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Does Taking Probiotics for a UTI Really Work? An Ob-Gyn Explains When It Helps — And When It Doesn’t

Find out what to look for in a supplement (and why eating yogurt won't work)

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The pain, burning and constant “gotta go” urges… a urinary tract infection is anything but pleasant. This common bladder bother is usually caused by the bacteria E. coli and treated with antibiotics. But if you’ve got symptoms, you might be wondering whether probiotics for a UTI are worth a try. Here, an ob-gyn reveals whether probiotics for a UTI might be right for you.

Can probiotics help treat a UTI?

First, the bad news. Probiotics aren’t helpful for fighting off an active UTI. Those need to be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medications, which can be prescribed by your doctor, says Tamara Guichard, MD, an ob-gyn based in New York City.

But if you struggle with frequent UTIs, which become more common after menopause, taking a probiotic might help keep new UTIs from cropping up, Dr. Guichard adds. Women who suffer from recurrent UTIs who regularly supplement with probiotics can reduce their UTI risk by as much as 68%, found a review in the journal Evidence-Based Practice.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria. And adding more good bacteria to your vagina may help keep bad bacteria like E. coli in check. That prevents it from multiplying to the point where it leads to an infection, Dr. Guichard explains. That said, probiotics are not powerful enough to kill off bad bacteria that’s already caused a UTI, she adds.

What to look for in probiotics for a UTI

Close-up of a woman holding probiotic supplements in her hand along with a glass of water while sitting on a couch
Grace Cary

While you can get probiotics from fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi or sauerkraut, those foods haven’t yet been shown to be effective against a UTI. Instead, you’ll get more bang for your buck with a supplement. In particular, probiotics with the bacterial strains Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Both have been shown to keep recurrent UTIs at bay, found a clinical trial in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The study noted that oral probiotic supplements were more effective at reducing UTIs than vaginal probiotics. And that’s good news, since oral varieties are more readily available! Just make sure you’re getting lots of good bacteria in each dose. Probiotic supplements containing at least 8 to 9 billion colony forming units or CFUs (the number of live bacterial cells per serving) are enough to get the job done, the Evidence-Based Practice study found.

Tip: Look for options that have been certified by a third party like the NSF. Also check the product label to see whether your probiotic needs to be refrigerated (some, but not all, do).

4 probiotics that may help a UTI

  1. Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Probiotics Once Daily Women. It’s formulated with 11 strains of Lactobacillus and 5 strains of Bifidobacterium. Plus it contains prebiotics (fibers that feed probiotic bacteria) to support vaginal and digestive health.
  2. RenewLife Women’s Care Probiotic. With 25 billion CFUs, this supplement boasts a blend of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus to protect your urinary tract and boost your immune health.
  3. Physician’s Choice Women’s Probiotic. This 50 billion CFU blend of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium also serves up cranberry extract for extra UTI protection.
  4. Nature’s Way Fortify Women’s Probiotic + Prebiotics. You’ll find plenty of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in this budget-friendly pick. Prebiotics like chicory root fiber give your digestive tract a healthy boost, too.

When to see your doctor

While a UTI may seem pretty straightforward, don’t attempt to diagnose and treat the infection at home. If you’re having symptoms, let your doctor know, recommends Dr. Guichard. They can run a quick urine test to confirm whether you have a UTI and prescribe antibiotics to fight off the infection. That’s important, since untreated UTIs could potentially travel to your kidneys or even cause a life-threatening infection such as sepsis.

For more ways to soothe common bladder bothers naturally:

Pelvic Pain and Bladder Leaks Can Signal a Hypertonic Pelvic Floor — And Kegels Can Make Things Worse

Always ‘Gotta Go’? This Genius Shoe Trick Calms Bladder Spasms + More MD-Backed Tips

Top MDs: Common Prescription Medications Cause Bladder Leakage — How to Get Relief

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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