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May 9, 2018 | Family Medicine
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) will affect over half of all women at some point during their life. Those who experience a UTI will commonly deal with pain, burning, a strong desire to urinate, and urine that smells foul and is cloudy or red-tinted.
Some people have heard that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements can be just as effective in limiting or eliminating UTIs as antibiotics and other traditional remedies. Does the research support this?
The studies that have been done on this subject are conflicting in nature. Cranberries contain an active ingredient called A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs), which can help prevent certain bacteria, such as E. coli, from attaching to the bladder wall. In theory, this can help prevent UTI symptoms.
In reality, though, most studies have shown that there simply isn’t enough of these PACs in cranberry juice or supplements to make a difference. A 2013 analysis did show that cranberry juice and supplements reduced UTI occurrence compared to women who took a placebo, but a 2012 Cochrane review revealed that there was no major reduction in symptomatic UTIs. However, this review did indicate that cranberry juice could decrease the number of UTIs in a given period for women who experience them recurrently.
It’s important to note that cranberry supplements (and of course, cranberry juice) are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there is no accountability to ensure the right amount of the active ingredient is present in a given supplement, and whether it’s enough to prevent issues.
While there’s no evidence that cranberry juice and supplements hurt, there’s also no conclusive evidence it can help with UTIs. For that reason, it’s often best to visit with a doctor to talk about medically-proven options for treating urinary tract infections.
Get The Right Stuff
If you would like to drink cranberry juice to help with UTIs in addition to seeking medical help, make sure you’re drinking 100 percent pure cranberry juice rather than a blended mix that may contain other forms of diluted juice, and often have a high volume of sugar. Also beware of your calories when drinking pure cranberry juice—a cup of unsweetened juice has 116 calories, so it’s important not to consume too much.
Other UTI Prevention Methods
Here are a few other tips for helping prevent or reduce the frequency of UTIs:
Your doctor can offer further recommendations when it comes to supplements and medication for treating and preventing UTIs.
“Can Cranberry Juice Stop Your UTI?” Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-cranberry-juice-stop-uti/
“The Truth About Cranberry Juice and UTIs.” Southeast Urogyn. https://www.seug.com/blog/the-truth-about-cranberry-juice-and-utis
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.