Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
“Wahoo! I’ve got a UTI!” said no one ever. While you might be tempted to stock up on cranberry juice (and vodka, because why not), there might be a more potent beverage that can help kick that urinary tract infection out the door: apple cider vinegar.
ACV may be touted as a Pinterest cure-all, but it’s also known for its science-supported slew of health benefits. This tart fave could actually ease symptoms and prevent UTIs from getting worse.
Friendly reminder: The only real way to get rid of a UTI is with doctor-prescribed medication. The longer you wait, the worse it’ll get, so make that appointment A-S-A-P if you think you’ve got one brewing (looking at you, procrastinators).
Once modern medicine is at work, you can find added natural relief and prevention with ACV.
If you think ACV for UTI prevention and relief sounds a little too “woo-woo” to be true, hear us out.
Vinegar has been a global superstar for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Researchers have yet to scratch the surface of its potential, but here’s how ACV might help keep those irritating symptoms under control.
It’s a bacteria battler
Several studies have pointed to vinegar’s antimicrobial effects, which could help fight infections.
A 2018 study found that ACV — which is made by fermenting apples — may help impede the growth of E. coli (the bacteria that causes 80 to 90 percent of UTIs). But this study was done on animals, not humans, and more research is needed.
It has anti-inflammatory properties
It balances pH
UTIs love a non-acidic space. ACV is acidic, which could help balance your pH levels.
Research has shown that the acetic acid in vinegar can reduce the growth of E. coli, S. aureus (aka staph), and C. albican (candida). Bacteria won’t thrive in an acidic environment, and ACV could help prevent bacteria growth by making your pee more acidic (but again, it can’t cure an existing infection).
Since ACV is acidic, it’s important to make sure you’re using it properly so you avoid irritating your skin. This means you should be diluting ACV before every use.
Never (and we mean never) apply it directly to your skin without diluting it in water. All that acidity can also cause nausea if you overdo it, so take it slowly!
Here are some speedy and easy recipes to get that blast of ACV.
ACV and cranberry juice
With ACV’s benefits and research pointing to cranberry juice (the most common UTI remedy) as a means to help prevent recurrent infections, why not combine them? This UTI-soothing cocktail is a real crowd-pleaser. (OK, maybe not taste-wise, but your urethra will thank you.)
- Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered ACV to a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice (not the sweetened “cocktail” kind).
ACV and H2O (and lots of it)
Sure, drinking more water will make you pee way more often, but it’s an effective way to naturally flush out that annoying bacteria.
Think of it like this: Keeping your pee acidic is a bangin’ way to help prevent E. coli from sprouting up in the first place. (Prevention is everything, fam.)
- Add 1 teaspoon of ACV to an 8-ounce glass of water eight times daily.
ACV super salad
Get your greens and UTI prevention by mixing some raw, unfiltered ACV with olive oil to create a badass salad dressing.
Recipe (Makes 4 to 6 servings):
- Combine 1/3 cup of olive oil with 1/4 cup of ACV.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add 1 teaspoon of honey if you like it sweet.
SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS!
In a hurry? Slam one of these “shots” to get your quick dose of ACV. (Sorry, no alcohol in these shots, kids).
- Combine 1 tablespoon of ACV and 1 tablespoon of water (or juice like apple or pineapple).
Take this shot straight to the gullet or try a packaged shot with other benefits, like The Twisted Shot.
Apple cider vinegar tea
Replacing your usual caffeinated bevvie with this beautiful caffeine-free option is a smart move if you’re UTI-prone. Caffeinated drinks can irritate your bladder and worsen your UTI symptoms.
- Add 1 tablespoon of ACV to a cinnamon-spiced herbal tea or decaf green tea. The spices help ease the ACV’s tartness. Mixing in a few drops of honey will help it go down even more smoothly.
There’s a lot of hype around ACV baths, based on the idea that it gets straight to the problem area. (Spoiler: It actually doesn’t.)
This is not a cure, but there’s a chance it could help. Still, you may be better off drinking ACV (like in the above recipes). UTIs happen in your bladder or urethra, and even when you take a bath, the water doesn’t actually enter through your urethra.
To create a stinky, soothing ACV bath:
- Fill your tub with warm (definitely not hot) water.
- Add 2 cups of raw ACV (dilution ratios of 1:25 or 1:50).
- Stir the water.
- Soak in there for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Switch to the shower and rinse with or without soap.
Reading this because you’re super prone to UTIs? First of all, know that you’re super not alone.
According to the Urology Care Foundation, UTIs are the second most common infection of the human body and lead to about 8 million doctor visits per year in the United States.
By the time your UTI has peaced out (usually after a couple of days with doctor-prescribed medication), it’s a good idea to start thinking about prevention. As if one UTI isn’t enough, 20 percent of women will have more than one or even get them over and over. Ughhhhh.
So, how did that UTI happen in the first place? It could be because of sex (did you remember to pee afterward?) or less-than-stellar hygiene practices.
But, honestly, it could just be because you own and operate human genitals. (Didn’t see that in the owner’s manual, did you?)
Other causes and reasons you could be prone to UTIs:
- a prior UTI
- diabetes, especially when it’s not managed properly
- certain forms of birth control (Some research indiciates that those who use diaphragms and spermicidal products could be at a higher risk.)
- age (The older you are, the more prone you become, thanks to hormonal changes. In ladies, decreasing estrogen levels change up normal vaginal bacteria, increasing the likelihood of UTIs. For the fellas, UTIs become more common after 50.)
- decreased movement after surgery or during lengthy bed rest
- blockages in the urinary tract, like kidney stones, an inflamed prostate (specific to men), or some types of cancer
- long-term use of urinary catheters, which can make it easy for bacteria to break into your bladder
- a diminished immune system
- urinary development issues from birth
Feel a UTI coming on? It’s time to see your doctor if you have any of these UTI symptoms:
- an extreme, constant urge to pee
- burning when you pee
- peeing only a little at a time but all the time
- urine that appears cloudy, pink, brownish, or red and/or has a strong odor
- pelvic pain (specific to women)
Heads up: Leaving your UTI untreated could mean:
- recurrent infections
- kidney damage
- life-threatening sepsis (Eek!)
ACV boasts many benefits, and it may help soothe UTI symptoms and prevent future infections. But it’s definitely not a cure.
If you have a UTI, get to the doctor ASAP for a short round of medication. This can clear up your infection before it worsens or spreads. And remember: Less is more. Don’t overdo ACV remedies.