Does cranberry juice work to prevent UTIs?
If you think you have a UTI, you might start searching online for home remedies or tips to treat your infection. The most popular suggestion to pop up is cranberry juice, a fruit widely enjoyed and filled with antioxidants. Although many suggest that drinking cranberry juice is great for helping with UTIs, there's a lot of mythology wrapped up in cranberries.
Cranberries can NOT treat UTIs you already have.
This is an important and possibly surprising fact to establish in a conversation about treating UTIs.
Cranberries will not treat the UTIs you already have. The active ingredient A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs) in cranberries that are said to prevent infections from forming do not help in infections that have already formed. If you have a UTI already, drinking cranberry juice is not your go-to solution.
So why is it the most popular home remedy, widely suggested as an inexpensive and easy way to treat your UTI? It was believed that cranberries could lower the pH of your urine, making it acidic and less friendly to bacteria. Some research has shown that eating cranberries have helped with symptoms of UTIs, but the results and extent to how effective it is varies, especially in women who are at risk for infections. Studies show no significance in consuming cranberries for UTIs, so it isn’t supported as an effective treatment.
Be aware that if you already have a UTI, consuming cranberries will not treat it. Seek a healthcare professional who can prescribe you antibiotics to properly treat your infection.
Can cranberry juice help prevent a UTI?
Even if cranberry juice can’t treat your UTI, can it prevent one? Lab studies have found that mixtures of cranberry juice contain metabolites that prevent E.coli from sticking to your bladder walls. Cranberries also contain antioxidant proanthocyanidins (PACS) that help stop certain bacteria from sticking to the walls of your urinary tract. Because of this effect, researchers think that this active ingredient could help prevent UTIs from forming. These trials were conducted with cranberry juice, which is the most common way people consume cranberries.
So is cranberry juice an effective way to prevent a UTI? Well, it's unclear. But probably not. The theories sound believable, but cranberry has not held up in controlled research. The human studies have reported no statistically significant difference in consuming cranberry juice to prevent a UTI.
In 2016, the American Medical Association released findings definitively proving cranberry ineffective for prevention. CNN Health summarized these results, coining the findings as "The Cranberry Myth." Other sources suggest that you need to drink a much larger volume of cranberry juice in order to produce the health benefits that would help prevent infections.
Should you drink cranberry juice for UTIs?
Although drinking a very high concentration of cranberry *might* work to feel effective results from the berries, most of the research indicates that you can't consume enough of the active ingredient be effective in preventing a UTI. Cranberry juice doesn’t naturally contain this concentration, so you would be drinking a lot of juice for the same benefit.
Cranberry juice is high in acidity and sugar, which can be difficult for some people to consume especially in large quantities. Drinking too much cranberry juice can bother your stomach (too much sugar and acid). They’re also high in oxalate salts which can make it easier to get a kidney stone. Cranberries can even cause excessive bleeding if you’re taking blood-thinner medication. If you want to know other risks and factors to consider, it’s best to talk to a doctor first about using cranberry juice as an option for UTI prevention.
Cranberry extract supplements are a great substitute for cranberry juice.
While full of antioxidants and nutrients that can help prevent a UTI, drinking too much cranberry juice can be difficult due to the sugar and acid in cranberries.
An alternative that people take is cranberry extract supplements, which contain all of the same vitamins and benefits as cranberry juice in higher concentration. These typically come in tablets, which vary in dosage. The recommended daily dosage for taking cranberry extract tablets is about 300 to 400 mg twice a day, which is the amount used in one clinical trial that found the decreased frequency in recurrent infections over a course of three months on cranberry tablets.
Cranberries are a natural and safe way to enhance your diet, however research about cranberries for UTIs varies wildly, and consuming too many cranberries can have negative consequences.