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Stop UTIs Without Antibiotics

March 15, 2012 (Updated: March 5, 2015)
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

As many of you know from firsthand experience, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are high on most people’s list of things to avoid. And yet, as I explained to my patient, Sarah, the standard “antibiotics for everyone” treatment only makes matters worse. By the time Sarah left my office, she was ready to take on her recurrent UTIs with a whole new battle plan. Here’s the short version of what I told her .

How UTIs Happen

The urinary tract is made up of the kidneys, bladder, urethra, ureters, and penis (in men). (Although UTIs are much more common in women, men do suffer from them, too.) These organs filter and remove waste from the body in the form of urine. Most UTIs are located in the bladder or the urethra, the tube connecting the bladder and genitals, but the infection can spread to the kidneys and cause serious health problems.

The vast majority — 85 percent or more — of UTIs are caused by E. coli (Escherichia coli), a bacterium that lives in the intestines. As long as the E. coli stays in the intestines, all’s well. But when the bacterium gains access to the urinary tract, problems begin. This could be caused by an infected prostate, accidental contamination from a bowel movement, or sexual activity.

And when that happens, look out! Suddenly, urination becomes an urgent issue, sometimes involving pain, burning sensations, blood in the urine, and a host of other discomforts. In fact, one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of a UTI is the constant feeling that you need to urinate — even though you just did!

The Awful Truth About Antibiotics

Antibiotics are standard treatment for UTIs. Although they have saved millions of lives, antibiotics must be used appropriately — and sparingly. The danger in using them for UTIs is twofold. One, they’re not necessary, because there are excellent nonantibiotic UTI remedies available. Two, they tend to make the situation worse in the long run. Antibiotics kill off both the bad and the “good” bacteria, the ones we need to stay healthy and avoid future UTIs and yeast infections. In fact, a recent study found that women who used vaginal probiotic (good bacteria) suppositories had fewer UTIs than women who used a placebo, or fake probiotic. Clearly, good bacteria are our friends, and we need to do everything we can to keep them happy.

A Berry Good Remedy

If you have an ongoing problem with UTIs, you’ve probably tried cranberry juice as a remedy or preventive measure. Cranberries and cranberry juice contain substances that prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder lining. The only trick is that it’s best to use unsweetened cranberries or cranberry juice, and those are both extremely tart. Fortunately, you need to drink only four to ten ounces of cranberry juice daily. Try adding a few drops of the no-calorie herbal sweetener, stevia. Cranberry supplements are another option. I recommend a dose of 500 mg twice daily.

D-Mannose Does the Trick

In earlier newsletters, I’ve recommended watching out for hidden sugars, which can be recognized by names ending in “-ose.” Well, here’s one form of sugar that contradicts the advice — D-Mannose. This simple sugar occurs naturally in certain plants, including cranberries. Our bodies can use small amounts of D-Mannose, but most of it is eliminated in the urine. As D-Mannose makes its trip through the bladder, it connects with substances that shouldn’t be there, like infection-causing bacteria (in this case, E. coli), and sweeps them away from the bladder lining.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Individuals who suffer from recurrent UTIs can take a daily dose of one teaspoon of D-Mannose for prevention. If you feel a UTI coming on, it’s fine to increase the dosage to one teaspoon every few hours, which should provide speedy relief. Simply mix the D-Mannose powder in water and drink. If you’re concerned about blood-sugar levels, you’ll be happy to hear that the body consumes very small amounts of D-Mannose, so using it as a supplement won’t raise blood-sugar levels.

One caution: If you use D-Mannose and/or cranberry juice for several days and the UTI symptoms don’t go away, I recommend seeing your physician to determine if the infection could be caused by something other than bacteria.

Foods That Fight UTIs

If you’re eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) of fast and prepared foods, then upgrading your diet could prevent recurrent UTIs. The SAD overload of sugar, refined grains, and bad fats sets the stage for acidosis, an unhealthy imbalance in the body’s pH levels. Long-term acidosis can cause inflammation of the kidneys, a factor that could play a role in UTIs.

To correct acidosis, try consuming more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Calcium (1,000 to 1,200 mg daily), magnesium (400 to 600 mg daily), and products designed specifically for pH balancing are some of my top recommendations. This is especially important for UTI sufferers, since cranberries are one of the few acidic fruits. That means that cranberry intake needs to be balanced with more alkaline foods, at least until the UTI is gone.

Finally, don’t forget to drink plenty of fresh, filtered water to help flush the bacteria from your urinary tract. You might want to try adding 1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice to 32 ounces of water. Sipping “cranwater” throughout the day can provide a steady supply of bacteria-fighting substances to speed recovery. Or add a wedge of lemon or lime to help correct your pH and balance acid overload.

The vast majority of my patients with UTIs have found relief without antibiotics by using the recommendations above. If you or someone you know is prone to these infections, it could be the body’s way of telling you that it’s time to switch to a healthier diet. Sarah, who was plagued by one UTI after another, found that swapping fast food for the salad bar, and trading bacon and egg breakfasts for fruit smoothies eliminated UTIs completely.

“If I feel even the slightest little twinge of an infection, I take D-Mannose and start the cranberry juice,” she explained. “I’m surprised at how easy it is to deal with these once you have the right tools.”

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  • Cathleen

    D-mannose is only effective if the infection is caused by a gram-negative bacteria such as E. Coli. Urinary tract infections caused by a gram-positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus saprophyticus need to be treated differently. Apparently the supplement Monolaurin works for the gram-positive type.

    UTI test strips test for nitrites in the urine — which occur if a gram-negative bacteria such as E. Coli is causing the infection. So you could have a UTI but test negative for nitrites in a urine test strip. It isn’t as common but definitely happens. Therefore, If you take d-mannose or cranberry juice and get no relief from your UTI, it is possible that you will need to try something different like monolaurin. This is why one shouldn’t take any antibiotic for UTI without at least getting a culture done to determine what bacteria is causing it. Different antibiotics are effective against different strains.

  • Smith Robbison

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  • nidhi gupta

    He might have VUR get him tested

  • hummus girl

    I had been getting them on and off for over a year and then discovered it was a side effect (rare) to an anti depression medicine I was taking. May want to check into that

  • Kathleen Quinlan

    I was on antibiotic’s a lot growing up and even after I got married. every time I took them I had a yeast infection for sure. Mom had never been sick or on antibiotic’s. She has a great immune system. But UTI’s in some older people just do not respond to Antibiotic’s and you risk getting C-Diff which is fatal as you can read my story above. Ordered the D-mannose.. Have to try it, certainly is more hopeful then medications. Keep me posted. Your probably young, my mom is 80.

  • Kathleen Quinlan

    I do believe UTI’s get worst with age. I have been prone to UTI’s due the fact I never emptied my bladder fully. As a child it would not empty, my mom brought me to specialists and after a lot of testing realized they needed to operate and put a tube from kidney to bladder as mine was not slanted properly. But I was put into the hospital and I got the croup , it was never rescheduled. So the rest of my life I have had UTI’s easily. I have made it a habit of drinking plenty of water so I had not been to the Doctor’s every month but still had more issues then most. Recently, I had a UTI about a year ago, I am 59 years old, this was a total different feeling, different symptoms. Did not hurt to urinate but my mind was very fuzzy and I felt like I was dreaming. Had the chills. I was feeling really bad. But I went through Menopause at age 46 . Your skin loses firmness and good hormones are gone. I even hit a parked car during that UTI. Our skin thins out a lot and does so in our organs that is why UTI’s at an elder age leaks the toxins in our bloodstream. Mom never ever had a UTI until she was 77 years old. She repeated herself and had the chills. Her sugar goes way up it is an infection. I have looked into D-Mannose which seems promising to help her with her UTI’s. I do not think antibiotic’s really clear them up. I have 2 Aunt’s same issue. They do not go away. My Mom has always had a great immune system, never sick. But she does worry so has had colitis all her life..By the way I have Vitamix and do juice.

  • PB Grossman

    Thank you….but yes, with all that dramastress things will get better. Do not knock juicing until you’ve tried it. It is not acidic. It is a misnomer to say that older people get UTI’s….that’s just what big pharma wants us to believe so we believe in their drugs and buy them. This is the German financial model of modern medicine and it’s inhumane as well as ineffective.

  • Kathleen Quinlan

    My Mom could never juice, too acidic. I think trying to have her eat a certain way is impossible. She now lives at a Senior Share Home. I could not take care of her anymore. I have to half brothers that took $100,000 off her almost 5 years ago when my Dad passed. I moved her with me from Vermont to Virginia about a year rand half ago. We are away from all the drama and the weather is so much nicer here. I think addressing something that kills the bad bacteria is easier. I hope this product works… It is so scary when she is on an antibiotic as she is now.. Repeated UTI’s seem to be popular as people age into the golden years. Sorry about your mom.

  • PB Grossman

    Olivirex by Bio-Botanical Research, Inc. Have her cut out all sugar and sugary fruit, no gluten and no starchy grains. My mom was prone to infections all the time and I made her juice every morning: cucumber, celery, an apple and a clove garlic with some carrot—–she was fine for several years. Then her ‘doctor’ said to stop the juicing because of the sugar in the carrots….bs……and then she got another infection and in a year and a half after she stopped the juicing it was the hospital rehab shuffling and then she was passed with major issues AND sepsis…..

  • Kathleen Quinlan

    I tried finding the very first post from you and cannot locate I think you can check your history on your comments as I can do mine, I am hoping so as my mom has a UTI now and I am so tired of stressing all the time about her getting the C-Diff again, she would not make it through it again and I would not either due to watching her suffer. 🙁

  • PB Grossman

    Olivirex by Bio-Botanical Research, Inc. I buy mine from the naturopath who recommended it to me.

  • PB Grossman

    Hi, Kathleen—–I just posted the link to Amazon but it was put on hold by the moderator. Check my first post to you and the supplement is spelled correctly.

  • Kathleen Quinlan

    Who is the distributor?

  • Kathleen Quinlan

    I apologize, What was the good brand you first told me? I tried googling “synergistic” but did not find the page I was on the other day. I have checked many places but they do not have that Oliverix brand . Thanks.

  • PB Grossman

    The synergystic effect of that particular brand worked for me on the UTI….after 5 capsules…….keep searching for that brand, I would say. Diet and exercise is key to preventing them because my diet went crazy after I felt better and it returned…….and my body was then not strong enough to fight off the infection. Start slow and add if necessary, One 3x a day, then add more if you don’t see any difference after a day or two. Maybe you can get it directly from the distributor.

  • Kathleen Quinlan

    Do you use it for UTI’s? Wonder if 1 tablet X 3 per day would be enough?

  • PB Grossman

    Olivirex 500mg capsules 1-2. 2-3 times a day . Google it. Amazon sells it.

  • PB Grossman

    I hope things have settled down. Olivirex works wonders. Google it——500mg as directed on the bottle. Amazon sells it.

  • Mark III

    Some sea kelp supplements contain iodine, as well as other multi-vitamins, supplements, etc.

  • Mark III

    It has been reported that oil of oregano supplement capsules are anti-bacterial and anti-viral.

  • Kathleen Quinlan

    UTI symptoms are different by age. When You get older the toxins go into your whole system. I have read all the comments. I hope my spelling is good enough to comment. Antibiotic’s can cause “C-Diff” a very fatal issue. It is caused from Antibiotic’s killing your good bacteria off. My Mom was hospitalized all summer and almost died and she was on a Probiotic. She Also took the medication for a UTI. She is 79 years old and went from walking freely to a Wheelchair. The answer to C-Diff is a”Fecal Transplant”. However, the government wants to make money for the Pharmaceuticals first. Therefore, you MUST by FDA rules try 5 other Antibiotic’s before you are allowed a “Fecal Transplant”. #shameful , My point is no one can afford to be in that situation. I have yet to find a natural cure to UTI’s as I get them regularly due to not emptying my bladder completely. I think what ever works for each individual is the answer. I love Holistic Remedies and try them all the time.Much more research needs to be done on this issue. US spends their money on war.. Meanwhile, Canada has found a remedy to stop or get rid of MS..

  • Jennifer

    Be careful with this. My sister had similar symptoms and it turned out to be bladder cancer. She had UTI’s her whole life on and off, which the repeat irritation, they think, can eventually cause bladder cancer. Most doctors won’t screen for this until it it too late.

  • hummus girl

    I have this too where there is no sign in urine test. At least not in the beginning but I will know I am having one and then I come back a week and a half later and take the urine test and boom it shows I have one.
    How do you get tested for interstitial cystitis and what are the symptoms please 🙂

    Any help, helps . Thank you.

  • hummus girl

    I appreciate this article. They do make it sound so easy to get rid of. I have had them back to back and it has been driving me nuts. I have found that the cranberry twice a day helps and trying to go back to that now but think I will get d manosse also.

    I have had at least 5 UTI’s in the last 6 months. Antibiotics help a little but they cause me to get a yeast infection so it is an on going battle. So tired of it.

  • Sherry

    How do you use the iodine? Do you drink it?

  • Katherine Gabriel

    Agree, haylectron. And Dr. Shane considers a ‘real breakfast’ to be bacon and eggs. Wha???? Hope his cholesterol isn’t in the stratosphere.

  • Nikki Tester

    Have you been diagnosed with interstitial cystitis? Cranberry will flare it. I am like you though. Just had surgery for bladder prolapse to hopefully stop UTIs have had 6 in 8 weeks post surgery with borderline sepsis. 3 days IV antibiotics followed by 2 weeks antibiotics. Within a week I had another. Like you no sign in urine test even though felt like death. UTIs are the devil.

  • janice

    use the powder form of d-mannose not the pills…take it several times a day at the start…it worked for my constant & severe UTI but it only takes it away for the day, so to me, this doesn’t correct why it’s happening…I now take home made cayenne caps and this took it away completely for a month, first time gone in two years, I stopped taking them, then it came back, slightly…started another strong dose of it hoping it works again…I will continue to look for a cure because doctors don’t know and don’t seem to care…they only care if they’re shoving antibiotics into me…

  • Kyra Dorey

    I ended up this past may in the hospital with uro sepsis..where I had a kidney stone blocked in my tube and then a kkidneyIinfection on top of it so the infection got in my blood..well since then I have had 10 urinary tract infections…yes you read right that is more than 1 a month…I also have had negativetests but I always have the feeling I have to urinate …I don’tknow wwhatIis goingon but I need to sstop it. Yes I was always pprone to uti like 3 or 4 a year but that many Iin a few months, I ccan’tddo it. ..And where I have a history of stones I ccan’ttake cranberry juice or pills. All I drink Iis water which is almost 3 litre a day..ihave a somewhat hheathly diet..i am at my wits end cuzIiam soon going to not be able to take antibiotics period. Please someone help

  • Carolina

    The physician assistant I work with treats UTIs and always makes sure to check patients prostates when they have reoccurring UTIs.

    Good luck to y’all I hope you can find an answer as to why it does not go away.

  • Michael

    Have you found any answers? I’m in a similar boat, and I don’t know why I’m getting them..
    I’ve had cystoscopy done, ultrasounds and no abnormalities found. The uti goes away after a 5 day dose of antibiotics but they come back once a year for 3 years now. But this year I’ve had them 3 times. I used dmannose and probiotics in the last month but I just got it again.. It’s been a few days now and it’s not going away so I have a feeling it’s more than just ecoli..

  • shadow

    My fiance Joel just had his 3rd very severe UTI with fever, severe chills, sweating, burning when urinating. We went to Urgent Care last night because his fever was 102 then went to 101. They gave him a booster and Cipro. Then last night after the drugs he had the severe chills and then sweating. We eat healthy, organic, whole foods, no processed foods, clean meat, etc. and rarely need to see a doctor. But this is his 3rd one in about 3.5 years, all with fever and needed antibiotics. I’d appreciate any feedback/help you have. Thank you

  • MLKH

    has anyone considered iodine as a treatment? I used to get frequent UTI’s but have resolved them mainly by eating a better diet – no msg/greatly reduced sugar/carbs – more fruits/veg. and probiotic rich fermented foods but still eat plenty of dairy/meat/fish as well. iodine is not the evil thyroid killer the medical industry has led us to believe the last 50 years. in fact we are all quite deficient. look into medical history before that and it was used extensively for centuries to successfully treat many infections and illnesses, in addition to thyroid issues. all until new and patentable antibiotics came along

  • haylectron

    Fruit smoothies aren’t only fruit sugar. You add protein to smoothies too.. mine contain raw almond butter, hemp seeds and chia seeds.. all great sources of healthy omega fats and protein. Your comment is so condescending. They are talking about eating a less acidic diet. If you are so “smart” then I guess you already know that most illnesses only survive in acidic environments.

  • JA

    And yet…you cannot seem to spell the word “flies.” You must REALLY be the smart one here.

  • Susan Ripley

    Vanessa I was under the impression that the D-mannose was to actually get rid of an UTI and then keep it away by taking one teaspoons of the powder in warm water. twice daily or once at night. Having said this though ive been prescribed a second course of antibiotics as the last ones failed to get rid of my UTI neither did the D-mannose on this occasion even though ive been taking regularly as a preventive for the pass two years. don’t want to take them so im now trying marshmallow herb which is supposed to clear an UTI. thing is I don’t know weather to take these antiboitics or not with this herb, cant find the answer on google anywhere. Anyone know the answer to this.

  • Teri Skinner Chadwick

    Do you know if adding stevia changes the ph of cranberry-water to any appreciable degree? I’ve read that you should ONLY drink diluted cranberry juice and that adding stevia can change the ph and thereby alter some of its healthy effects. I have a hard time with the tartness and would like to add at least a little stevia but not if it’s going to alter the benefits. Thanks for any insight you might have on this.

  • GlassPane

    Shane sounds like an MD. He got a got a weekend class natropath degree. He must be smart… Sounds like Doc Atkins; eat bacon and eggs! We all know those animals ate non-hybridized, were free range, and never had steroid injects to fatten them up… Ha!
    Enough banter. All I have to say is that women were not dying and dropping like flys from uti’s prior to the advent of antibiotics. To assume diet and nutrition plays no role is asinine.

  • shane perrone

    The Cochrane Collaboration disagrees on the Cranberry Juice as do I. I find it interesting how the massive consumption of fruit sugar in replacement of a real breakfast of bacon and eggs helps prevent UTIs. How silly it is that we demonize foods far less hybridized, and celebrate foods breed solely for their sugar content amazes me. How delusional and easily duped many are looking for a magical cure, and how willing the otherwise “Smart” are able to provide it.

  • Vanessa

    I would say that an increased intake of Vitamin C and Zinc would help fight the infection. The D-mannose is merely there to prevent more e.coli from sticking to the wall of your bladder. It doesnt fight the infection

  • Vanessa

    D-mannose powder is much more effective then the capsules. I personally just spend my money on high quality pure cranberry juice and a lot of Vitamin C (2000+mg/day) with the accompaniment of a couple shots of Bio K probioitics and liberal use of garlic and onions. That is what worked best for me. But I already eat a pretty clean diet, so perhaps that is why it was easy to rid myself of the UTI… what is your diet like on the regular?

  • Vanessa

    Yes lemon is acidic outside of the body. However, once metabolized, lemon is actually the most alkaline substance you can ingest.

  • Monica

    D-mannose doesnt work. Ihave taken the pills every nigt for a couple of months trying to avoid infections. But now I have got another UTI caused by E-coli.

  • Ariel Cay Motz

    A food’s acid content doesn’t determine whether or not it’s acid- or alkaline-forming after the body metabolizes it.. It’s also possible for a food’s acidity or alkalinity to match its effect in the body — cranberries are both acidic and acid-forming. Lemons have a low, highly acidic pH, which is attributable to their citric acid content… but it’s not acid forming. Adding just 1 tbsp. of fresh lemon juice to a glass of water is an easy way to give your body a boost of alkalinity.

  • Gatto Nero

    Wow. very informative and useful info. I would like to add some things
    that might also help. You see, I have a 90+ year old grandmother who on a
    yearly basis suffers from UTI’s that ultimately become septic and have
    almost cost her life. I have discovered throught the years as her
    primary caregiver is that garlic and Probiotics play an essential role
    to fight and ward off these UTI’s. Garlic itself is one of Nature’s most
    natural antibiotic. It kills a whole wide spectrum of bacterias. And Probiotics can really help when on those antibiotics. It will re-introduced all the “good” bacteria back into the system. People seem to forget that 70% of our immune system resides in our stomach.. So this unique combo i have felt has kept the UTI in check. All natural and without med or drugs of any kind, I
    highly recommend this course of action against UTI’s and especially if
    you are taking antibiotics since you know that even though they “kill
    the bad guys”, they also “kill the good guys.”


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