5 YEARS without antibiotics. This feels BIG! For anyone who has struggled with chronic infections like urinary tract infections (UTIs) or been stuck on the modern medicine antibiotic roller coaster…you get it!
The Harm of Antibiotics
In my first 25 years of life, I was prescribed (and took) over 20 courses of antibiotics. And most of that time, I was blind to the effects they were having on my body (especially my gut health). It wasn’t until I got really chronically sick in my early to mid 20s that I became aware they weren’t harmless.
Antibiotics are lifesaving…ABSOLUTELY! They are necessary at times…ABSOLUTELY! But…they are also overprescribed. And when they are prescribed, the lack of patient education about their negative effects and how to best support the body is often severely lacking.
Transitioning to a Natural Approach
Now, even when I became aware of the harm antibiotics can cause, I still couldn’t get off of them. I kept needing them for UTIs. I would initially try natural methods, but when UTIs are headed close to your kidneys…you DO NOT mess around. If I wasn’t seeing improvement in 24-48 hours, I would take the antibiotics.
Cranberry juice did nothing for me. Probiotics? Nothing. D-ribose? Also nothing…maybe even worse. I don’t even remember all the other things I tried, but there were a lot and I was doing it under the guidance of an experienced naturopath. And these methods often work for other people.
How I (Finally) Overcame UTIs Naturally
Fast forward to now. It’s now been 5 years since I’ve been diagnosed with a UTI and needed antibiotics. And at least 3 years since I’ve even had a slight feeling of a UTI coming on.
Now, before I reinvent the wheel and share what helped me overcome chronic UTIs, I want to point you to a resource I found when I was struggling that had helpful suggestions for overcoming UTIs. It’s by Dr Aviva Romm, a midwife, herbalist, and MD who has such a thoughtful and balanced approach to wellness.
Here’s what I think worked for me:
- Getting off birth control pills – the majority of my UTIs occurred when I was on birth control pills. While I understand their purpose and think they may be the answer for some people, too many women experience harm. There are other methods. I’m not here to make that choice for you, but I do encourage you to become informed about your cycle and options by reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
- Improving my gut health – I need to write a book to explain this one. I’ve been on a slow and steady mission to improve my gut health for 12 years and have learned SO much. It’s impossible to sum it up for you in 1 paragraph, but I’ll try: herbalism, stress reduction, movement, QUALITY probiotics, organic wholesome food + fiber, cooking from scratch at home, minimal added sugar (due to fungal overgrowth), individualized naturopathic medicine. Learn about these things. It takes time to learn and make lifestyle changes, but be patient and consistent!
- Organic cotton underwear – ready for the embarrassing thing that happened 5 years ago? I was visiting my boyfriend (now husband) in the tropics…where you hang your clothes on a line to dry… out where everyone can see them. My (now) mother-in-law told me I needed to stop wearing thong underwear because it can contribute to UTIs. Look, I HATE panty lines. But you know what I hate more? Chronic UTIs. I switched over to Pact organic underwear and haven’t gotten a UTI since.
- Drink a glass of water and urinate immediately after intercourse – this is a very simple and effective one. The idea here is that when you pee, you’re urinating out harmful bacteria that may have been introduced during intercourse. That way they don’t have a chance to make their way toward your bladder.
- Speaking of bacteria being introduced during intercourse…where do they come from? Well, usually it’s fecal bacteria. And often it’s E coli. A normal part of the digestive tract, but not meant to be in the more sterile urinary tract. So in addition to wiping front to back, think about other ways bacteria could be getting introduced. And educate your partner too. I’m a fan of Honest Baby Wipes for keeping the backside clean.
- Probiotics – remember how I mentioned QUALITY probiotics in improving gut health? I couldn’t NOT expand on that because they’ve been so instrumental for me. But not all probiotics are created equally. A specific one has reversed UTIs for me: 2 capsules of Megasporebiotic taken 2-3x/day immediately when I felt the UTI coming on, until resolution (usually a couple days). I also take 2 capsules nightly for ongoing support of my tendency toward constipation.
- Pelvic floor health– Pelvic floor physical therapy can be helpful for those with recurrent or chronic UTIs (source). Explaining it is a bit beyond my expertise, but if you have chronic or recurrent UTIs, consider finding a holistic pelvic floor physical therapist for an evaluation, especially if you experience painful sex, urinary incontinence, or vaginismus. Lady Bird Physical Therapy is a great option in Austin, TX. Pelvic floor relaxation can also help you experience orgasm which may reduce the risk of UTI…I can’t remember where I heard that one, but it makes sense physiologically because of stimulating blood flow to the area. Follow the Vagina Rehab Doctor on Instagram for some very open and honest information on the topic.
Note: this post contains a few affiliate links (though most are not!). There’s no extra cost to you. When you click these links and make a purchase, I earn a very small (usually just a few cents) commission that helps offset the cost of keeping this website online.
Final Thoughts on Chronic UTIs
My main reason for writing this article isn’t to tell you how I healed, but THAT I healed. Because when I was experiencing chronic UTIs, it felt like no one had answers and I thought I was developing a painful chronic condition called interstitial cystitis.
I need you to know that there’s hope! It’s important to find medical providers to help you, especially to diagnose what’s going on and rule out other conditions (for example, menopausal women are more likely to experience UTIs because of the drop in estrogen that impacts lubrication).
But if you’re feeling stuck and like your providers don’t have anything else to offer you, just stop that thinking! With persistence and patience, you can heal. Besides what’s mentioned above, I suggest tuning into your body and finding a good naturopath (Dr Erika Siegel has shared so much wisdom with me throughout my journey and now has an incredible book set!).
P.s. Apologies that my posts on this site have become more infrequent. I’ve been devoting more time to learning about vegetable gardening and herbalism, keeping chickens alive (say hello to Fluffy Foot below!), and working full-time for the food blog Minimalist Baker. If you’d like more frequent wellness + recipe inspiration and to see what I eat these days, follow me on Instagram.