctor wouldn’t prescribe me anything serious enough to take away the pain, nor did he think to test me for antibtiotic resistance. Excessive antibiotics in dairy and meat prodcuts growing up made my body resistant. Sure enough, a $12 test later, and I was resistant to all the antibiotics. I ended up in the hospital it got so bad. Now, 8 years later, I JUST discovered D Mannose, and it works. I was horrified to go to the doctor this time because I have suffered from them chronically now for 3 months and was just about to give up. I quit having sex, quit drinking alcohol, and nothing worked. This literally has changed my life to be able to resume to any normal life. Thank you so much for writing this.