I think it’s safe to say that, when you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), you want it to go away, like, yesterday. So I get wanting to try literally everything and anything to stop the burning—and resorting to DIY remedy blogs to find a quick “cure.”
Apple cider vinegar (ACV, as your fave wellness influencer calls it) is one of those, uh, “remedies”—but does it work (and should you try it)?
Before all of that, what’s a UTI again?
A UTI is an infection caused by bacteria in any part of your urinary system, including your bladder, kidneys, and urethra, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
Also: UTIs are crazy-common: At least 40 to 60 percent of women develop a UTI in their lifetime, per the NIDDK—most of which are bladder infections, the most common type of UTI.
UTIs cause all kinds of crummy symptoms like a constant urge to pee, a burning sensation when you actually do go, only being able to pee a little bit at a time, pinkish or bloody pee, and pelvic pain.
If a UTI is caught soon enough, treatment can typically clear it up without complications, but, left untreated, it can lead to a kidney infection, which can be very painful and lead to further health issues.
So what’s this about using ACV to cure a UTI?
Just to be clear: Women aren’t squirting ACV up their vaginas to deal with UTIs—that could be incredibly painful (and dangerous). Instead, they’re drinking it straight or diluting it with something else (like water).
The concept behind it isn’t entirely flawed—ACV contains acetic acid, which is thought to reduce infection-causing bacteria. Essentially, people are drinking it, hoping that, when they pee, their urine is more acidic, and ultimately will clear out any infection.
But uh, this definitely isn’t backed by any science, says Dr. Christine Greves, a board-certified obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. “You cannot cure a UTI with apple cider vinegar,” she says.
One 2018 study in the journal Scientific Reports found that ACV may help inhibit the growth of E.coli (one of the main bacteria that causes UTIs), but those findings were preliminary—and, you know, done in petri dishes instead of on actual humans.
What’s more: The study most definitely did not say that ACV could cure a UTI.
READ MORE: 7 most common bladder infection symptoms in women
Well, what should I do about my UTI?
If you suspect you have a UTI, don’t experiment with ACV to see if it does anything. Instead, call your doctor ASAP. “The last thing you want is for it to go unrecognised and spread to your kidneys,” Greves says.
For the record, the only thing that’s been proven to get rid of a UTI is antibiotics, Greves says. She also recommends that her patients try an over-the-counter medication to help with bladder spasms (along with antibiotics), but that alone won’t get rid of a UTI either.
“Go with what has been proven to benefit at this point,” Greves says. “Nothing takes the place of seeing your provider to ensure that this thing gets treated before it turns into a whole-body situation and you have to be hospitalised.”
This article was orginally published in Women's Health SA.