Apple cider vinegar has many great health benefits that are supported by science. Consequently, it is in the center stage of the health and wellness industry., most commonly as a supplement for weight loss. However, the newest hype tags apple cider vinegar as a miracle home remedy for urinary tract infections.
Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection involving the kidney, ureter, bladder, and urethra. Usually, it starts from the urethra and the bladder. From there, the infection ascends and reaches the kidney; where it can result in many long-term complications if untreated.
The issue is that urinary tract infection is pretty common, especially in women. About 50-60 percent of women experience UTI at some point in their life. Since it’s so common, women frequently look for solutions that involve some natural remedies, as everyone wants to limit the use of antibiotics (for good reasons). But is there any natural remedy that works for UTI?
What about ACV? Could treating or preventing UTI be one of the many health benefits of apple cider vinegar?
Research suggests that apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial impact, particularly effective on E. Coli and C. Albicans pathogens — the most common pathogens involved in urinary tract infections. That said, apple cider vinegar should not be used in place of prescribed antibiotics for an active UTI.
- What are UTIs and What Causes Them?
- Why Is Apple Cider Vinegar Believed to Be Helpful for Urinary Tract Infections?
- Is Apple Cider Vinegar Helpful in UTI Treatment?
- Side-Effects of Drinking Too Much Apple Cider Vinegar
- Other Drinks and Supplements That May Help With UTI
- The Takeaway
What are UTIs and What Causes Them?
Before we discuss possible treatment options, let’s review the causes and symptoms of UTIs. A urinary tract infection, as the name implies, is an infection involving part of the urinary system. This could include the kidneys, bladder, urethra, or ureters. UTIs most commonly involve the lower urinary tract, specifically the bladder and urethra. Urinary tract infections are caused by harmful bacteria and fungi, with some of the most common pathogens being Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Candida albicans.
There are many causes of urinary tract infections and certain factors may put you at higher risk as well. For women, these risk factors include gynecologic surgery, sexual intercourse, diaphragm use, and estrogen deficiency. The latter is the reason why post-menopausal women experience these infections more frequently. For men, risk factors include prostate hypertrophy and/or surgery, urinary incontinence, and utilization of a urinary catheter.
Symptoms of a UTI will vary based on age, gender, location of the infection within the urinary system, and whether the infection is considered complicated or uncomplicated. That said, common symptoms include cloudy, bloody, or foul-smelling urine, pain or burning with urination, frequent and strong urge to urinate, and fever.
Why Is Apple Cider Vinegar Believed to Be Helpful for Urinary Tract Infections?
The most notable reason why people link ACV with the prevention and cure of UTIs is its demonstrated antimicrobial effect.
Numerous studies have shown that apple cider vinegar is effective against the growth of S. aureus, Candida, and E. coli. Take for example this study where the organisms were directly grown in the ACV culture medium with varying concentrations.
- For S. aureus bacteria, undiluted ACV was found effective.
- For C. Albincans bacteria, the ACV was 50% diluted and found effective
- For E. coli a 1/50 dilution was effective in growth inhibition.
Another reason albeit uncommon is the fact that ACV inhibits the mediators that initiate inflammation in our body. This effect could potentially explain why ACV is attributed to helping reduce the pain and irritation that accompanies UTI.
Lastly, this study also suggests that ACV increases the capability of white blood cells (monocytes) to kill pathogens by 20%. This is a good thing as the body is under attack in a current UTI episode.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Helpful in UTI Treatment?
Even though we have very promising results from various studies on ACV proving that it has antimicrobial activity, it is not recommended to drink ACV to treat urinary tract infections.
First thing’s first, the most notable research done on UTI and ACV was done in a lab and not on animals or humans. The bacteria grew in an ACV culture medium and was put in direct contact with undiluted ACV. If anything this is greater support for the effectiveness of ACV when applied directly to the skin and not when ingested.
Remember, it is advised to consume apple cider vinegar in a very diluted form if drinking it. The ideal ratio often recommended by experts is 1 tablespoon of concentrated ACV mixed in a glass of water (8 ounces). There is frankly no scientific basis that such a concentration would be effective to treat an active UTI.
Apple cider vinegar should not be used in place of prescribed antibiotics. Although uncommon, urinary tract infections can progress to more serious infections if not managed appropriately. For those that struggle with frequent UTIs, adding apple cider vinegar to your daily routine may help prevent recurrent infections.
Side-Effects of Drinking Too Much Apple Cider Vinegar
Some major side effects may occur when ACV is consumed in huge amounts.
- Since apple cider vinegar is acidic. Therefore, it can erode your tooth enamel when consumed in concentrated form frequently.
- It might cause stomach upset if consumed concentrated.
- It can also cause electrolyte imbalance, especially hypokalemia if consumed in large quantities for a long time.
- A very high amount of apple cider vinegar can also lead to hypertension.
- Osteoporosis is yet another side-effect of long-term consumption of apple cider vinegar in high amounts.
- Drug interactions have been reported with medications like insulin, diuretics, and digoxin. Avoid ACV if you are on these meds.
- People with gastroparesis should also avoid apple cider vinegar. Studies have suggested that it further delays gastric emptying, and thus it might worsen the symptoms of gastroparesis.
Other Drinks and Supplements That May Help With UTI
Cranberry juice is often touted for its perceived benefit in the prevention and treatment of recurrent UTIs. Studies have suggested a potential benefit of cranberry juice in the prevention of recurrent UTIs in certain populations. The population that appears to benefit most from this remedy is sexually active adult women with a history of recurrent UTIs. Additionally, older individuals seem to benefit from the prophylactic use of cranberry juice for the prevention of these infections. While research has suggested a benefit of cranberry juice for UTI prevention, there is no literature supporting its use as a treatment for a current infection. If interested in exploring more about this drink and its effect on UTI take a look at our article: Read this if you are considering cranberry juice for UTI.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is thought to have antibacterial properties and is commonly used for skin infections. Tea tree oil is not ingested orally, so it is recommended that this be added to bathwater or applied topically. While it has been suggested to be effective in treating urinary tract infections, there is limited research to support this claim.
While pineapple juice is not necessarily effective in treating urinary tract infections, it can help you manage associated symptoms. Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that has anti-inflammatory properties and may therefore help treat UTI symptoms. Pineapple juice can be utilized in combination with prescribed antibiotics for the treatment of urinary tract infections and associated symptoms. Additionally, a few studies have suggested that bromelain may increase the absorption of antibiotics, specifically amoxicillin.
Blueberries contain bacteriostatic properties, meaning that they inhibit the growth of bacteria but do not necessarily kill them. Additionally, blueberries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation and promote improved immune function.
Several studies have shown that probiotics could be helpful in the prevention of recurrent UTI. Lactobacillus has been implicated in this protective action of probiotics. Adding any natural probiotic containing a lot of lactobacilli like yogurt or curd would be a good idea if you suffer from recurrent UTI. Alternatively, you can also choose the commercially produced lactobacillus probiotic capsules. Apple cider vinegar with mother does not contain lactobacillus, and therefore won’t be a good fit here.
So far, there are no natural remedies studied that help you treat your active UTI infection as effectively as antibiotics. If you have an active infection, visit your doctor and get it appropriately treated.
If you are looking for what to do at home to prevent a UTI, drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is the single most effective measure you can take to prevent UTI. There is plenty of evidence that drinking plenty of water prevents UTIs.
Additionally, you can try probiotics and cranberry juice, as preventive measures as research suggests they could help you prevent a UTI from occurring in the first place.