Can cranberries & other natural remedies really cure UTIs?

A new study suggests cranberries don’t work for everyone. But there are six other natural remedies for urinary tract infections that can ease your discomfort and end your illness faster.

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Get ready for a jaw-dropper, ladies: a recent health study flying around the Internet says that cranberry capsules don’t prevent urinary tract infections, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. But how can this be? What about all of of the cranberry-related cures that our mothers and grandmothers and health websites have pushed on us for years? Were all those glasses of Ocean Spray and natural cranberry tablets for naught?

Well, don’t toss your frozen cranberries out just yet (at the very least you’ll need them for Thanksgiving). The study focused specifically on senior women, so if you’re under the age of 60, you can take this information with a large grain of salt. And we’re not the only ones who think so. For Her spoke with Hayley Smith, the founder of FlowAid, a non-profit campaign that provides sanitary products for homeless woman in the United Kingdom, who also has has her doubts about the study.

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“The report is extremely biased,” she says, explaining the test subjects were 147 women living in nursing homes. “When you are a certain age, your body changes, and reacts differently, meaning there is a greater need for actual medicine solutions.” She adds that the report does not mention the percentage “of these women with other health issues that may prevent the cranberries from working effectively and whether or not they are reacting to antibiotics.”

“Cranberries do work for UTIs, even if it is a placebo effect due to the known connection,” says Smith.

So if cranberry seems to work for you, keep right on using it. But if you think the study is onto something, consider these other natural remedies to try out the next time a UTI strikes. We asked Smith and Avni Trivedi, a women’s health osteopath, to suggest other natural ways to help ease a painful UTI.

Apple cider vinegar

If cranberries don’t remedy UTIs, what natural remedies are there?

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“Infections are due to high acidity in the body,” says Trivedi. “Apple cider vinegar works by increasing the pH of the body. This in turn calms the reactivity in the body. One to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water should be consumed morning and evening.”

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Baking soda

Bakers rejoice! Chances are you already have this remedy sitting in your kitchen cabinet. Trivedi explains that, chemically speaking, baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, works similarly as apple cider vinegar. “A dose of a heaped teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate in a glass of water should be consumed morning and evening,” she says.

Parsley water or celery

According to Smith, parsley water and celery “flush out the kidneys, and make you pee more.” So even though you probably don’t feel like moving, let alone running to the bathroom, these greens will help end your painful ordeal faster. “This allows the infection to be flushed out quicker and also eases the pain,” she says. “It is a great solution, [especially] if you have blood in your urine.”

Cucumber

Cucumbers aren’t just for refreshing the delicate skin under your eyes. They have a women’s health purpose, too. “Cucumber produces more water and neutralizes your urine. It dilutes the infection and washes it out,” says Smith. So run to the fridge and change your salad plans for the day.

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Sandalwood oil

Sandalwood is pretty versatile: it’s a favorite of skincare gurus, herbalists, and perfumers alike. But you may not have known that there’s also a less glamorous but oh-so-important health use for sandalwood oil, too. “Sandalwood oil can be applied to a compress to the lower abdomen,” says Trivedi. “This is a powerful oil with antibacterial and diuretic properties, so it has the action of flushing out the bacteria in the body.”

Apply heat to your bladder

Women with difficult periods know this particular remedy all too well. “Applying heat to the bladder area can ease the discomfort and helps reduce the inflammation caused by the infection,” says Smith. So while it’s not a cure, it can certainly ease your symptoms of pain, and help you sleep through the night.

… And stay away from these UTI trouble makers

While there are many natural remedies that can help ease a painful UTI, it’s also important to know what you should steer clear of: “Avoid sugar and processed foods as they cause more acidity in the body,” says Trivedi. (Just what you want to hear at Halloween, huh?)

Also, remember that some home remedies aren’t for everyone.

“Although natural remedies can be effective, it is prudent to consult with the general practitioner and have a prescription for medication if needed,” says Trivedi. “UTI symptoms can escalate and cause kidney issues if they aren’t properly managed.”

Fingers crossed that you won’t have to worry about a UTI anytime soon, but when you do, go ahead and reach for that cranberry juice, or any of these at-home healers.

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