What Do Nitrites In Urine Mean and What To Do About It

What Do Nitrites In Urine Mean
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If you have ever had to give a urine sample, doctors will usually check the level of nitrites in urine. If nitrites are found in urine, it is usually a sign of bacteria in your urinary tract which is causing a urinary tract infection (UTI). The other symptoms of a UTI are a burning sensation when you pee and discolored or stinky urine.

Your body absorbs nitrates from food that you eat and these turn into nitrites in the body. Usually, healthy urine shouldn’t contain nitrites. However, if you have any kind of bacterial infection in your urinary tract, nitrites will show up in your urine.

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It’s always important to quickly treat any signs of a urinary tract infection. Some of the best home remedies for a mild UTI help to neutralize acid in your urine and promote the growth of healthy bacteria. So, ingredients like baking soda, plain yogurt that contains probiotics, and vitamin C are all good ways to prevent and treat urinary tract infections. However, if you have signs of a UTI that last for longer than 2 days, you should see your doctor promptly for medical treatment.

In this article, you will find out what it means if nitrites show up in your urine. You will also find out how to treat symptoms of a mild UTI at home and how to prevent urinary tract infections.

What are Nitrates and Nitrites?

Nitrates are basically a salt that is naturally present in many foods we consume. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, most of our dietary intake of nitrates come from vegetables. During the digestive process, nitrates are converted into nitrites and nitric oxide.1

The journal Cardiovascular Research reported that nitric oxide and nitrites have an important role in keeping your heart healthy and preventing cardiovascular diseases.2 This is why eating plenty of vegetables in your diet is a great way to keep you in good shape and healthy.

Other studies have shown that nitrates and nitrites help to kill off bacteria in the body and are beneficial for health. For example, the Journal of Food Protection reported on the nitrite link to your general health. Researchers found that nitrites have an antibacterial effect in the gastrointestinal tract and may be connected with keeping your immune system healthy.3

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Because of the ability for nitrates to destroy bacteria, they are usually added to processed food and cured meats (like bacon) as a preservative. However, some studies show that when nitrates in processed meats are heated, they turn into nitrosamines, and these foods are connected with an increased risk of cancer.4

What do Nitrites in Urine Indicate?

If you have symptoms of a urinary tract infection like a stinging sensation when you urinate or your pee is a cloudy color, your doctor will take a urine sample. The presence of nitrites in your urine is a strong indicator that bacteria is the cause of the infection.

Dr. Adam Husney on WebMD says that a urine test checks how well your kidneys remove waste material, minerals, and fluids from your body. Dr. Husney says that bacteria make an enzyme that turns urinary nitrates into nitrites. This is one of the best indicators of a UTI.5 The doctor may also check for leukocytes in your urine which can also indicate a bacterial urinary tract infection. Your doctor may also look at the number of squamous epithelial cells as part of the urine analysis.

If you need to provide a urine sample and you find that peeing into a sample jar is difficult, check out our article on the many natural ways to make yourself pee.

Urinary tract infection

As already mentioned in this article, nitrites showing up in a urine test is a good indicator of a bacterial infection.

The journal Urology found that urine infected with bacteria has large amounts of nitrites caused by enzyme activity. However, the researchers also found that increased levels of nitric oxide and vitamin C helped to destroy the bacteria in the urine.6

A urine test for nitrites can also help doctors to establish if the bacteria have been caused by contamination after the urine sample was taken. This can help to provide the best treatment to get rid of a UTI.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Nitrites in your urine could also mean that you have an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Inflammation in part or all of your digestive tract is called an inflammatory bowel disease. This usually includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. According to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, IBD causes severe diarrhea, digestive pain, fatigue, and weight loss.7

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Researchers have also found that inflammatory bowel disease can cause nitrites to get into your urine. The journal Mediators of Inflammation reported that nitric oxide production increases in IBD. They found that people with IBD had increased nitrite levels in their urine.8

Urine test for nitrites

Usually, if doctors find that you have nitrites in your urine, they will take more tests to confirm the presence of a UTI. However, sometimes testing urine for nitrites can throw up false positive results or sometimes be negative even when there are bacteria in the urine.

For example, a study in 2015 found that the best way to check for a UTI was to test for the presence of nitrites and leukocytes in the urine. Just testing for one or the other wasn’t a reliable way to check for urinary infections,9 as sometimes, bacteria don’t increase nitrite levels in urine.10

The American Academy of Family Physicians also reports that a person’s diet can affect levels of nitrites in urine.11  

Other Signs of a Urinary Tract Infection

Although urine testing for nitrites and leukocytes are standard ways to test for urinary tract infections, there are other symptoms of UTIs that doctors take into consideration. According to a report published on WebMD.com, many doctors diagnose UTI without the need for a urine test.12  

Some symptoms of a UTI are:13

You may also notice that you have bubbles in your urine when you have a urinary tract infection.

How to Treat a Urinary Tract Infection at Home

There are many effective home remedies that can help clear up a urinary tract infection at home. Please remember that you should use these treatments at the first sign of a UTI and if your symptoms persist for more than 2 days, you should seek prompt medical advice.

Baking Soda

Drinking baking soda can help to neutralize the acid in your urine and reduce the symptoms of a urinary tract infection. Baking soda is alkaline and helps to reduce the acid content in your stomach and bladder.

The journal Reviews in Urology suggested that baking soda can complement conventional UTI treatments and can also be used as an alternative therapy. The researchers reported that baking soda helps to make urine more alkaline and “has been an effective treatment for many interstitial cystitis patients.”14

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How to use:

To use baking soda to help relieve the symptoms of a urinary tract infection, you should do the following:

  • Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a glass of water.
  • Drink 3-4 times a day to help relieve the burning sensation when you pee.
  • Repeat for 2 days and if your symptoms persist, see a doctor.

Baking soda is also great to use in your bath and it can help to relieve vaginal itching as well.

When using baking soda to relieve UTI symptoms, doctors warn not to misuse it. Taking large quantities of baking soda for extended periods of time can cause electrolyte imbalances.15 If you have recurrent episodes of urinary tract infections, please see the section below on how to prevent UTIs.

Vitamin C

Take vitamin C at the first sign of a urinary tract infection to help prevent the infection getting worse. Vitamin C is a good all-around vitamin that helps boost your immune system and keeps your skin healthy. Vitamin C also has a positive effect in treating UTIs. This is why raw cranberry juice is a common remedy for UTI as it contains a large amount of vitamin C and anti-oxidants that contribute to healthy bladder function.

In studying the reasons for high levels of nitrites in urine as a marker for bacterial infections, the journal Urology reported that vitamin C may be an effective treatment for bacteria in urine.6  

Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that treating a urinary infection with large amounts of vitamin C limits the growth of some bacteria and vitamin C supplements can help to do this.16  

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, taking 500 to 1,000 mg of vitamin C, 1 to 2 times daily may be beneficial for managing bladder infections and for immune support.18

Yogurt

Raw, plain yogurt can help to restore healthy bacteria to your urinary tract and digestive system. Raw yogurt contains probiotics which help boost “good” bacteria to fight against “bad” bacteria.

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The Indian Journal of Urology reported that probiotics have a great potential to be used to treat and prevent urinary tract infections. The researchers found that increasing the levels of “good” bacteria can help “treat complicated and uncomplicated UTIs.”18

How to use:

To use yogurt to help treat a urinary tract infection, make sure that it is unsweetened and contains live active cultures. There are various ways that live yogurt can help reduce urinary bacterial infections:

  • Consume 2-3 large spoons of raw yogurt 3-4 times a day to help increase “good” bacteria in your digestive and urinary tract.
  • Coat a tampon in raw yogurt and insert into your vagina. Do this 3-4 times a day to help soothe discomfort in your vagina and help cure the symptoms of a mild UTI.
  • Take probiotic supplements. The University of Maryland Medical Center says that the best-known probiotics for treating UTI are the lactobacilli strains, such as acidophilus, which is found in yogurt and kefir, as well as in dietary supplements.17

If you have been on a course of antibiotics for a UTI, then taking probiotics is a must to restore a healthy flora to your digestive system.

Other Ways to Treat UTI

You can find other ways to treat UTI, such as D-Mannose, bromelain, cranberry juice and apple cider vinegar (ACV) in my article on how to treat urinary tract infection (UTI) naturally.

How to Prevent a Urinary Tract Infection

Very often, if you have one urinary tract infection, it may not be long before you are back at the doctors to have nitrite levels in your urine checked again. Unfortunately, UTIs have a habit of recurring. Therefore, preventing them is the best way to avoid the discomfort of a urinary infection.

Dr. Melinda Ratini from WebMD recommends the following steps to prevent recurrent UTIs:17

  • Keep yourself well-hydrated to help flush out bacteria from your bladder. Always use the bathroom when you feel the urge and don’t hold in your pee for too long.
  • Always wipe from front to back to prevent spreading bacteria to your vagina and urinary tract.
  • Practice good vaginal hygiene, especially before and after sex. Urinate after sex to flush out any bacteria.
  • Don’t use irritating feminine products (sprays, deodorant, and scented powders) and avoid douching.

Doctors have also found that taking regular supplements of vitamin C is an effective way to prevent urinary tract infections. A study in 2007 found that taking 100 mg vitamin C daily helps pregnant women avoid urinary infections.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

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    2. Cardiovasc Res. (2011) 89 (3): 525-532.
    3. J Food Prot. 2002 May;65(5):872-5.
    4. Int J Cancer. 2006 Aug 15;119(4):915-9.
    5. WebMD. Urine test.
    6. Urology. 1997 Aug;50(2):189-91.
    7. MayoClinic. Inflammatory bowel disease.
    8. Mediators Inflamm. 2001 Apr; 10(2): 69–73.
    9. J Family Med Prim Care. 2015 Apr-Jun; 4(2): 265–268.
    10. Nephrol Dial Transplant. (1999) 14 (11): 2746-2753.
    11. AAFP. Urinalysis. A comprehensive review.
    12. WebMD. Urine tests don’t always confirm urinary infections.
    13. WebMD. Guide to UTIs.
    14. Rev Urol. 2002; 4(Suppl 1): S28–S35.
    15. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2014 Feb;39(1):73-7.
    16. HopkinsMedicine. Urinary tract infections.
    17. WebMD. Best ways to prevent UTIs.
    18. umm.edu. Urinary tract infection in women.
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