do probiotics help with UTI

Can Probiotics Help With UTI Prevention? (5 effective mechanisms)

Antibiotics have long been used to treat UTIs (urinary tract infections), but with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the popularity of probiotics, can these good bacteria help prevent and treat these infections?

I’ve got good news! Several studies have shown that probiotic strains can effectively be used to prevent and treat UTIs. Some are even useful against recurrent UTIs, which is a significant health hazard, particularly in women.

Isn’t that wonderful? 

So, how do probiotics help with UTIs? Are they better than antibiotics or should you take them together? What are the best probiotics for UTI and how much do you need to take? How long do they take effect?

Let’s discuss the answers to your burning questions about UTIs and probiotics below.

Can Probiotics Help With UTI Prevention?

Yes! Several studies have shown that certain probiotic strains are helpful in preventing and treating UTIs.

First, let’s look into the causes of UTIs:

UTIs happen when pathogenic or harmful bacteria enter the urinary tract area.

Escherichia coli is the most common culprit, but the following strains are also responsible for UTIs:

  • Staphylococcus saprophyticus
  • Proteus mirabilis
  • Enterococcus faecalis
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Klebsiella spp
  • Group B Streptococcus

These pathogenic bacteria come from the gut and are excreted out of the anus. Often, they translocate across the perineum (the area between the anus and the genitals).

While these bacteria are harmless in the perineum, they can go up the genitals and enter the urinary tract, causing an infection. In worse cases, they even cause harm to the bladder and kidneys.

Women are more prone to infections because their urethra is located closer to the anus.

Studies like the 2006 review in the Drugs Journal and the 2017 review in the Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology show that probiotics can be effective against UTIs, including recurrent infections (at least three UTI episodes in 1 year or two episodes within 6 months). 

Let’s dive deeper into these studies below.

Studies Supporting Probiotic Use for UTI

The 2006 review I mentioned above explained that Lactobacillus (one of the most common probiotics) strains dominate the normal urogenital flora of healthy premenopausal women. 

So, many researchers hypothesized that restoration of the urogenital flora can help prevent and treat UTIs.

This makes sense. By ensuring that there are more Lactobacilli and other “friendly” bacteria than pathogenic ones, it’s less likely for the harmful bacteria to reach the urinary tract and cause an infection.

What’s the best way to restore normal flora in the urogenital area? Probiotic supplementation, of course.

The most effective strains include:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 
  • Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 (previously called L. fermentum RC-14)

Other possibly effective strains recommended in the 2006 review:

  • Lactobacillus casei shirota (the strain used in Yakult probiotic drinks)
  • Lactobacillus crispatus CTV-05

The 2017 study further reinforced these findings, adding that varied clinical trials have shown probiotics to be effective for the long-term prevention of recurrent UTIs.

It’s also a bonus that probiotics don’t appear to cause antibiotic resistance, the 2017 study pointed out.

And if you’ve been following our blog, you know that probiotics are also good against SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), cold sores, and even joint pain. What a big bonus, indeed, right?

How Do Probiotics Help with UTIs? (5 useful mechanisms)

Urinary Tract Infection

So, how exactly do probiotics help with UTIs? Let me explain each mechanism based on what I learned from my research:

Mechanism #1: Preventing Bacterial Growth and Colonization

According to a 2018 study published in the Turkish Journal of Urology, certain probiotic strains, particularly Lactobacilli, can prevent the adherence, growth, and colonization of these pathogenic bacteria in the urinary tract.

The study also pointed out that when antibiotics are used as UTI treatment, they also tend to destroy good bacteria such as Lactobacilli in the urinary system. 

In turn, it destroys the existing natural barrier that the urinary system has against infections. This can lead to antibiotic resistance and recurrent UTIs.

So, it makes sense to put probiotic therapy first and antibiotic treatment last in trying to treat UTIs.

The researcher cautioned that more studies are needed before we can say for certain that probiotics can replace antibiotics in UTI treatment. But the current studies do show promising results.

Mechanism #2: Boosting and Activating the Immune System

Did you know that as much as 70-80% of our immune system is in our gut? I explained that in more detail (plus other surprising and fun facts!) in our article on gut health statistics and facts.

Now, because of this fact, it’s easier to understand the role of probiotics in preventing UTIs.

You can’t just insert something into the urinary tract (but some treatments are placed inside the vaginal canal) to physically treat the infections, but you can help your body prevent and fight infection through your immune system. After all, they’re really the ones designated as your body’s soldiers against pathogens and things that can be harmful.

The probiotics can help boost and activate your immune system to send these soldiers into battle, right down to your urinary tract where they’re needed.

Cool, isn’t it?

Mechanism #3: Replacing the Good Bacteria in Your Urogenital System

As I’ve explained above, based on the 2006 study, restoring the urogenital flora by replacing the good bacteria in your urogenital system can also help prevent UTIs.

The presence of more colonies of good bacteria can reduce the colonies of bad bacteria.

So, you can take advantage of this benefit to protect your body against UTIs.

Mechanism #4: Promoting Bacterial Excretion (getting rid of harmful bacteria)

Did you know that probiotics can even kill parasites and intestinal worms? Studies do show they can be potent! So, it isn’t surprising that they can also get rid of pathogenic bacteria.

According to the 2018 study mentioned above, some Lactobacillus species make the vaginal mucosa more acidic by producing hydrogen peroxide and biosurfactants. 

The higher acidity prevents pathogenic bacteria from starting their colonies and growing in this area. It can also help promote the excretion of these pathogenic bacteria.

Mechanism #5: Preventing Recurrent UTIs

According to the University of Colorado’s Urogynecology Center, as many as 20-30% of women are suffering from recurrent UTIs. That can take its toll on the bladder and kidneys.

If you experience two or more UTIs within a six-month period, or three or more UTIs in a year, talk to your doctor about trying probiotics as a preventative treatment option. The studies I mentioned above might be small, but they did show promising results.

Probiotics might help prevent recurrent UTIs by promoting better gut health, boosting and activating your immune system, balancing your normal flora, and preventing harmful bacteria from reaching and colonizing your urinary tract.

Sounds like an effective all-in-one solution, huh?

Does that mean you no longer need antibiotics? Let’s dive deeper into that in the next section.

Are Probiotics Or Antibiotics Better For UTIs?

They actually have their pros and cons – and the best treatment to pick might depend on your situation. Your doctor can help you decide which one is the better treatment option.

Antibiotics are hugely more effective as the first-line treatment for UTIs, even for recurrent infections (UTIs). However, you can easily develop resistance to a range of antibiotics if you use them regularly. 

Once you develop antibiotic resistance, you’ll require more potent antibiotics to treat your illness. But that also makes you more prone to resistance to those antibiotics. 

Eventually, your body might no longer respond to antibiotic treatment. That can actually be dangerous, especially when you experience other forms of infections, not just a UTI.

In contrast, probiotics are less effective and less durable than antibiotics, particularly with recurrent UTIs. However, they don’t contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Can You Take Probiotics with Antibiotics or Medications for UTI?

It’s not actually a good idea to take probiotics and antibiotics at the same time. While they’re good bacteria, probiotics are bacteria – and the antibiotics can kill them.

While it’s unlikely that you’ll develop any complications in taking them together, the antibiotics will just render your probiotics useless. In short, you’ll be taking something (and spending money on it) that isn’t likely to work.

The best thing to do is to wait at least 2 hours after taking probiotics before you take your antibiotics. This allows your probiotics to reach your intestines without getting attacked by the active antibiotic ingredients.

Other people simply stop taking the probiotics until their course of antibiotics, usually, 7-10 days, is completed. 

Once you’re done taking your antibiotics, then you can go back to taking your probiotics to replenish the ones that were killed during the treatment.

Probiotic Dosage For UTI

Based on the 2018 review that I mentioned above, the effective dosages used in different probiotic studies vary from 104 CFUs (colony-forming units) to 1010 CFUs.

Not surprisingly, many of the studies have also shown that a combination of treatments can be more effective than a single course.

For example, some of these studies used a combination of oral and vaginal formulations. Others used a combination of probiotics (i.e., 109 CFU L. rhamnosus SGL 06) with 120 mg cranberry and 75 mg vitamin C, taken for 3-6 months to treat recurrent UTI.

Are Probiotics Reliable for Treating UTI?

Yes. Based on the studies mentioned above, probiotics can be a reliable treatment option against UTIs. While they might not work as fast as antibiotics, they can be the safer option in the long run because they don’t cause antibiotic resistance.

Let’s answer some of your burning questions about the effectiveness and reliability of probiotic treatments below.

Can Probiotics Get Rid of UTI in 24 Hours?

No. It’s unlikely for probiotics to treat UTI in 24 hours. Even the most powerful antibiotics can’t get rid of pathogenic bacteria in that time frame, so you can’t also expect the less powerful probiotics to act so quickly.

How Long Does it Take for Probiotics to Work Against UTI?

The answer actually varies, and will likely depend on your individual situation. But the common duration of probiotic use in the studies mentioned above is at least 5 days. 

For the prevention of recurrent UTIs, other studies even set the duration to 12 months.

What Are The Signs That Probiotics Are Working Against UTIs?

Like any other treatment option or medication, you’ll know that the probiotics are working if your symptoms go away:

  • Frequent urination but passing only small amounts of urine
  • Pain or burning feeling while urinating
  • Bloody or pinkish urine (in some cases)
  • Urge to urinate even after emptying your bladder
  • Cloudy urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cramping or pressure in your lower abdomen or groin

Which Probiotics Are Good For Urinary Tract Infection? (choosing the best) 

Different probiotic strains have different effects on our bodies. So, it’s a good idea to pick supplements that contain strains that are more effective against UTIs.

Some of the most potent strains that can be effective against the bacteria that cause UTIs, based on the 2006 review mentioned above:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 
  • Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 (previously called L. fermentum RC-14)

The following strains are less potent but they can still be possibly effective against UTI, as explained in the 2006 review:

  • Lactobacillus casei shirota (used in Yakult probiotic drinks)
  • Lactobacillus crispatus CTV-05

Check for the strains above when picking the best probiotics to meet your needs. You can also choose from my recommendations below.

7 Best Probiotics For UTI (Female)

  • Happy V Women’s Daily Prebiotic + Probiotic (20 billion CFUs) – Specially formulated for the relief of bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections but also useful for UTIs, this supplement contains Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-14 and NCFM, Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001, Lactobacillus paracasei LPC-37, Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 and Bi-04, and Bacillus coagulans Lactospore MTCC5856.
  • RepHresh Pro-B Feminine Probiotic Supplement – This supplement contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 to help balance yeast and bacteria in your normal flora.
  • Replenish The Good Women’s Probiotic Supplement (6 billion CFUs) – Specially formulated to treat and help prevent UTIs and promote better gut health, it contains Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Fermentum, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Bifidobacterium Lactis, Lactobacillus Reuteri, and Lactobacillus Rhamnosus.
  • up4 PROBIOTICS Women’s (50 billion CFUs) – It supports urinary tract, vaginal, digestive, and immune health with whole cranberry powder and 9 probiotic strains: Lactobacillus plantarum UALp-05, Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1, Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis BB-12, Bifidobacterium lactis UABla-12, Lactobacillus rhamnosus UALrh-18, Lactobacillus paracasei UALpc-04, Lactobacillus casei UALc-03, and Lactobacillus gasseri UALg-05.
  • AZO Complete Feminine Balance Daily Probiotic for Women (5 billion CFUs) – It promotes a healthy vagina by maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria and yeast with these probiotic strains: Lactobacillus crispatus LBV 88, Lactobacillus rhamnosus LBV 96, Lactobacillus gasseri LBV 150N, and Lactobacillus jensenii LBV 116.
  • SheNeed PROBIOTICS UTI (3 billion CFUs) – Specially formulated against UTIs, it maintains vaginal health and flushes out toxins with these probiotic strains: Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Lactobacillus Casei, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Lactobacillus Brevis, Lactobacillus Salivarius, and Lactobacillus Gasseri.
  • Garden of Life RAW Probiotics Women (85 billion CFUs) – Specially formulated for women’s health, it contains as many as 32 different probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri, which are potent against the bacteria that cause UTIs.

3 Best Probiotics For UTI (Male)

Men are less likely to experience UTIs than women, but here are some that are specially formulated for male users:

  • Bauer Nutrition Biotics 8 (20 billion CFUs) – Specially formulated to promote men’s health, it contains Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus fermentum, and Saccharomyces boulardii.
  • Garden of Life RAW Probiotics Men (85 billion CFUs) – Specially formulated for men’s health, including prostate health, it contains as many as 31 different probiotic strains, including Lactobacillus fermentum.
  • Swanson Ultimate 16 Strain Probiotic (3.2 billion CFUs) – Promotes better health with the following strains: Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactococcus lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Lactobacillus gasseri.


Can Probiotics Cause UTI?

No. Probiotic supplements don’t contain any pathogenic bacteria that can potentially cause UTIs unless they’re contaminated (if produced by unreputable manufacturers).

However, there are rare reports of Lactobacillus organisms possibly causing infections, including UTIs.

Does Lactobacillus Cause UTI?

Different Lactobacillus strains are part of the vagina’s normal bacterial flora. However, they aren’t considered to be harmful to the human body and are extremely unlikely to cause UTIs.

During routine urinalysis, these strains are even regarded as contaminants rather than causative agents for UTIs and other infections.

Still, there has been one report of a patient experiencing chronic pyuria and UTI symptoms linked to Lactobacillus delbrueckii, according to a 2009 review published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. The 85-year-old female patient had recurrent urinary tract infections.

A 1984 case report in the Infection journal also indicated that Lactobacillus gasseri caused UTI in a 66-year-old patient.

The probiotic strains in both these cases eventually responded to antibiotic treatments.

This led the researchers to the 2009 review to suggest that Lactobacillus strains can be unlikely, yet significant causes of UTIs, not just considered a contaminant in urinalysis. However, they also conceded that this only applies in extremely rare cases, such as in immunocompetent female patients.

Is Yakult Good for UTI?

Yes. Although Yakult isn’t marketed as a UTI treatment, the 2006 review above mentioned that Lactobacillus casei shirota (used in Yakult probiotic drinks) can be effective in preventing recurrent UTIs.

What Are The Best Probiotics Strains To Prevent UTI

According to the 2006 review above, the following strains can be effective in preventing and treating UTIs:

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 
  • Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 (previously called L. fermentum RC-14)
  • Lactobacillus casei shirota
  • Lactobacillus crispatus CTV-05

Do Probiotics Make You Pee More?

Yes. It’s possible for you to experience frequent urination with probiotic use.

Probiotics speed up your body’s detoxification and cleansing processes, so urine output is likely to also increase. 

But that isn’t something to worry about. In fact, frequent urination due to probiotic use helps flush out the bad bacteria from your urinary system more quickly.

Does Probiotics Help With Bladder Infection?

Yes. Bladder infection is a type of UTI because the bladder is part of the urinary tract. Because probiotics can help with UTIs, then it follows that they can also be good for bladder infections.

Are Natural Probiotics Good for UTIs?

Yes. Fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and probiotic yogurts contain probiotic strains that can be good for UTIs.

What Are The Best Probiotic Foods For UTIs?

Probiotic foods like plain Greek yogurt or other probiotic yogurts and fermented food, including sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, kombucha, and kimchi, are good for UTIs. 

These foods contain “good” probiotic bacteria that can help keep the UTI-causing bad bacteria away.

Berries like cranberries, raspberries, and blueberries don’t have probiotics but these foods can also promote urinary tract health and protect against infection. 

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