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two glasses of cranberry juice on a table

Does Cranberry Juice Help a UTI? What You Should Know

If you've ever looked for natural remedies for a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), there's a good chance that cranberry juice has popped up in your search results. But, the burning question stands - can this tart, crimson-coloured berry really help kick a UTI to the curb? By the time you're finished with this article, you'll have a clear understanding of whether cranberry juice does indeed hold any benefits for those suffering from UTIs. 

Understanding UTIs

UTIs are infections that can impact any part of your urinary system, made up of your kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. While both men and women can experience UTIs, they are notably more prevalent in women. Without timely treatment, UTIs can lead to serious health complications, so it's essential to understand their causes and symptoms. 

Causes of UTIs 

The primary cause of most UTIs is Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacteria generally found in the gastrointestinal tract. However, other bacteria or, less frequently, viruses can also cause UTIs. These microorganisms enter through the urethra and ascend into the bladder. If they continue their upward journey, they can even reach the kidneys. A UTI occurs when your body can't efficiently purge these invaders. Women's urinary systems are shorter than men's, allowing bacteria easier access to the bladder, hence their increased risk. 

The Cranberry-UTI Connection 

Have you ever wondered why cranberries often pop up in conversations around urinary tract infections (UTIs)? Well, it's partly because of an active ingredient called A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs), found in cranberries. What makes these PACs particularly special is their unique ability to hamper the adhesion of E.coli bacteria to the walls of the urinary tract. Essentially, these PACs act as a slippery shield, making it harder for harmful bacteria to stick around and cause infection. 

Moreover, cranberries are also rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin C. These potent natural compounds can potentially bolster your immunities and further strengthen your body's defences against infections. 

But keep in mind that cranberry juice isn't a guaranteed solution. Experts believe its beneficial effects largely depend on several factors: the concentration of PACs in the juice, the type of bacteria causing your UTI, and individual factors, such as your body's responses and overall health condition.

cranberries in a bowl on a table

What Do Studies Say? 

Recent research suggests that cranberry juice and cranberry supplements may have the potential to decrease the risk of UTIs in specific groups.

Various studies lend support to the notion that cranberry products, including cranberry juice, might prevent the recurrence of UTIs in subpopulations, such as women with a history of UTIs, the elderly in nursing homes, and otherwise healthy children. 

One systematic review of seven robust studies involving 1,498 healthy women demonstrated that the addition of cranberry into their diet led to a 26% decrease in UTI recurrence. 

In one study involving 145 healthy women with a history of frequent UTIs, the participants took cranberry proanthocyanidins daily. The high-dosage group received 18.5 mg of the cranberry extract twice daily for 24 weeks. Proanthocyanidins, a type of polyphenol, are found in high quantities in cranberries. This study determined that women who suffered from fewer than 5 UTIs per year experienced a significant 43% decrease in UTI frequency when they took the higher dosage compared to a control dose.

While some studies indeed suggest cranberry products — such as juice and supplements — might help reduce UTI recurrence in some people, scientists are yet to pinpoint which components of cranberries possess these protective characteristics against UTIs. Moreover, several factors, such as genetics, immune health, metabolism, and gut bacteria diversity, can potentially influence how effective cranberry products are in preventing UTIs — they may work better for some than others. 

How Do You Know If You Have a UTI?

  • Pain or a burning sensation during urination: This is often the first sign of a UTI.
  • Increased urge to urinate: Despite an intense urge, only a small amount of urine may be passed.
  • Cloudy, dark, or strong-smelling urine: These are common indicators of infection.
  • Lower abdominal pain: This discomfort generally centres around the pelvis and lower abdomen.
  • Feeling tired or shaky: These systemic symptoms can suggest a more serious UTI that has reached the kidneys.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's crucial to seek medical attention. Although cranberry juice may be part of a preventive approach, it is unlikely to act effectively against a UTI once symptoms manifest. 

Common Risk Factors for UTIs 

There are a few risk factors that can make you more susceptible to UTIs. These include: 

  • Being sexually active
  • Having hormonal changes, like those that occur during menopause
  • Having a urinary catheter
  • Making use of irritative contraceptive methods
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having an anatomical abnormality of the urinary tract
  • Having a history of UTIs prior

Is Cranberry Juice Worth Trying?

So, is it worth giving cranberry juice a shot? Given the current research, it appears that it might potentially do some good. But, what if the tartness of cranberries just isn't your cup of tea? 

Well, one practical alternative worth trying is cranberry supplements. These capsules offer the health benefits of cranberries in a more concentrated form, and you can easily incorporate them into your daily routine. Not to mention, they're perfect for those who find the taste of cranberry too strong for their liking. 

Excellent!
"Since taking these, I barely get infections anymore while they were regular before!" - Ilse B.
Our high-strength Cranberry Extract provides you with 180 vegan capsules for a 2-month supply at 3 capsules per day. Unlike cranberry tablets, our popular daily supplement contains only pure, powdered cranberries from Vaccinium Macrocarpon L., with no anti-caking or bulking agents. Each of our capsules provides a potent 250mg of 50:1 Cranberry Extract per serving equivalent to 37,500mg of fresh cranberries.

Remember, though, cranberry juice or supplements should not replace medical treatment for UTIs. There are additional measures that you can take to potentially reduce your risk. It is still important to consult with your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Alternatives and Complementary Treatments for UTIs

While pharmaceutical medications are often the first course of action when dealing with UTIs, some people may prefer to also like to include alternatives or complementary treatments. These holistic practices can take on many forms. 

Herbal Remedies for UTIs 

Many herbal remedies have been used traditionally to combat UTIs. Some of the most commonly recommended include: 

  • D-Mannose: This is a type of sugar that's related to glucose. It's believed to work by preventing bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract.
  • Uva Ursi: Also known as bearberry, this shrub's leaves have been used for centuries to treat urinary tract infections. However, it's crucial to remember that more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.
  • Goldenseal: This herb has a long history of being used to aid the immune system and fight off infections, including UTIs.
Water and Diet 

Staying well-hydrated can help your body naturally flush the urinary system and potentially speed recovery from a UTI. Try to drink plenty of water each day. Also, avoiding irritants like caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and artificial sweeteners can help soothe UTI symptoms. 

Probiotics 

It's been suggested that probiotics, which promote good bacteria in your body, can be beneficial for urinary health. They may help keep the urinary tract healthy and free from harmful bacteria. 

All Good
"These have really helped me with my IBS great relief" - Mrs CB Eaton
Our Bio Complex 60 billion CFU capsules are resistant to stomach acid allowing them to travel to the intestine where the live bacteria can be the most effective. In addition, every capsule contains 100mg of Inulin which promotes the growth of the friendly bacteria.

While it's important to treat a UTI at the first sign of symptoms to prevent it from spreading, it's just as critical to consider preventative measures. Good hygiene practices and a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in reducing your chances of suffering from a UTI.

The Bottom Line

Combating UTIs involves not just treatment at the onset of symptoms, but also implementing preventative strategies. Good hygiene, a healthy lifestyle, and consideration of natural remedies, such as cranberry juice or other nutritional adjustments, could also be determinants in managing UTIs effectively. However, it's crucial to note that one size doesn't always fit all when it comes to health matters. Thus, it's always wise to consult a healthcare professional to guide you in making the best decisions tailored to your individual needs. Stay informed and proactive for optimal urinary health.


Written by Riya Lakhani-Kanji MSc ANutr

Riya Lakhani-Kanji MSc ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer with a special interest in plant-based nutrition. She has completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, and has developed a passion for writing about all things plant-based.

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