The Truth About Cranberry Juice and UTIs

Urinary tract infections affect 50-60% of women at some point in their lives. The condition can be painful, characterized by a strong urge to urinate, burning sensations, and cloudy or reddish-colored urine with a strong smell.

While antibiotics are the “go to” remedy for a UTI, you may have heard that simply drinking cranberry juice or taking a cranberry supplement is just as effective. Before you treat yourself with the tart drink, know the facts about cranberry juice and UTIs.

The magic of cranberries

UTIs are most often caused by bacteria called Escherichia coli, or E. coli for short. Cranberries contain compounds called A-type proanthocyanidins that prevent E. coli from adhering to the bladder walls. Whether there’s enough of this compound in a serving of juice or supplements to make a difference in your health has not been categorically proven by research.

Scientific proof

Some research suggests cranberry may help prevent UTIs, especially in women who get them frequently.

According to one review of research published in 2012, cranberry juice may reduce the number of UTIs a woman experiences over a 12-month period -- especially if she suffers from recurrent infections.

But the results showed that this might not be true for all women, and cranberry juice may be less effective than once thought. Small studies demonstrate promise for using cranberry juice to prevent UTIs, but many larger studies don’t.

Similarly, a 2012 meta-analysis of 10 well-designed studies showed cranberry-containing products protected against UTIs, especially in children, women who get UTIs often, and those who drink cranberry juice regularly or use cranberry products several times a day.

However, there’s a big difference between prevention and treatment. While the berry may offer some preventive protection, most of the medical and research community agrees that cranberry juice is inferior to antibiotics when it comes to treating a UTI once you have it.

Know what you’re getting

There’s no harm in drinking cranberry juice regularly to ward off UTIs; there’s just no guarantee it’ll work. However, do make sure you’re drinking 100% cranberry juice and not a cocktail, which is mostly grape juice, apple juice, and sugar.

Cranberry juice does pad your diet with extra calories. Even unsweetened, 100% cranberry juice contains 116 calories per cup. That might not seem like a lot, but if you add it without trimming an equal number of calories elsewhere, it could lead you to gain about a pound every month.

If you opt for cranberry supplements, know that the US Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate them. That means you can’t be sure how much active ingredient each dose contains.

Other methods to prevent UTIs

Lifestyle habits may be just as helpful in preventing UTIs. Stay well hydrated and always urinate after sexual intercourse. Make a habit of wiping from front to back, so you minimize contact between bacteria from your rectum and your vagina.

Avoid the use of douches and scented powders. Certain birth control methods are likely to cause UTIs, too. These include spermicides and spermicide-lubricated condoms as well as diaphragms, which contribute to bacterial growth.

If you have frequent urinary tract infections, the team at Southeast Urogyn also recommends you take other precautions to discourage bacterial growth. Stick mostly to cotton underwear and avoid baths. Tight clothing that keeps bacteria trapped near your urethra can also encourage UTIs.  

In some cases, the doctors might prescribe a low dose of antibiotics for you to take regularly or to take as a single dose after having sex. Women who’ve experienced menopause can ask about estrogen vaginal cream to prevent dryness, which increases the chance of bacterial infection.

The bottom line? Cranberry juice can be part of your UTI prevention protocol, but not your only strategy. If you suffer from frequent UTIs and want to discuss preventive treatments with a trusted doctor, call Southeast Urogyn in Jackson, Mississippi, or click to make an appointment.

References:

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/10/can-cranberry-juice-stop-uti/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23076891

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447

https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/avoid-uti#1

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/7678/2

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23867306

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22777630

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3749018/

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