UTIs - when are antibiotics necessary?

Are antibiotics the best solution for UTIs?

Emma Thornton
Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, ANutr)
Ask Emma

17 October 2017

What are UTIs?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common infections that affect the urinary tract, bladder and in more severe cases, the kidneys. UTIs take hold as a result of bacteria infecting the area and they can give rise to a range of unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms including frequent urination,  burning when peeing, cloudy or smelly urine or in more severe cases, blood in the urine.

UTIs tend to more commonly affect women (as a result of anatomical differences) but they aren’t unheard of in men. More often than not, UTIs don’t last much longer than a few days, although in that time, they can cause havoc – especially if you feel you are constantly running to the loo! Then, recurrent infections can be a real problem for some people too, which can be really quite debilitating.

Why antibiotics?

Most UTIs are caused by an infection of bacteria, so it makes sense that antibiotics should be a suitable course of treatment, right? Upon attending the doctors you’ll most likely be given 3-day course of antibiotics and be sent on your way. Within a few days, more often than not, the problem is resolved.

Should we be weary? 

It’s not that antibiotics won’t help with the symptoms but the question is, are they always necessary?

Firstly, we don’t often talk about the negative effects that antibiotics can have on our bodies. Yes, they can eliminate the bad bacteria which can give rise to infections, but actually, they can also affect our good guys too. There’s no denying that, in some cases, antibiotics may be necessary, but if you do need them, you should also consider taking a cheap and cheerful course of probiotics alongside them to help protect your gut flora.

Then, let’s not forget about the threat of antibiotic resistance. If you haven’t heard much about this, perhaps you should have! Antibiotic resistance means that the bad bacteria that could previously be eliminated by antibiotics no longer are – they evolve to be able to overcome the medication designed to stop them in their tracks. As time goes on, antibiotic resistance is becoming a bigger threat and the unnecessary overuse of antibiotics is something we really need to consider! The overuse of medications for more minor infections could ultimately mean that more serious infections such as tuberculosis or pneumonia could be harder to keep under control.

Are home remedies an option for UTIs?

Sometimes a trip to the doctors is necessary and antibiotics are quite simply required. If you are experiencing more severe symptoms such as blood in the urine or back pain, it’s time to pay your GP a visit. However, if you’re just feeling a very slight niggle; some home and herbal remedies may be worth a try:

Drink plenty of water – Now more than ever is the time to drink plenty of water! We quite literally need to flush ourselves out. Nice dilute urine can help flush bad bacteria away, whilst stale, concentrated urine is the perfect breeding grounds for these guys to flourish - we don’t want any more of that! Stick to plain, still water rather than any fizzy or sweet varieties which aren’t likely to help much

Cranberry Juice – Cranberry is unique in that it is thought to help prevent bad bacteria sticking to the inside of the urinary tract1. Try alternating between drinks of cranberry juice and water throughout the day, although, just ensure that you stick to a good quality, no added sugar variety. Biotta Wild Mountain Cranberry Juice is also a nice natural option!

Avoid sugar like the plague – Sugar is definitely one to avoid, especially if recurrent infections are a big issue for you. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria allowing them to flourish and become more established. Stick to complex carbohydrates and unsweetened, fresh foods instead.

What about natural remedies?

Together with some useful home remedies, there are also some natural remedies out there which can help to stave off UTIs:

Cranberry Complex – As above, some promising research has suggested that Cranberry can be useful in the prevention of UTIs1,2. Our Cranberry complex contains this important ingredient together with some other important bladder friendly herbs including nasturtium, horseradish and goldenrod

Uva-ursi – Uva-ursi & Echinacea complex is our licensed herbal remedy for the relief of symptoms of minor urinary complaints and cystitis.

Probiotics – Friendly bacteria can be useful in helping to keep symptoms of cystitis at bay. Take one such as Optibac for women, to help support the balance of bacteria in and around your intimate area. 

Sometimes the doctor is necessary!

As I mentioned above, sometimes it is the case that a trip to the doctor is required. If you experience pain in your back or blood in your urine it’s time to go – we don’t want to risk that infection getting anywhere near your kidneys, that’s for sure! A short dose of antibiotics may be required, and coupled with a course of probiotics you should hopefully be back on track in no time.


1. Caljouw, MA et al. Effectiveness of cranberry capsules to prevent urinary tract infections in vulnerable older persons: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial in long-term care facilities. J Am Geriar Soc. 2014, 62(1), p103-110

2. Ledda A, Bottari A, Luzzi R, et al. Cranberry supplementation in the prevention of non-severe lower urinary tract infections: a pilot study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015, 19(1), p77-80.

Uva-ursi and Echinacea – for cystitis


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Fresh extracts of uva-ursi and echinacea to help maintain bladder health and comfort.
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Biotta Wild Mountain Cranberry Juice - 20% off - Normally £5.99 now £4.79


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A combination of the fresh juice of organic cranberries together with birch and agave nectar.
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Our expert's top picks for a healthy bladder and dietary advice


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Did you know?

Cystitis is sometimes known as ‘honeymoon cystitis’. Why? Well, during sex, bacteria can spread from the perineum to the urethral opening. The risk of developing cystitis is therefore increased depending on the frequency you have intercourse (sorry honeymooners!).

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