Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are uncomfortable and, sometimes, unavoidable. They are the result of bacteria entering the body’s urinary system, which is most common in women. The urinary system is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra, with most infections occurring in the lower part of the urinary tract—the bladder and urethra. Infections occur when bacteria gets into the urinary system and cultivates. Medicine Net states that “90% of uncomplicated infections [occur from] a type of bacteria called Escherichia coli, better known as E. coli. These bacteria normally live in the bowel (colon) and around the anus. The bacteria is most likely to be spread during sexual intercourse or by poor hygiene. When the bacteria move into the opening of the urethra, a UTI may occur.” Medical Net explains, “Usually… urinating flushes the bacteria out of the urethra [but] if there are too many bacteria, urinating may not stop their spread,” and, therefore, will result in a UTI. While there are prescriptions that will heal a UTI, an old wives’ tale claims that a certain juice prevents UTIs from even starting.
Cranberry juice, unsweetened (not sugar-free) and not from concentrate, has many health benefits, such as preventing cancer, yeast infections, and reducing dental plaque. While the juice is bitter to drink, it may have another benefit for those who can swallow it down—it may help prevent these pesky UTIs . Today I Found Out explains that “cranberries contain molecules… [which] were thought to be responsible for not allowing E. coli with Fimbriae [a main mechanism of E. coli for attaching one bacteria to another bacteria] on them to adhere to your cell walls by changing the amount of energy E.coli had to expend to attach,” which does help to flush out bacteria from the body, but it does not stop the E. coli from growing. Cranberry juice may help lighten some discomfort from a UTI, but if you already have an infection you will need antibiotics.
While cranberry juice will not clear up an infection, it may help prevent future UTIs from occurring. A study which was first done in 1998, found in the medical website Pub Med, concluded that it “appeared there was some evidence that cranberry juice may decrease the number of symptomatic UTIs over a 12 month period, particularly for women with recurrent UTIs;” however, when the study was updated in 2008 and fourteen further studies were done, it was determined that “there were no statistically significant differences to antibiotics for preventing UTIs … Given the large number of dropouts/withdrawals from studies (mainly attributed to the acceptability of consuming cranberry products particularly juice, over long periods), and the evidence that the benefit for preventing UTI is small, cranberry juice cannot currently be recommended for the prevention of UTIs,” according to Pub Med.
Verdict: Fiction. While some people swear by it, there is no scientific evidence that cranberry juice alone will stop urinary tract infections. Some simple lifestyle changes, however, may decrease your chance of getting a UTI—wiping from front to back after using the bathroom, urinating before and after sexual activity, and taking showers instead of baths. While cranberry juice may not prevent your UTIs, it is important to drink a lot of fluids when you have a UTI. While studies do not back up cranberry juice, personal accounts have found that taking cranberry pills are effective for preventing UTIs. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you get UTIs frequently to find a remedy that is best for you. If you are interested in trying cranberry juice but are wary to the biting taste, try diluting it with water!
Despite the fact that cranberries might not be all that helpful with UTIs, it doesn’t mean they have no health benefits at all. Find out what they are here.
Have you ever used cranberry juice to clear up a UTI?
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