8 Natural Ways To Prevent A Kidney Infection

It’s no secret that the most common type of urinary tract infection(UTI)—bladder infection—can be painful and inconvenient (all those bathroom trips!). What you may not know is that the bacteria responsible for a bladder infection can spread to one or both of your kidneys. (1) Left untreated, the resulting kidney infection—medically known as pyelonephritis—can lead to permanent kidney damage or even a life-threatening infection called sepsis that can travel throughout your entire body. (2)

It’s estimated that, out of every 10,000 people in the United States, about a dozen women and three to four men are affected by a kidney infection. (3) That may not sound like a lot but consider this: Kidney infections cause most of the 100,000 hospital visits for UTIs in the U.S. each year. (4) If you suffer from acute or chronic bladder infections or show the signs of a kidney infection, it’s smart to seek immediate medical treatment. Smarter still? Practice prevention to sidestep kidney infections before they start.

woman talking to her healthcare practitioner

Women are four times more likely than men to develop a kidney infection.

Risks of kidney infections

Are you at risk of a kidney infection? It’s possible if you have one or more of these factors:

  • Being a woman
  • Being pregnant
  • Recent intercourse
  • Diabetes
  • Weakened immune system
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Problems emptying your bladder completely
  • Stress incontinence
  • Catheter use
  • Suffer from vesicoureteral reflux, a condition that causes urine to flow backward

Did you know?
One in five women will experience at least one bladder infection in their lifetime. Left untreated, the infection can travel to the kidneys via two tubes called ureters and cause a more serious infection. (5)

woman on laptop reading

Avoid becoming a statistic by knowing the signs of a kidney infection and practicing prevention to lower your risk.

Signs of kidney infections

  • Pain in the abdomen, back, groin, or side
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Pus or blood in the urine
  • Bad odor or cloudy urine
  • Chills
  • Fever (6)

Ways to avoid a kidney infection

If you suspect you’re suffering from a kidney infection, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible. It’s also smart to check in with your doctor if you have recurring bladder infections or a bladder infection that isn’t getting better with treatment. Both of these scenarios can increase your odds of developing a kidney infection.

There are a number of simple ways to prevent kidney infections. As a bonus, the following tips can also improve your kidney health naturally.

1. Drink plenty of water

Drinking an adequate amount of water—think a minimum of two liters per day— helps to produce more urine, which aids in flushing out infection-causing bacteria. Making sure you’re well-hydrated can also reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. (7)

cranberries in raw form

Cranberries contain powerful anti-adhesion compounds that prevent bacteria from sticking to cells and tissues in the urinary tract.

2. Add some cranberry

Cranberries are a well-known home remedy for UTIs thanks to their ability to prevent bacteria from sticking to cells in the urinary tract. Studies show that unsweetened cranberry juice or cranberry capsules can help prevent UTIs. One randomized, double-blind study of 160 hospital patients found that cranberry juice capsules lowered the risk of UTIs by 50 percent. Among those taking the capsules—which equaled two 8-ounce servings of cranberry juice—only 19 percent of patients developed a UTI compared to 38 percent in the placebo group. (8)(9)

Did you know?
That cranberry juice cocktail in your supermarket contains only about 27 percent juice, plus sugar and water, which research suggests aren’t very effective for preventing UTIs. (10) For a more effective option, look for a pure unsweetened juice rich in flavonoids or opt for cranberry capsules.

3. Choose showers instead of baths

Bathing can alter vaginal pH in women. What’s more, the residue from scented soaps, bubble baths, and bath bombs can introduce chemicals that can irritate and inflame the vagina and urethra. (11)

4. Don’t use feminine hygiene sprays or douches

Scented products of any sort can irritate vaginal and urethral tissues, including feminine hygiene sprays, body powders, tampons, and sanitary pads. Douches are especially problematic because they strip away beneficial bacteria within the vagina, creating an ideal environment for a bacterial infection.

The downside of using these products was shown in a recent study that appeared in the journal BMC Women’s Health. Douches and other types of intimate cleansers were linked with a 3.5 times greater risk of bacterial infection and 2.5 times higher risk of a UTI. The use of intimate wipes was also correlated with a twofold higher risk of developing a UTI. (12)

5. Urinate when you have to

Holding your urine allows bacteria circulating in the bladder to establish an infection. Because of this, it’s wise to flush the bacteria out of your bladder and urethra as often as possible. Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the need and be sure to empty your bladder completely. (13)

6. Urinate immediately after sex and clean genital area

While the evidence isn’t conclusive, some health experts believe that urinating right after intercourse may help flush bacteria and other microbes out of the urinary tract. After urinating, gently clean the genitals using plain water. (14)

7. Always wipe from front to back

After urinating, reach behind your buttocks and wipe from the front of the vagina to the back. When you are finished, take a separate piece of toilet paper to clean the anus, starting at the perineum (the space between the vagina and anus) and wiping back between your buttocks. Doing so prevents introducing bacteria from the anus to the vagina. (15)

8. Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight clothing

Synthetic fabrics can trap moisture and create the perfect breeding ground for infection. If you are a woman who is prone to UTIs, wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting bottoms to allow air to circulate around the genitals. (16)

The bottom line

Kidney infection can be a serious, potentially deadly complication arising from an all too common bladder infection. Employing a healthy dose of prevention, like the strategies above, could help you avert both bladder and kidney troubles before they take hold.

If you are a practitioner, consider signing up to Fullscript. If you are a patient, talk to your healthcare practitioner about Fullscript!

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  2. Hsiao CY, Yang HY, Chang CH, et al. Risk factors for development of septic shock in patients with urinary tract infection. BioMed Res Int. 2015;2015:717094.
  3. Czaja CA, Scholes D, Hooton TM, et al. Population-based epidemiologic analysis of acute pyelonephritis. Clin Infect Dis. 2007;45(3):273-80.
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  14. Badran YA, El-Kashef TA, Abdelaziz AS, et al. Impact of genital hygiene and sexual activity on urinary tract infection during pregnancy. Urol Ann. 2015;7(4):478-81.
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