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Cranberry Juice: Does It Really Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)?

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This is a very common question I get from my female patients, both young and old. Many seem convinced that cranberry juice or pills can stop a urinary tract infection (UTI) in its tracks when they feel it coming on, or take cranberry to prevent them. Well…they may not be wrong.

After many years of grandma’s advice, in 1994 a study was done on elderly women who consumed 300 ml of cranberry juice for three months and showed less bacterial counts in the urine. This is where the whole cranberry-UTI link picked up some steam. But there is more...

I used to tell patients that cranberry juice or pills can improve the acidity of the urine, and acid is a natural defense against bacteria. Common sense would dictate that more acid is better, and cranberries are a good source. Correct? Cranberry juice however may contain a lot of sugar, and it may require drinking A LOT of it to get the effect. This isn't necessarily good for diabetics or those watching their weight. Cranberry pills may be helpful, but how many should you take to get the desired effect?

Not too long ago, a well designed study showed a trend, but no significant improvement in preventing UTIs with cranberry, and cranberry products, however, have not been shown to significantly reduce acidity. So now what?

Cranberry is seen as a natural element people can take, in order to prevent overconsuming antibiotics. Antibiotics help, but they must be tailored to the infection, and be given at the right dose, for enough period of time to prevent recurrence, persistence or development of resistance by the bacteria. However, there are women who are most susceptible to bacterial adherence, and certain bacteria are more likely to stick to the body surfaces than others.
So, what’s so special about cranberries?

In raw cranberries there are at least six chemical compounds that can interfere with bacterial adherence to the body. These compounds modify the surface properties of the bacteria to make them less sticky to the lining of the bladder. When someone consumes cranberries, the bacteria itself are actually altered by the cranberry products that dwell in the urine, changing how the bacteria express certain proteins on their surfaces leading it to cling less effectively to the bladder. This is how cranberries reduce infection. If the bacteria are less sticky, then the bladder is more capable of washing out the bugs with good urine flow. Drinking more fluids helps to create a better flow.

Interestingly, once the bacteria are removed from exposure to cranberries, they regain their “old ways” and their adhesive properties return. A recent study showed that just 6 hours of exposure to cranberry products resulted in an 84% decrease in bacterial attachment to bladder cells. Continuous exposure resulted in the continued inability of the bacteria to attach!

Now everybody go out and get some juice!!

Dr. Matthew Karlovsky is a urologist that specializes in female pelvic health in Phoenix, Ariz. For more information, visit www.urodoc.net or www.femaleurologyaz.blogspot.com/

Add a Comment18 Comments

Cranberry juice can reduce the risk of UTI and it can relieve uti symptoms. But it can't avoid the infection diretctly. Those who are sufferring from UTI can take herbal medicine called diuretic and anti-inflammatory pill. It can cure uti from its causes.

October 13, 2016 - 12:24am
EmpowHER Guest

Cranberry juice, especially the type at the grocery store, will not treat a UTI or bladder infection. The active ingredient in cranberry is long-gone by the time it reaches your bladder. You need to use Cranberry in capsule form to get rid of a UTI quick. AZO is good, but I use Lady Soma's Cranberry Concentrate every time I feel a UTI about to come on - and it never comes on any more.

March 29, 2016 - 2:21pm
EmpowHER Guest

Ive tried many products recommended by my naturopath. But my bladder infections were becoming unbearable. Antibiotics are what got me into this mess in the first place!

I took the Lady Soma Cranberry Pills full dose each day for about a week, I felt less inflammation in my gut and food felt easier to digest. It’s been a couple weeks now, and I’m feeling overall less fatigued and having fewer headaches. Meanwhile, I haven’t changed anything else in my daily routine.

April 2, 2015 - 7:50pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)


March 10, 2016 - 6:15pm
EmpowHER Guest

The latest research, according to several articles I have read including from the Mayo clinic, indicates that cranberry juice or pomegranate juice is an effective PREVENTIVE treatment for UTI; however, once a UTI has taken hold and a person actually has the pain sensation with urination, there is no recourse except treatment with antibiotics. Also, the latest opinion is that not that much cranberry juice is needed to prevent a UTI; these studies indicated that as little as 6 oz a day was all that was needed to stave off UTI. So, it certainly won't hurt to drink 6 to 8 oz. of cranberry or pomegranate juice a day (unless you're allergic to it!), and research indicates it provides effective preventive treatment; although, since people vary, some may find they have to drink a bit more.

May 17, 2012 - 4:13pm
EmpowHER Guest

I find it strange in this case to tell a patient 10-16 ounces for dosing, because most patients might be buying the bigger containers of cranberry juice instead of the smaller juice bottles when using it for prevention. Perhaps, it would be helpful to tell the patient that 10-16 ounces is about 1 1/4 cup - 2 cups, this way they have more of an idea how much they should drink. We the patient of UTI shoull use ADULT DIAPERS to safe.Nevertheless, good job on the post! I'm loving the self care info and when to refer! :)

March 5, 2012 - 11:37am
EmpowHER Guest

The fact that vitamin C was used in the placebo group and that cranberry juice contains vitamin C is very important in this trial and could certainly explain why there was such a low incidence of UTI recurrence. Natural Standard, a complementary and alternative medicine information database, examines evidence for both cranberry juice and vitamin C for it’s use in UTI’s. Cranberry juice is a popular urinary tract infection home remedy for treating and preventing bladder infections.
Sure cranberry juice can help you avoid urinary tract infections and it might be a good idea to replace your morning OJ with cranberry juice. But it isn’t a cure all. The symptoms of UTIs – urinary frequency, urgency and pain – can also be caused by other problems such as kidney stones and even bladder cancer.

January 21, 2012 - 3:19am

I take the supplement ellura, which is the only urinary health supplement in the world that delivers the clinically proven effective daily dosage to maintain a healthy urinary tract of 36 mgs of PACs (the bioactive material in cranberries that helps flush bacteria) in one capsule. I'm not a big juice drinker, so it's good to know that there are alternatives to drinking cranberry juice.
[website link removed by EmpowHER moderator]

April 28, 2011 - 6:25am
EmpowHER Guest

I work in a nursing home and everyone is on a cranberry pill two times a day. WE still have residents with UTI's like crazy I am very septical 20 residents take it 2 times daily. We average 4 UTI's a week.

July 3, 2010 - 6:17pm
EmpowHER Guest

A handful of 'Craisins' dried, sweetened cranberries every day or every few days has worked for me.
If I stop eating them for a few weeks, I usually get a UTI and am on antibiotics - as I used to be before my grandmother (...yes it really was her...) put me onto Craisins.
I can't tell you how happy I am to have found this prevention and yes, I agree with anonymous above, once I've got the UTI, cranberries do nothing, only antibiotics will do :(

February 14, 2010 - 11:57pm
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