I’m Going Public With My UTI Woes

Who’s with me?!

05.15.17

I had my first UTI as a freshman in college.

Earlier that year, I spent countless hours in self-imposed quarantine inside a dorm room in Penfield Hall while my three closest friends and I painstakingly combed lice out of one another’s hair. We had come to discover that we were all plagued with nits, and as a result, were sentenced to spend our freshmen evenings with a spread of fine-tooth combs and special shampoo. We locked the door, because we would obviously never make the right friends, kiss the right boys or join the cool normcore acapella clubs if we became the lice girls (I’m currently violating our pledge of secrecy; sorry guys).

As it turns out, UTIs are not so different. Sure there are no bugs, shampoos or risk of contagion, but we are equally reluctant to speak out loud about our urinary tracts. In spite of their frequency, their complete and total normalcy, UTIs are not a hot topic of conversation. As someone who suffers from UTIs all too frequently, this is truly a tragedy.

When I contracted my first UTI, I was under the impression that there was an actual alien growing in my stomach. To make matters worse, it felt like someone had cruelly replaced my urine with Tabasco sauce. The pain was so startling, I convinced myself (with some added intel from WebMD) that I probably had Dengue Fever.

I was prescribed two antibiotics: one for the pain, one to fight the infection. The pain pills, as most women are likely aware (I was not), turn your pee a hideous, fluorescent orange. It’s Jolly Rancher urine.

I had never heard women complain openly about UTIs. I didn’t understand what they were, what they signified or what they felt like. I was embarrassed to share the diagnosis with friends (or pee in public places, for that matter). I figured it made me gross, slutty, unkempt — all labels I hoped to avoid with the same frantic fervor as lice girl.

That first UTI somehow opened the floodgates to a litany follow-ups. It was like the UTI version of “breaking the seal.” They seemed to pop up reliably every couple of months, no matter how frequently I peed, how much water I drank or how religious I was about clean underwear.

There was the plane ride to Copenhagen, where I stood up to pee so many times, I developed a casual conversational relationship with the man who sat in the row nearest the bathroom (he kept giving me these knowing little head nods, as if we were in on something together). There was the time I ran into the boy I wanted to kiss from my music theory class while I was squatting, arms around my knees, between stacks of books on the second floor of the library, hoping that if I ground my teeth hard enough, the Tabasco-sauce sensation would fade. I muttered, “Nice place to think,” or something equally bizarre, by way of explanation (I never kissed him).

During my junior year, I contracted a UTI while doing research in Varanasi, India. The sting began merely hours after bathing in the holy Ganges River. Locals from all over the country spent hours, days, weeks even, making pilgrimages to pray beside these waters — so skipping my chance to bathe in the river was definitely not an option (at the time I was operating under some sort of live fast/die young mentality). To call the water unclean would be the understatement of the century: I watched a dead goat float past while I was submerged. In short, I pretty much deserved the UTI that time around.

I had a hard time communicating my problem to local medical professionals. My Hindi was fairly respectable, but I had yet to learn the words for “urinary tract.” I was given a powder to drink with purified water that looked a bit like turmeric and a bit like molding rust. The drink, however, came only after a firm scolding from a woman wrapped in a traditional Rajasthani sari. I wasn’t sure what she’d said, exactly, but the sentiment was clear: This is an unclean disease for unclean girls.

In my 22 years, I have likely spent hundreds of dollars on coffees I had no desire to drink, purely in the interest of using cafe bathrooms in moments of fiery UTI panic. On more than one occasion, I have Postmate-ed over-the-counter UTI relief pills to my place of work. And at bars, I have responsibly ordered many a vodka-cranberry to promote urinary tract health. I’m not alone in my suffering: According to my current gynecologist/life coach, UTIs account for over 8.1 million annual hospital visits in the U.S. Numerically, that is the entire population of New York City — a metropolis of aching UTI victims.

This is an era of gloriously open dialog about our methods of birth control. An era of wielding our tampons while we walk to our office bathrooms, rather than hiding them up our sleeves. We’re supposed to be reclaiming our bodies, our definitions of femininity, our womanhood. Why not start with our urinary tracts? Who’s with me?!

Collage by Maria Jia Ling Pitt. 

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  • Holly Laine Mascaro

    Preach, there has to be a better solution for these for those of use who suffer from them so continuously….it’s truly the worst. And hard to explain constantly at work.

  • Elizabeth Tamkin

    The worst + I started my 2017 with one that I didn’t feel (???) and it spread to my kidneys! I actually could not stand up. What a Happy New Year that was!

    • The only one I’ve ever had also spread to my kidneys and I was bedridden for a week!!!!! #twinning

  • jessica

    Try d-mannose. Either powder form or capsules. Amazon has it. It helps keep the ut clean and has been my lifesaver.

  • LGTVP

    Hi there,
    seriously: you have to try D-Mannose. It put an end to my 5-year hate affair with UTIs.

    This is pretty much as effective as antibiotics, minus all the side effects and long-term havoc: https://ch.iherb.com/pr/Nature-s-Answer-UT-Answer-D-Mannose-Cranberry-Concentrate-4-870-mg-4-fl-oz-120-ml/14967?ccode=ch&langcode=en-US&gclid=Cj0KEQjwo-XIBRCOycL7hsuI_NoBEiQAuS6HtEF_tJjIj1LoxakCPS5YBfQKadfdLYaK2rzKaNdZFRQaAhWj8P8HAQ

    Apparently you can also just buy D-Mannose powder too and put a few tea spoons in your tea every day as prevention/maintenance.

    I hope this helps, I consider myself completely cured 🙂 Good luck!

  • Emily

    I suffer from chronic utis as well! I suggest seeing a urologist in addition to your gynecologist. The urologist did a ultrasound of my bladder and saw that I wasn’t voiding it completely. My urologist suggested I see a physical therapist to help. The physical therapist was great and gave me exercises to strengthen my pelvic floor. After about 6 weeks of doing the exercises daily, the frequency of my utis decreased dramatically. You have to do the exercises consistently though. The physical therapist also suggested I avoid spicy foods, caffeine, and processed foods to reduce urinary tract irritation. You can drink cold brew coffee which is much less acidic and therefore less irritable. You can also try cranberry vitamin supplements daily, which may help.

    • This is what “cured” mine! I guess I am such a tense person that I was not voiding properly…. now I do my pee exercises and I haven’t had a uti in maybe 18 months? Knock on wood….

      • aeelizabethae

        Do you mind sharing, in whatever detail you’re comfortable, how the exercises work? I was told the same thing by a urogynecologist (that I carry tension in that area and don’t void completely), but I never pursued the physical therapy.

        • Emily

          The exercises are 1) slow squats (in second position with toes pointed outward); 2) vriksasana or passé pose with foot on inner thigh but alternate between moving your knee from the front and out to the side, keeping foot attached to inner thigh, move shoulders and torso as little as possible 3) stand on one leg with knees pressed together and non-standing leg bent at 90 degree angle, toes pointing directly back, then twist just in the waist away from the standing leg (don’t move shoulders, keep them squared off) with knees still pressed together, your shin will move parallel to the floor, your toe drawing a 45 degree arc, return to original position. 30 reps on each side daily. Also keigles but alternate between tightening and release/relax. Tighten for 10 sec and release for 10 sec, 30 reps daily. Tighten for 5 sec and release for 5 sec, 30 reps daily. The physical therapist used an intervaginal device to measure my strength and progress.

          • aeelizabethae

            Thanks so much for this!

  • Ugh, I am SO sorry that you get them all the time! I think I’ve had two in my life and they are the WORST. I remember going to my doctor on a Friday afternoon to get tested for one and when they told me they couldn’t have results until Monday (so no medicine) I basically started to cry and thankfully the nurse took pity and quickly gave me the prescription…

  • B345

    I have been an on and off UTI sufferer for many years myself but have not had one for a couple years now. Here’s what I’ve found that helps:

    D-MANNOSE: If I feel a UTI coming on or think I may have put myself in some circumstances to get one I take 3-4 of these with a lot of water before bed and continue taking them a couple times throughout the day.

    CYSTEX LIQUID: I also have a spoonful of this stuff here and there if I feel symptoms. Not sure if it is really working, but can’t hurt. You can get it online or at CVS.

    FEMDOPHILUS: The best weapon! This is a probiotic you can buy at Whole Foods refrigerated vitamin section that is meant for urinary tract health and yeast infection prevention. When I had to be on a antibiotic for a month I took one every day and had no yeast infection issue. If I feel any kind of infection coming on I take two then one a day until I’m feeling better.

    The other thing to consider is diet – I was intrigued to find out a study had been done on the e.coli strains that were causing UTIs and found they were related to chicken: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/07/research-linking-chicken-to-bladder-infections-gets-national-attention/#.WRnHKVXytpg So I dont know what to make of this but…. any recurring bacterial infection anywhere is a microbiome issue I guess so something to think about and maybe experiment with in terms of trying to not eat certain things and see if there is any improvement.

  • nell

    Ugh so sorry, UTIs are the worst. I’ve had pretty good success with really pushing the probiotics and water as soon as I feel the first signs of one coming on.

    I wanted to to add that the pills that turn your pee orange are definitely not antibiotics, they’re just a local analgesic that helps with urinary pain, and they are available on the shelves in pharmacies as Azo — I never travel without it, it can help you survive a flight or whatever until you can get to a doctor and get an antibiotic to eliminate the infection.

  • Sophia

    Keeping warm is crucial! So for me it’s hot-water bottles all year ’round… I have brought them with me to my workplace in a cloth bag.

  • Emily

    Ok, I had my first UTI this past fall, and it was HORRIBLE. I didn’t even have pain while peeing, I only knew something was wrong because of the sudden urgency/frequency, but it was awful, and the antibiotics knocked me out. The worst part? It created a pee-related anxiety thing for me where ever since then I’ve been REALLY neurotic about needing to pee. Anyway, totally feel you, and sending you so much support and pee-free hours!

    • ‘pee-related anxiety’ Omg I have exactly the same. Especially when out and about, the worst, it just turns into ‘where can i pee now?’ kind of thing OR in a small office enviroment I feel like everybody is just looking at me going to pee the 100th time

  • Robyn Ella

    I also have chronic UTIs, and I went to a urologist a few years ago and he recommended I take a low-dose antibiotic after sex. Every. Effing. Time. Antibiotics are obviously terrible, but he pointed out that I’ll end up taking more of them if I have to take a full course, which seemed…logical. Anyways, I seriously haven’t had one since, but I live in constant fear that my body will adapt to the super-bugs and I will die from having too much sex, or something. Fortunately, I don’t have any weird antibiotic side effects. I want to experiment getting off of them, but I’m afraid! Help. Ugh.

    • Holly

      I am in exactly the same boat! I have an antibiotic every time after i have sex. Works very well but I’m not feeling that good about taking antibiotics that much. Better than getting UTIs but i wish there was something else!

    • B345

      Might be worth trying a few capsules of D-Mannose after sex instead to see if that might work just as well.

  • I suffered from ongoing UTIs alllll through college and young adulthood.

    At one point, thinking that I would certainly try anything, I went to a homeopath who promptly shamed me into not taking my prescribed antibiotics.

    Three days later I was in the ER with a critical kidney infection. Stayed in the hospital for two days, IV of antibiotics in my arm. I wouldn’t wish that pain on my worst enemy (well, maybe the lady who told me not to take my precious, precious drugs…)

  • Ellie

    omg…the worst! I used to get them allllllll the time. PSA never, ever wear thongs/g-strings for extended periods of time if you’re prone!!

  • Raquel

    I had reoccurring UTIs for over two years. I feel your pain! I also spent significant time worrying and thinking and stressing about contracting another one. I followed every piece advice I read online to try and prevent them. And funnily enough there wasn’t many people talking about it online. It didn’t really help and I was constantly heading to the doctors. I took all the different types of antibiotics used for UTIs. It’s the antibiotic nitrofurantoin that gives you the neon pee! Eventually a doctor put me on prophylactic antibiotics for 3 months and this seemed to sort out the problem permenantly. Although some people I spoke to did say that the body may just sort it out after a few years of hell, that this was common and eventually I wouldn’t get them, maybe this is what happened. . . It was a real issue for a few years but I haven’t had a UTI in two years (still scared I will jynx it just saying that!)

  • Hannah Betts

    I used to get these a hell of a lot in my 20s and 30s (including once up a volcano – fun). Matters have since improved, but three things helped me turn the corner:
    1) my doctor letting me have an antibiotic course ready-to-go at home without having to crawl to the surgery. I still have one at the ready and take it abroad with me.
    2) Extremely high dosage cranberry pills. Cranberry juice never worked for me. My kidney is slightly dysfunctional so things would get serious too quickly. However, I take Holland & Barrett’s Triple Strength Cranberry Concentrate pills before and after sex (spontaneous!), and if I can feel “it” coming on. They rock.
    3) Making men observe the basic rules of hygiene (better even than peeing after sex, although this also a help. Never fall into a post-coital sleep with a festeringly full bladder, however drunk.)
    I realise I sound like a maniac. I am a maniac, in that I NEVER WANT ANY WOMAN TO HAVE TO SUFFER THIS AGONY AGAIN.

    • I NEVER WANT ANY WOMAN TO HAVE TO SUFFER THIS AGONY AGAIN. Omg yes!! I also feel that if your doctor never had one, he will never EVER understand what you are going through

  • Rachel Elyse

    I used to have chronic UTIs. They were so bad I got them maybe once a week or every two weeks?

    Honestly, what saved my life is using D-Mannose powder (you can find at whole foods). You literally just take a teaspoon of it in water every 2-3 hours and the UTI is GONE (no antibiotics needed). More people need to know about Mannose powder because it truly changed my life.

  • Ivy

    I’ve been plagued with years of chronic UTIs since college also; though, I’ve been able to go extended months without them. In a time they seemed to never go away, I found out that I was actually resistant to my initial antibiotic and had to switch. That kicked the UTIs for a while, and I think part of the recurrence I had experienced was due to the fact that I wasn’t fully ridding my body of the bacteria. (This has happened to a few friends, as well. My lice group, if you will.)

    I very recently discovered UQORA which is a drink mix you add to water in “high risk” situations. The main ingredient is d-mannose, but there are a few other ingredients, and it seems to be working well!
    https://uqora.com/
    I would definitely recommend giving it a shot as a preventative measure.

    Thanks for opening the dialogue on the war on UTIs – or rather, the war UTI’s have taken up on women.

    -Fellow Skid Kid

  • dianamle

    I also suggest D-Mannose! I started getting chronic UTIs after I got an IUD. And I have been UTI-free for a year now as soon as I started taking D-Mannose. I order it from Amazon. I believe the brand is Solaray D-Mannose with CranActin. It’s worth a shot!

  • Leah

    I tried everything for mine. I averaged around 1 infection every 2-3 months for about 5 years. It was always e-coli from my doctor’s tests. I had two operations to lengthen my urethra. I was taking antibiotics every time because it was the only thing that made them go away. I tried cranberry powder, d-mannose, loose underwear, gallons of water… EVERYTHING, but only the antibiotics worked, which really sucked.

    Nothing helped, until I started taking probiotics that targeted the vagina and urinary tract, specifically one called Fem Dophilus. I’ve taken three a day for about a year and a half and have had only two infections in that time. I have finally been able to stop carrying water everywhere I go!

    Everyone is different of course, but if you’ve been prescribed antibiotics they can throw your good bacteria out down there so much that your body can’t fight the smallest infections without help.

    It sucked that I only started taking the probiotics after months and months of online research done by myself. My doctor never recommended them.

    • I feel you. I had two really bad UTIs in a row this winter, one of which went to my kidneys. I went to see three different doctors, all of which were women (important, because we get UTIs far more often) and had to almost beg for a sick leave every time and felt zero compassion whatsoever. It just seems that doctor’s don’t even take you seriously, or maybe it’s like this only here in France.

      Anyway, the only thing that works for me is the Nature’s secret urinary support. Any time I feel like I might have one I drink about 3 to 4 liters of water and take these and it works. It also might just be a placebo effect, but I don’t even care. Antibiotics don’t work that well on me, weirdly, and I get lots of pimples after taking them.

      I also sat on the grass in the park the other day and now have the beginning phase, so thank you so much for this article, just knowing that I’m not alone in this helps so much!

      • Leah

        Ugh I had one go to my kidneys once too, woke up peeing blood :/. Must have had two weeks off work with that one because I could never shift it. It’s crazy how many people reading this have them recurrently !

  • Leslie Ortiz

    Always pee after sex! Always!

    • Inaat

      Yes! I had loads of uti’s and that helped me. Even if I really don’t have to pee I always go within five minutes

    • meme

      Thank you for this! I heard it was before sex so your comment made me Google it and not only were you right but doing it before actually increases your risks of an UTI.

  • Jessica TeBeest

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been prone to getting UTIs since I got my first one my senior year of college and I feel like now I get them at least 2-3 times a year. I was living in Spain for a while and had a local pharmacist who was kind enough to give me antibiotics without a prescription but since returning to the USA and using up my last one, I am now shit out of luck. I hate taking the antibiotics so often but the one time I tried to forego them, I ended up with a kidney infection, so I don’t want to go without them again. Anyone have any advice on getting antibiotics without a prescription? I just recently went to PP and they were able to give me the antibiotics but only enough to clear up the infection I had, not for future use. I’m worried because I’ll be doing some international travel in the coming months…

    I will definitely be checking out the d-mannose and the probiotics as well. I’m just getting over my last one and my mom got me a couple boxes of urinary tract health cranberry pills from the Azo brand, hoping that diligently taking these will help as well!

  • Amanda

    I was discussing my excruciating UTI pains at work one day because I was going to the doctor because of said pain, and later found out my male co-worker (who showed sympathy toward my situation and even asked if there was anything he could do) making fun or me and describing me as “gross and disgusting” to my other co-workers for talking about it openly. Apparently it is taboo to discuss a painful health issue because it involves your lady bits. Who knew?

  • LG

    Oh man! Had to jump in on this one. Got my first UTI last year at the tender age of 37! That alone was traumatizing, but after being on antibiotics for about a week, immediately got a second one…then a third. I finally went to a urologist and was diagnosed with Interstitial cystitis. Luckily it was mild and with the right meds and some diet changes, it eventually cleared up. Long story short, if you get more than 1 UTI in a short amount of time, I strongly suggest going to a urologist! Will save you a lot of (literal) pain!

    • Lauren

      I too was diagnosed with IC after YEARS of pain. If you have repeated infections and do get diagnosed with this condition, it can be cured (no matter what the doctor tells you). Google Ruth Kriz IC Story and please read every last word!

  • kduck

    I’m with you! As this week my entire office found out I have a UTI. When you’re at a startup with 8 people in one office, one bathroom, and a giant bottle of cranberry juice on your desk, it’s pretty obvious. But I’m so glad you bring this up, because I found myself wondering the same thing. On one hand, I understand maintaining a professional environment and keeping those discussions to a minimum (if at all), but at the same time, I wouldn’t be reluctant to discuss and ear or sinus infection. Guess it’s more of the fact that they’re often associated with/a result of sexual activity. Maybe?

  • Martina

    I had ‘silent’ UTI as a kid, and went to a urologist for years, who spent hours teaching me how to pee correctly so I would pee out all the bacteria. Top one tip, spent more time on the toilet. Usually after you think your done peeing, there is some urine left which contains the bacteria, which then can continue to grow. If you sit an extra 2 minutes, you usually end up peeing most of this out as well. I’m proud to say, I am an excellent pee’r, to this day.

  • Meg S

    It’s either a blessing or a curse that I’ve only had one UTI. The thing is, I don’t know how to tell if I’ve got a UTI coming because I’ve only had one and I don’t remember anything being different. I may not have even had a UTI, but my doctor gave me a prescription anyway because my white blood cell count was high and had been for three weeks to a month.

  • Car

    Okay wow I thought I was crazy for bringing leftover prescribed pain pills from my last UTI on my vacation, but these comments make me feel much better. I got my first one a few years ago and it was full-on tabasco feelings, blood in my urine, and crying while peeing in the CVS bathroom while waiting for my prescription. That UTI basically lasted two months and I had to try various antibiotics before finally knocking it out (but I think the real problem was that I was like allergic to sex with my ex cause it finally stopped when we broke up…?)
    Since then I’ve only had one but live in constant fear and lecture my boyfriend about them all the time. I have UTI test strips I use sometimes, not sure how accurate they are but they put my mind at ease.

  • Valerie Crisp

    Eliza, I am with you.
    I thought, at 28, I had the anti-UTI best practices down pat. But after a number of harrowing experiences like your own, I will share what I’ve learned. It’s unfortunate that, as you said, we don’t talk about UTI’s and as a result there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Here’s what works for me:

    1. Get a bidet. 90% of UTIs in women are caused by e-coli (poop) getting into the urinary tract. It’s understandable since our anatomy makes this very easy. But think about it, if a bird pooped on your face, would you wipe or wash? http://www.tushy.me has them for $70 and they just clip onto your toilet. I am a shameless evangelical for this device.

    2. D-Mannose. As others have stated, this stuff works. It’s because it binds to e-coli and takes it away. I take it regularly and you can double up if you feel a UTI coming on.

    3. Wear cotton underwear, and wear thongs only when you really have to. Cotton allows your body to breathe the most naturally, and wearing full backs means the fabric isn’t going where the infection often travels from. Don’t let Victoria’s Secret convince you that anyone cares what your underwear looks like. They don’t. Do you.

    4. Wipe front to back – always.

    5. Always pee after sex. Shower before sex when appropriate.

    Hope this helps! Love

  • claire

    Theoretically I’m all with you on having an open dialog on all kinds of nasty conditions, but I can’t quite put it into practice. I suffer from a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. It’s quite well under control now and I live without major restrictions. But still, I’m having a really hard time talking about it even to close friends. I guess poo > pee in terms of stigma and general grossness. But still, I should really learn to speak about my disease more easily.

  • Kelly Johnson

    D Mannose saved my life. Not even kidding. Haven’t had a UTI since, after almost a decade of horrible, once-a-month infections. Spread the word, ladies!!!!

  • Lindsay

    I feel you girl! Just an FYI- the medication that turns your urine orange is not an “antibiotic”. It is a urinary analgesic… and I certainly had a close relationship with it in my early/mid 20’s when I used to get UTIs ALL the time (every few months). I felt gross and shameful but my (now fiancée) and I always were especially clean and careful so I knew it wasn’t a hygiene issue. More research suggests that it is linked to the colonization of potentially harmful bacteria in your vaginal canal. For a little while I was taking postcoital (post-sex) antibiotics (low dose Bactrim) but I didn’t really feel good about doing that, so I stopped. I eventually got another infection so they put me on high dose of Cipro for a longer period of time (not the typical 3-day course) to completely wipe out the bacteria and I also started taking the Azo cranberry pills. The Cipro unfortunately gave me some chronic tendonitis in my ankles (a common side effect) but I haven’t had a UTI in years! I feel incredibly lucky to have seemingly rid myself of this issue. I continue to take postcoital Azo pills… not sure if it’s a waste of money at this point but I’m too scared to stop. It was honestly a very scary and unsettling issue for me and I have so much empathy for anyone dealing with it. If you can convince your doctor to give you a stronger antibiotic course, I would suggest that in addition to cranberry and probiotic supplements. Also, emptying your bladder right after intercourse and also drinking plenty of water after so you empty your bladder again an hour or two later has down wonders for me. Best of luck to you!

  • Essa

    I’ve had UTIs every year or two since college, too (first one landed me sobbing in the ER; another one hit a couple years ago in Europe and I ended up back in the US on a full round of antibiotics, with a fever and kidney infection). My last UTI was a few months ago (after a long hike and no bathroom, of course). With trial and error, I was able to fend it off without antibiotics with steps 1-9. 1-5 have also staved off any early inklings of symptoms I’ve felt since then:

    EVERYDAY PREVENTIVE CARE

    1. D-Mannose alone did not work for me, but D-Mannose + Cranberry pills work reeeally well. I get the Whole Foods brand 1000mg D-Mannose + 500mg Pacran Cranberry pills and take a couple any morning or night I feel a hint of a tingle or discomfort trying to pee (usually it’s after a road trip, long night of partying, or, weirdly, a particularly anxious weekday). During my last infection, I took 2 capsules a few times a day. Shazam.

    2. Drink loads of filtered water. Not plastic bottled water, not tap water — plain water out of a sink that either has a filter attached to the sink or is run through a Brita or similar pitcher. Lemon or lime juice for taste is okay. I don’t drink cranberry juice because 1, I take the D-Mannose/Cran pills 2, you have to drink an insane amount of (plain, no-sugar, NOT cran cocktail) cranberry juice to feel any positive effect, 3, it’s expensive to get high-quality cran juice and 4, it tastes pretty gross. From what I’ve read, drinking loads of cranberry juice is most helpful because it keeps liquid flowing and makes you pee often, which helps flush out the bacteria. Water + cran pills will serve the same function. Of course… Pee often!!

    3. Take a good-quality probiotic every day and avoid massive amounts of spicy food, alcohol, coffee (I usually have two cups a day and am fine). Trader Joe’s has a decent probiotics brand that’s inexpensive, but Whole Foods staff can also tell you about more targeted, high-strength brands they stock. Listen to your mama and eat your greens, too.

    4. Breathable panties (skip the thongs) made predominantly of a natural material (cotton, wool, linen) paired with looser pants, a skirt, or shorts when possible. Skinny jeans be damned, UTIs suck. Sleep in loose shorts and no undies. Also, pee after sexy time. IMMEDIATELY. EVERY. TIME. Pee when you wake up. Pee before you go to bed. Pee, pee, pee!

    5. Eating less meat also seems to help. Meat is acidifying, takes longer to digest, and can be filled with hormones, antibiotics, and occasionally, bacteria that resists those antibiotics. Maybe this is related to the chicken study someone else mentioned in the comments. I haven’t really looked into it. I just generally feel better when I don’t eat meat, so I try to limit it to only fish or chicken a few days a week.

    WHEN YOU FEEL IT COMING ON/DURING AN ACTIVE INFECTION

    6. Sitz baths with epsom salts. Run a warm bath, throw in some epsom salts, and sit in it. Simple. The heat and magnesium and general relaxation seem to really help. If you have any PTO: Take off work, stay home, relax, SLEEP for a day or two. The anxiety of running to an office bathroom 24/7 and dealing with work or school stress does not help your body or mind in getting over at UTI in any way. Slow down and take care of yourself.

    7. An, ahem, spritz of tea tree and peppermint oil foot spray down there. I use the one by Earth Therapeutics (which has also helped with acnes, backne, athlete’s foot, oddly enough…). Imagine plunging your lady bits into an arctic wind of a few seconds of wtf wtf stinging followed by a cool and calming sensation that relieves the external stinging tingle of an oncoming UTI. I don’t know if this is helpful because of the anti-fungal and anti-bacterial ingredients, or if it’s just a quick analgesic symptom treater… But it makes me feel super fresh and relieved when I do it one in the AM, once in the PM.

    8. Plain greek yogurt, two ways. Bear with me here. Mix yogurt with cinnamon and blueberries (both support a healthy urinary tract) and eat a bowl for breakfast and another as a snack later in the day. Use a second (um, preferably marked so you don’t get them confused) container of plain greek yogurt as an intravaginal suppository a couple of times a day. So. Is this weird AF? Yes. Does it work? Yes. Immediately it relieves burning sensations and cools everything down, and longer term, the probiotics stick around down there and help your body fend off the bad bacteria. People of the internet say you can also dip a tampon in greek yogurt and pop that in for 30 mins or so.

    9. Garlic. I leave you with one final, weird, awkward idea that sounds really, really strange but really, really works. I did this for a yeast infection in college and it worked so well that I Googled it for my last UTI attack. Take a couple cloves of garlic and peel and chop them up into little minced pieces. Put the pieces in a thin piece of natural cloth, like a cotton cheesecloth or bamboo paper towel, and squeeze so the garlic juice soaks into the cloth. Twist everything up so you have a sort of garlic-filled tampon and, um, insert for a minute. And let me tell you: It burns with the fire of one thousand suns and you sort of want to cry/die and that’s okay it’s temporary and for some reason your breath will instantly start to also smell like unadulterated garlic, too, but Jesus Mary and Joseph… It works. Do this no more than once or twice a day.

    Sidenote A: If you are in the throes of a kidney infection, you need to go to a doctor ASAP. If you’re in the early stages, you’re probably good to go with over the counter and homeopathic remedies, but if you know your UTI has hit your kidneys (fever, chills, lingering pain in kidneys, blood in pee, unable to pee more than a few drops at a time and forced to pee literally every other minute), you need to talk to a medical professional immediately.

    Sidenote B: Before I skipped the doctor and antibiotics for my last UTI, I called my insurance company’s nurse line and walked through my symptoms, duration of the UTI so far, level of pain, history with UTIs. They advised that I could roll through my list of homeopathic remedies and only visit a doctor if things didn’t improve in a few days. Everything was cleared up by day 3 or 4, although the tingly sensation lasted on and off for a few weeks after. Keep treating yourself with steps 1-8 until you’re 200% sure you’re over it.

    Sidenote C: I shared 8 + 9 with two friends a couple of months ago.
    Friend one was visibly disgusted at the mention of “yogurt and garlic suppository” and ended up on a round of antibiotics for
    her UTI. Friend two was like “wtf, sure why not” and later
    all caps texted me SO THE GARLIC AND YOGURT THING WORKED.

  • Katie

    Can we talk about the never ending cycle of getting a UTI and THEN a yeast infection from the antibiotics?! The two are so common and no one ever talks about them! Glad we’re getting the discussion going!

  • linzarg

    I had my first one when I was five. Too many bubble baths. I clearly remember my mom and grandma dragging me screaming into the urgent care. I’m almost forty now so yeah, I have some tips for everyone.
    Prevention:
    -Keep bubbles away from your genital area. Just use water. It’s tricky because you have to wash your butt, but peeing after your shower helps too.
    -No baths!
    -Pee after any activity that causes friction in in the genital area.
    -Drink lots of water, yes, but more importantly, keep your urine alkaline. Bacteria can’t survive in that environment. Counter the acidic foods and beverages with fresh fruits and vegetables. Skip the cranberry. D-mannose and probiotics are a better bet.
    -Wipe front to back, gently.
    Treatment:
    -As soon as you feel one coming on, take alka seltzer. It’s a cheap miracle. Avoid coffee and alcohol for a bit, drink a ton of water and you can usually ward it off.
    -If you have recurring infections, talk with your doctor about NOT taking antibiotics. The bacteria is becoming resistant, so many will be on board with this approach. It’s what kept me free of them for 15 years or so.
    -I did get one a few months ago, I treated it using alka seltzer, D-mannose, and some herbs. Slippery elm, marshmallow root, and corn silk in a tea. Gone in a few days, just be sure to get a test to make sure it’s gone.
    Again, skip cranberry. In order to be effective you need to drink so much juice, or take so many pills that you’ll get the worst stomach ache of your life.
    I really hope this helps, I feel your pain.