Is Cranberry Juice Good for UTI?
You might have heard that people who contract UTIs (urinary tract infections) should drink cranberry extract or juice and that they’re effective in treating these infections. So are these small berries as medically beneficial as they are tasty?
The research on this topic isn’t thorough. Some studies claim that drinking cranberry extract or juice can prevent UTIs, especially among women, because they tend to get UTIs more.
A 2010 study found that when people drink cranberry juice within eight hours, it can help prevent bacteria such as E. coli from developing into urinary tract infections.
So, is cranberry juice effective in treating UTIs? Does it reduce your risk of contracting a urinary tract infection? This review will highlight research supporting and opposing the effectiveness of cranberry juice in preventing and treating UTIs.
This review will also look at other natural remedies for treating UTIs. But first, let’s discuss what a UTI is and its causes.
What is A UTI?
A UTI (urinary tract infection) is a bacterial infection that usually affects the following:
Bladder: The bladder is the organ that stores urine before it exits the body.
Kidneys: Kidneys are identical organs on either side of the body. Their purpose is to cleanse your blood of waste released from the body as urine.
Ureters: Ureters are slender tubes that transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
Urethra: This tube transports urine from the bladder and releases it outside the body.
UTIs are classified as simple or complex. Simple UTIs only affect the bladder. On the other hand, complex UTIs affect all the other organs listed above.
According to a 2022 NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), there are specific groups at higher risk of contracting complex UTIs, and they include:
1. Expectant women
3. Persons dependent on catheters
4. Persons undergoing radiotherapy treatment
5. Senior adults
However, according to The NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases), simple UTIs are the most common and affect women more. The study details that at least 40% of women develop a UTI once in their life. Why?
Because women have a shorter urethra than men making it easier for bacteria like E. coli to access the bladder.
What Causes UTIs?
As indicated above, urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria like E. coli (Escherichia coli) enter the bladder. The urinary tract (bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra) is designed to prevent the entry of foreign substances like bacteria.
However, sometimes the defense mechanisms fail. When the defense mechanisms fail, the bacteria will attach itself to one of the organs in the urinary tract causing an infection.
The risk factors for UTIs include:
A Compromised Immune System
When a person’s immune system is compromised by illnesses that take a toll on the body, such as diabetes, they are likely to contract UTIs because their defenses against germs are poor.
Some birth control solutions increase the risk of contracting urinary tract infections. Diaphragms, for instance, have been linked to high UTI risk.
People who can’t relieve themselves need help. As such, they use devices known as catheters. Using a catheter increases the risk of contracting a urinary tract infection. Why? Because bacteria can travel via the catheter tubes and access the bladder, causing a UTI.
When women reach menopause, the estrogen in their body dips, causing changes in their urinary tract, thus increasing the risk of urinary tract infections.
Being sexually active means an increased risk of contracting urinary tract infections. The risk further increases when a person has multiple sexual partners.
Research Supporting the Effect of Cranberry Juice in Preventing and Treating UTIs
Several studies support the effect of cranberry juice in preventing and treating UTIs. A 2008 NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) study found that cranberry juice and supplements can help reduce the risk of contracting a UTI.
This study comprised of women only about 1,500 of them and found that cranberry juice can reduce UTI risk by up to 25%.
Another study still by the NCBI concluded that cranberry extract and juice seemed to prevent UTIs among women but weren’t as helpful among those who are at a high risk of contracting a UTI, such as women who’re expectant or reached menopause.
Some studies also indicate that tablets made from cranberry juice can help lower the risk of UTIs among women who’ve undergone gynecological operations.
It’s worth noting that cranberry extract, which is totally different from cranberry juice, has more research supporting its effectiveness in preventing and treating UTIs.
Cranberry extract is very concentrated and only comprises the juice extract from cranberries. Cranberry juice, on the other hand, is diluted and mass-produced.
One NIH study comprising about 150 women with a history of contracting UTIs examined the effect of taking cranberry proanthocyanidin extract. The study found that those who took this cranberry extract experienced a 45% decrease in UTIs.
Research Opposing the Effect of Cranberry Juice in Treating UTIs
While cranberry by-products such as cranberry extract, juice, and tablets help prevent UTI recurrence among some groups, there is evidence opposing these claims.
For instance, a 2020 NCBI study found that, generally, there wasn’t adequate evidence to conclude that cranberry juice is effective in treating urinary tract infections.
Another study that comprised about 50 women found that taking cranberry juice alone without using antibiotics isn’t very effective in treating UTI-related symptoms.
It’s worth noting that most of the data available, either from the NCBI or other sources, focuses on the effect of cranberry juice in preventing UTIs. But there isn’t enough evidence backing the claim that cranberry juice is effective in dealing with UTI-related symptoms.
Therefore, more research is needed to conclude whether cranberry juice can help treat active urinary tract infections. Keep in mind that UTIs are caused by a host of factors, and some groups are at a higher risk of contracting UTIs than others.
Why Does Cranberry Juice Supposedly Help Prevent UTIs?
Cranberries and their by-products contain antioxidants such as anthocyanins, a-type proanthocyanidins, myricetin, quercetin, peonidin, and ursolic acid, which supposedly help prevent and treat UTI-related symptoms.
According to a 2014 NCBI study, antioxidants in cranberry juice and predominantly a-type proanthocyanidins can help prevent uropathogenic E. coli (Escherichia coli) and P. mirabilis (Proteus mirabilis) from getting into the urinary tract.
The AUA (American Urological Association) even claims that physicians can offer cranberry juice to patients to prevent UTI-related symptoms from recurring. However, cranberry juice and other cranberry products shouldn’t be used in place of antibiotics.
How Much Cranberry Extract or Juice Should People Take to Prevent UTIs?
A 2016 AJCN (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) found that taking about 250ml of cranberry juice daily helped lower the recurrence of UTI-related symptoms in women.
Another study, this time by the NIH, that studied the effects of drinking cranberry juice daily among women with a history of UTI recurrence found that those who drank 250ml of cranberry juice for six months had lower UTI-related symptoms than those who didn’t.
Another NCBI study found that cranberry capsules containing at least 250mg of cranberry extract were effective in reducing the recurrence of UTI-related symptoms.
It’s worth noting that some of these studies are sponsored by cranberry juice companies meaning there could be a conflict of interest in the findings. Therefore, you should take these so-called ‘professional findings’ with a grain of salt.
But overall, many cranberry products are available on the market; it’s up to you to check the concentration of cranberry extract in them and the dosing recommendations.
If you notice UTI symptoms and are interested in using cranberry juice as a solution to keeping them in check, it’s vital that you speak to your physician first. Why? Because although cranberry juice can help keep UTI symptoms in check, your symptoms might need antibiotics.
Is There a Specific Type of Cranberry Juice Suited for Treating UTIs?
No, there is no single brand or type of cranberry juice suited for preventing or treating UTI-related symptoms. But you should check the ingredient list in each cranberry product. Concentrated cranberry juice (directly from the fruit) is very bitter and hence undrinkable.
As a result, the cranberry juice sold in grocery stores and supermarkets is diluted with other juices or water. Therefore, you should check the amount of cranberry extract in your cranberry juice (typically should be no less than 20%).
Also, keep in mind that mass-produced cranberry juice is infused with a certain amount of sugar. The FDA (food and drug administration) recommends that people should not consume more than 50g of added sugar per day.
Therefore, you won’t be alleviating or treating UTI-related symptoms if you drink very diluted cranberry juice, even if the manufacturer claims it can be used to treat UTIs.
You can also consult drug vendors for cranberry capsules, albeit the FDA doesn’t regulate them, so you might have to take the pharmacist’s word on their effectiveness.
Which Are the Other Natural Remedies for UTIs?
One of the best natural remedies for preventing and treating UTI-related symptoms is staying hydrated. Water helps your urinary tract eliminate waste from the body, mainly via urine, while retaining all the vital micronutrients.
Staying hydrated also dilutes your urine and accelerates the time it takes for urine to exit your body, making it harder for E. coli and other bacteria to affect your urinary tract.
There is no set figure regarding the amount of water you should drink daily. Still, the United States National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that men consume at least 3.5 liters while women consume at least 2.5 liters.
Stabilize Vaginal pH
Menopause can alter the vaginal pH of women, making it easy for bacteria like E. coli which causes urinary tract infections, to develop. So, women who’ve reached the post-menopausal phase and have recurring UTIs might need vaginal estrogen to stabilize vaginal ph.
Stop Consuming Certain Foods and Drinks
Some foods and drinks can increase your risk of contracting UTIs, such as alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks such as energy drinks, sodas, etc.
Therefore, you should stop consuming these drinks if you have a UTI recurrence. While you’re at it, also make it a habit to stay healthy by engaging in physical activity like jogging, going to the gym to work out, meditating, yoga, etc.
Urinate When You Need To
Urinating when you feel the urge to can help eliminate bacteria from your urinary tract. It also cuts the amount of time that cells in your bladder are exposed to bacteria in the urine. As a result, the bacteria won’t have enough time to infect these cells.
When Should You See a Doctor for A UTI?
If you experience the following UTI-related symptoms, you should see a doctor:
1. Burning sensation while urinating
2. Bloody and/or Cloudy urine
3. Constant urge to urinate
4. Foul-smelling urine
5. Pain in the pelvic region
It’s vital that you check with your doctor anytime you notice UTI-related symptoms to help you figure out the problem. You may have an infection in your urinary tract, or it could be something else like an STD (sexually transmitted disease) or a yeast infection.
For most people, it’s difficult to discuss issues regarding reproductive health, but doctors are there to help. So, doctor consultations are crucial to spot issues in their early stages.
In conclusion, studies show that cranberry extract and juice can effectively treat UTIs, albeit there is not enough evidence to support that.
Therefore, if you have a UTI, you can’t depend on cranberry juice alone; take antibiotics and adhere to the natural remedies listed above.