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Updated on April 14, 2023
6 min read

Alcohol and UTIs

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause a UTI?

Alcohol can’t cause UTIs. However, it can indirectly increase the risk of a UTI through other factors.

1. Sexual Activity

Alcohol can lower inhibitions, which may lead people to engage in sex. Frequent sex increases the chance of developing a UTI, particularly in women.7

2. Impaired Immune System

People are more likely to get infections if they drink alcohol because it can weaken the immune system. If you have a weak immune system, it may be difficult for your body to fight infections like a UTI.13

3. Irritating the Bladder 

Alcohol irritates the bladder and can worsen the symptoms in a person with an existing UTI.14, 15 

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Does a Painful Bladder After Drinking Indicate a UTI? 

A painful bladder is a common symptom of a UTI. But it can also be caused by other factors like:

  • Alcohol: The substance itself can irritate the bladder and cause discomfort.14,15
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): Some STDs are confused with UTIs as they share some similar symptoms.4
  • Other infections: Yeast and other bacterial infections can also cause blood in the urine and a burning sensation during urination.4 

Can I Drink Alcohol if I Have a UTI?

You shouldn't drink alcohol if you have a UTI because of the following reasons: 

Alcohol Can Irritate the Bladder

Alcohol is acidic and can cause bladder irritation. This irritation can happen whether or not you have UTI, but it can be worse if the infection is already present.14, 15

Alcohol Can Interfere with UTI Treatment

As bacteria cause UTIs, antibiotics can cure them. However, alcohol can interfere with certain medications. 

For example, if you take sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (a common antibiotic combination for UTI) with alcohol, you’ll experience unpleasant side effects like:16

  • Nausea
  • Flushing
  • Increased heart rate

What Else to Avoid With a UTI 

Here are other foods and drinks that can cause bladder irritation and worsen UTI symptoms:14, 15 

  • Caffeine
  • Citrus fruits and tomatoes
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Artificially sweetened drinks
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Spicy foods
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What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

A UTI is an infection of the urinary system. Common symptoms include pain or a burning sensation during urination.

Bacteria, particularly Escherichia coli, cause UTIs. They live in the skin near the anus and urethra and are usually harmless. However, once they enter the urethra, they can trigger various types of UTI.3,4,5

Symptoms of UTI

Some UTIs don’t have any symptoms. If symptoms occur, they may include:3,4,6,7

  • Pain and burning sensation during urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Passing small amounts of urine despite the strong urge to urinate
  • Cloudy urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Pelvic pain 
  • Back pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion in older people

Risk Factors of UTI

Risk factors of a UTI include:

Female Anatomy

Women are more prone to UTIs than men. In the U.S., up to 60% of women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. In men, only 12% will be affected.1, 2 

The distance between a woman’s urethra and anus is shorter than that of men, making the urethra more accessible to bacteria. Women also have a shorter urethra, allowing bacteria to reach the bladder faster.  

Sexual Activity

During intercourse, there is a high chance that bacteria will be pushed into the urethra. Sexually active women are more likely to get UTIs than sexually inactive women. Having multiple sexual partners also increases UTI risk.7

Hormonal Changes

Hormone levels change during pregnancy, menopause, and post-menopause. This causes several body changes that make women more susceptible to UTIs.1, 8

Impaired Immune System

Diabetes and certain diseases that weaken the immune system can increase the risk of UTI because your body will have a hard time fighting infections.9, 10

Catheter

A patient with a urinary catheter has a 3 to 7% increased risk of getting a catheter-associated UTI.11

Contraceptives

Some contraceptives, like diaphragms and spermicidal foams, are linked to UTIs.10,   

Incomplete Emptying of the Bladder 

Kidney stones and an enlarged prostate are some examples of reasons why the bladder is not emptying completely. Incomplete emptying of the bladder can increase the risk of developing a UTI by trapping urine in the bladder. 

Impaired bladder function and abnormal urinary structures (like a narrowed urethra) may also prevent the bladder from emptying completely.10

Genetics

Some people are genetically predisposed to UTIs.10

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When to See a Healthcare Provider

A UTI doesn’t always cause symptoms. If you have symptoms, it is important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider and obtain the necessary treatment. An untreated UTI can become more severe once it spreads to the kidneys or bloodstream. 

It is especially important to see a healthcare provider in the following cases:6

  • You experience UTI symptoms for the first time
  • Your symptoms got worse or did not improve within two days
  • Your symptoms returned after treatment
  • You’re pregnant
  • You’re older
  • You have a weak immune system
  • You developed symptoms after a surgery

The doctor will ask you for a urine sample. The testing lab will look for white blood cells, red blood cells, proteins, bacteria, and other microorganisms. 

Sometimes, a urine culture is performed to determine which antibiotics are the best option for you. They may also do an ultrasound or a CT Scan to evaluate your urinary tract.

UTI Treatment

After the tests, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. You must complete the entire course of treatment. If not, the infection may return. The healthcare provider may recommend other remedies to relieve any discomfort, which include:

  • Pain relievers
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Using heating pads for pelvic and back pain

The doctor will also advise avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and other foods and drinks that can cause bladder irritation and worsen UTI symptoms.3,10

Foods and Drinks That Can Help a UTI 

Here are some remedies that can help if you have a UTI:  

Water

Several studies have linked UTI and infrequent urination due to low fluid intake.17,18,19 Drinking plenty of water flushes out bacteria from the bladder and reduces the concentration of bacteria along the urethra.

Cranberry Juice

There is mixed evidence on the effectiveness of cranberry juice. However, it remains popular as a natural remedy for a UTI.5, 20, 21, 22 It contains chemicals that can block bacteria from sticking to the bladder lining.23, 24, 25

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide various health benefits. You can take them as supplements or find them in fermented foods, including:

  • Kimchi
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Yogurt

Probiotics can restore the good bacteria destroyed by antibiotics inside the digestive tract. There are reports that Lactobacillus, a common probiotic, prevents UTI in adult women.25, 26 

D-Mannose

There’s evidence that D-mannose is effective in treating and preventing UTIs.27  It’s a type of sugar found in some fruits (like apples and peaches) and vegetables (like cabbage and broccoli).

Summary

While alcohol doesn't directly cause UTIs, it can worsen the symptoms and make them harder to treat. Learning about the causes and symptoms of UTIs can help you prevent them. You must also visit a doctor right away if you experience UTI symptoms. Your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics and other remedies to relieve any discomfort. 

Updated on April 14, 2023
26 sources cited
Updated on April 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Medina M, and Castillo-Pino E. “An introduction to the epidemiology and burden of urinary tract infections.” Therapeutic advances in urology, 2019. 
  2. Bennett V. “Cranberry juice won’t cut it: UTIs and the potential for repurposing drugs.” The Guardian, 2021.Greenstein M, Turley R, and Turley RK. “Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).” Cedars-Sinai. 
  3. Urinary Tract Infection.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021.
  4. Hisano et al. “Cranberries and lower urinary tract infection prevention.” Clinics (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 2012.
  5. Urinary tract infections (UTIs).” NHS.
  6. Vincent et al. “Symptoms and risk factors associated with first urinary tract infection in college age women: a prospective cohort study.” J Urol, 2013.
  7. Habak P and Griggs R Jr. “Urinary Tract Infection In Pregnancy.” [Updated 2021 Jul 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, 2021.
  8. Urinary tract infection - adults.” MedlinePlus. 
  9. What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in Adults?” Urology Care Foundation, American Urological Association. 
  10. Urinary Tract Infection (Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection [CAUTI] and Non-Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection [UTI]) Events.” National Healthcare Safety Network, 2021.
  11. Tan CW, Chlebicki MP. “Urinary tract infections in adults.” Singapore Med J, 2016.
  12. Sarkar et al. “Alcohol and the Immune System.” Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 2015.
  13. Interstitial Cystitis: A Bladder Problem.” Am Fam Physician, 2001.
  14. Miller et al. “Does Instruction to Eliminate Coffee, Tea, Alcohol, Carbonated, and Artificially Sweetened Beverages Improve Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms?: A Prospective Trial.” Journal of wound, ostomy, and continence nursing: official publication of The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society, 2016. 
  15. Can I drink alcohol while taking sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim DS tablets?” Drugs.com, 2020.
  16. Infectious Diseases Society of America. "Women who get frequent UTIs may reduce risk by drinking plenty of water." ScienceDaily, 2017.
  17. Mazzola, et al. “Behavioral and functional abnormalities linked with recurrent urinary tract infections in girls.” J Nephrol, 2003. 
  18. McCollum BJ, Garigan T, and Earwood J. “PURL: Can drinking more water prevent urinary tract infections?” The Journal of family practice, 2020. 
  19. Maki et al. “Consumption of a cranberry juice beverage lowered the number of clinical urinary tract infection episodes in women with a recent history of urinary tract infection.” Am J Clin Nutr, 2016.
  20. Foxman et al. “Cranberry juice capsules and urinary tract infection after surgery: results of a randomized trial.” Am J Obstet Gynecol, 2015. 
  21. Jepson R, Williams G, and Craig J. “Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2012. 
  22. Gupta et al. “Inhibition of adherence of multi-drug resistant E. coli by proanthocyanidin.” Urol Res, 2012.
  23. Pinzón-Arango P, Liu Y, and Camesano T. “Role of cranberry on bacterial adhesion forces and implications for Escherichia coli-uroepithelial cell attachment.” J Med Food, 2009. 
  24. Beerepoot M, and Geerlings S. “Non-Antibiotic Prophylaxis for Urinary Tract Infections.” Pathogens (Basel, Switzerland), 2016. 
  25. Grin et al. “Lactobacillus for preventing recurrent urinary tract infections in women: meta-analysis.” Can J Urol, 2013.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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