A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra. UTIs are typically caused by bacteria and are much more common in women than men. Symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating, frequent and intense urges to urinate, cloudy or bloody urine, and pelvic pain or pressure. While antibiotics are the primary treatment for UTIs, adjusting your diet can help reduce symptoms and prevent recurrent infections. Certain foods and beverages can irritate the urinary tract or bladder, making symptoms worse. Others may increase the risk of developing a UTI. Understanding what foods to limit or avoid completely can help manage a current UTI as well as lower the chances of getting another infection.
Acidic Foods and Beverages
Highly acidic foods and drinks can irritate the bladder and urinary tract, aggravating UTI symptoms. These foods lower the pH balance of urine, making it more acidic, which may worsen inflammation and discomfort when urinating. It’s best to avoid the following acidic foods and drinks when you have a UTI:
Citrus fruits and juices like oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes are very acidic. The high concentration of citric acid can irritate the bladder lining, causing a burning sensation when you urinate if you have a UTI. Limit or avoid citrus fruits and juices until UTI symptoms subside.
Tomatoes and tomato-based products like tomato juice, pasta sauce and salsa are also highly acidic. The tomatoes contain citric and malic acid that can further irritate the bladder and urinary tract if you have a UTI. Avoid eating tomatoes or drinking tomato juice. Limiting pizza, pasta and other tomato-based dishes may also help alleviate UTI discomfort.
All types of vinegar are very acidic and can worsen UTI symptoms. Avoid salad dressings, sauces, pickles and other foods containing vinegar. Check ingredient labels carefully to ensure vinegars are not included.
Alcohol, especially wine, can irritate the bladder and increase inflammation. Red wine tends to be more acidic than white wine. Avoid drinking any alcoholic beverages, but especially wine, beer and other fermented drinks until your UTI has resolved.
Beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, black tea, cola and energy drinks, can also irritate the bladder. Caffeine is a diuretic that increases urination, which exacerbates the intense and frequent urges to urinate when you have a UTI. Avoid caffeine or limit consumption to small amounts until UTI symptoms have cleared up.
The bubbles and carbonation in soda, sparkling water and other fizzy drinks can further irritate the bladder when you have a UTI. Avoid drinking carbonated beverages and stick to plain, non-caffeinated water instead.
Eating large amounts of sugary foods and refined carbs can increase the risk of developing a UTI. Bacteria thrive on sugar, so a diet high in sugar may promote the growth of bacteria that cause UTIs. It’s recommended to limit sugary foods like:
Hard candies, jelly beans, gummy bears, chocolate and other sweets are high in sugar. Avoiding or reducing candy consumption can help starve bacteria of the sugar needed for growth and multiplication.
Regular sodas are loaded with sugar, providing the perfect environment for bacteria to proliferate. Avoid drinking regular sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages when you have a UTI.
Although fruit juice provides some vitamins, the high sugar content can encourage bacterial growth. Drink fruit juice in moderation or avoid it completely when trying to get rid of a UTI.
Items like cakes, cookies, doughnuts, muffins and other baked treats are high in added sugars. Limit baked desserts and sweets while dealing with a UTI.
Jams and Jellies
These fruit spreads are another source of additional sugar you don’t need when attempting to resolve a UTI. Use jams and jellies sparingly or consider sugar-free alternatives.
Many breakfast cereals, especially those marketed to children, are loaded with sugar. Avoid kid-focused sugary cereals and opt for low-sugar varieties.
Even dairy products like yogurt can be high in added sugar. Check labels and choose plain, unsweetened yogurt varieties.
Eating spicy foods may further irritate the bladder and urinary tract when you already have UTI discomfort. Avoiding hot, spicy dishes can help provide relief as you recover. Foods to limit include:
Jalapeños, habaneros, cayenne and other hot chili peppers are common triggers for bladder irritation. Avoiding spicy Mexican, Indian and Thai dishes made with fresh or dried chilis can be beneficial.
Hot sauces like Tabasco, Frank’s Red Hot and Sriracha contain peppers and strong spices that can inflame the bladder further. Skip the hot sauce until your UTI has gone away.
The traditional curries used in Indian cooking contain many spices that can irritate the bladder, especially when coupled with acidic tomatoes. Limiting intake of curries made with hot curry powder blends can help.
This spice blend contains hot peppers and other seasonings. Avoid using extra chili powder on foods until UTI discomfort resolves.
Prepared horseradish contains compounds that give it a strong, hot flavor. This can exacerbate UTI symptoms. Skip horseradish sauces and dishes flavored with horseradish.
This spicy, green condiment served with sushi is extremely potent. Wasabi can intensify painful UTI urgency and burning. Avoid wasabi until you’ve recovered from the infection.
In addition to chili peppers, avoid culinary hot varieties like habanero, jalapeño, cayenne, serrano and poblano peppers.
Consuming high amounts of salt may increase irritation and inflammation of the bladder when you have a UTI. Limiting sodium intake from the following high-salt foods can help:
Deli meats, sausages, hot dogs, bacon and canned meats are very high in sodium. Choose low-sodium options or avoid processed meats altogether.
Packaged frozen meals and entrees often contain large amounts of added salt. Opt for homemade foods or look for low-sodium frozen options.
Canned vegetables, beans, soups and tomato products can be packed with extra sodium. Rinse canned items before using or look for low-sodium varieties.
Seasonings like soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, barbecue sauce and steak sauce are high in salt. Use sparingly or avoid completely.
Chips, pretzels, crackers, salted nuts and other salty snack foods should be eaten minimally until UTI discomfort resolves.
Burgers, fries, pizza and other fast food items often contain large amounts of sodium. Limit fast food intake while dealing with a UTI.
Caffeine found in coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks acts as a diuretic, increasing urine production. This can worsen the intense urge to urinate when you have a UTI. Limiting caffeine from the following sources may provide relief:
The caffeine in coffee causes increased urination, exacerbating painful UTI bladder spasms and urgency. Avoid regular and decaf coffee until your infection clears.
Like coffee, the caffeine in black teas can stimulate urination and increase bladder discomfort. Substitute herbal teas or green tea, which contains less caffeine.
Popular energy drink brands have very high caffeine levels, as much as ten times that of soda, promoting frequent urination. Avoid energy drinks completely when you have a UTI.
Although lower in caffeine than coffee or energy drinks, the caffeine in cola and other sodas has a diuretic effect. Skip regular and diet sodas.
Chocolate, especially darker varieties, contains caffeine that may irritate the bladder further. Avoid chocolate candy, syrups and baked goods made with cocoa powder.
Alcohol consumption can increase UTI symptoms in several ways. Alcohol has diuretic properties, resulting in increased urination and bladder urgency. Alcohol also prevents the body from fighting infection properly, allowing bacteria to proliferate. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages when you have a UTI.
All types of beer have high fluid content and alcohol that can worsen UTI symptoms. Avoid drinking beer while you have an active infection.
The acidic tannins in red and white wine can irritate the bladder further. Plus the alcohol content causes more frequent urination. Don’t drink wine until UTI symptoms have gone away.
Distilled spirits like whiskey, vodka, rum, gin and tequila contain high amounts of alcohol that have a diuretic effect. Avoid drinking any liquors while recovering from a UTI.
Cocktails and other mixed alcoholic drinks combine distilled spirits with soda, juice and other ingredients. Always avoid due to the alcohol content when you have a UTI.
Milk and dairy products are common triggers for urinary tract irritation and inflammation in some people. Lactose sugar in dairy may promote bacterial growth in the urinary tract as well. Try eliminating dairy foods like:
Cow, goat or plant-based milk contain lactose that can worsen UTI symptoms in lactose intolerant individuals. Substitute lactose-free milk or non-dairy milks like almond or coconut.
All types of cheese including soft cheeses, hard cheeses and cheese spreads contain lactose. Avoid eating cheese while you have an active UTI.
The lactose in ice cream may increase irritation, pain and urgency when you have a UTI. Switch to non-dairy frozen treats like fruit sorbets or coconut milk-based ice cream.
Although lower in lactose than milk, yogurt still contains some lactose that can be problematic if you have a UTI. Opt for plant-based yogurts if eliminating dairy.
Heavy cream, half and half, whipped cream and coffee creamers all are sources of lactose that should be avoided. Use non-dairy cream substitutes if needed.
Butter is made from milk so it contains trace amounts of lactose. Limit butter or switch to olive oil or other vegan butters while you have an active UTI.
Adjusting your diet can help manage symptoms and promote healing when you have a urinary tract infection. Limiting or avoiding foods and beverages that may irritate the bladder or increase inflammation is recommended. These include acidic foods, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, sugars, salt and dairy. Sticking to a UTI diet with plenty of water, fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help resolve infection faster and prevent recurrent UTIs. Always seek medical care if UTI symptoms persist or worsen. Let your healthcare provider know if any foods seem to aggravate your condition so proper treatment can be provided. With the right dietary changes and medical care, you can get relief from UTI discomfort quickly.