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Can cranberry cure UTI? We settle this once and for all.

by Tina Sendin January 31, 2020

Can cranberry cure UTI? We settle this once and for all.

Cranberries are part of the whole berry family, including blueberries, bilberries, and lingonberries. Sorry no Halle though. (Okay I’ll show myself out.)

Cranberries have this very sharp and sour taste, so they’re rarely eaten by itself. You’ll either find it in the form of juice (normally mixed with other fruits and sweeteners) or in supplements.

They’re extremely healthy, as they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals, like the ones below: [1]

  • Vitamin C: a big chunk of antioxidants found in our favorite berry.
  • Manganese: very important for growth, metabolism and fighting harmful radicals in our body
  • Vitamin E: A class of essential fat-soluble antioxidants
  • Vitamin K1: essential for blood clotting.
  • Copper: A trace element, often low in the Western diet. Inadequate copper intake may have adverse effects on heart health [2]

Cranberries bring a lot of benefits to our bodies (more of this later), and one of the most popular health gains is in treating Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).

But does it actually treat this pesky infection?

Some articles say they don’t really do anything with UTI. It’s all a myth! At least that’s what a few studies show. [345]

Several human trials and reports say otherwise though. Drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements actually help in lowering the risk of UTI. [6789]

In this article, we’re going to settle this one and for all.

 

Why do we get UTI?

It's one of the painful things most women go through. In fact, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that 40-60% of women will suffer from it at least once in their lifetime. [10]

Urinary Tract Infection, commonly known as UTI, is “an infection that affects any part of the urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra.” [11, 12]

The following are common causes and risk factors for getting it: [13]

  • Sex, because the act may move around the bacteria from the bum area to the urinary tract.
  • Protection such as spermicides, diaphragms, and condoms
  • Genetics and natural structure of the urinary tract, i.e. some have shorter urinary tracts than others
  • Diabetes, due to a weak immune system and lower capability to get rid of infections [14]
  • Pregnancy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Kidney stones
  • Stroke 

So how can cranberries cure or treat UTI?

There were theories in the past that cranberries - being the sour fruit that they are - prevent UTI. By merit of their acidity, cranberries are thought to make urine more acidic which kill off Escherichia coli (E. coli). [15]

The latest theory though says that the active ingredients in cranberries make it harder for E. coli and other bacteria to latch onto the urinary tract walls. This means that cranberries clear the urinary system, kidneys, bladder or urethra of infection-related bacteria.

Either that or cranberries make the coating of urinary tract walls slippery, such that E. coli can’t stick to them. [16]

According to the research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs) found in cranberries interfere with the bacteria's ability to stick to the bladder wall, reducing the likelihood of infection. [17181920]

However, the body needs a certain amount of nutrients from cranberries to steer it clear from UTI.

Cranberry capsules prevent UTI

A study conducted between 2011-2013 showed that cranberry capsules decrease the chances of getting UTI by 50%. [21]

A group of 160 patients aged 23-88 years old who went through elective gynecological surgery from 2011-2013 were given cranberry juice capsules. Note that 10-64% of women who go through this surgery eventually suffer from UTI following the removal of the catheter.

Half of the patients were given actual cranberry juice capsules while the other half received placebo.

According to the study, "in the cranberry treatment group, 19% of patients developed a UTI, compared with 38% of the placebo group." [21]

This validates the fact that cranberry helps prevent infection-causing bacteria from sticking onto the lining of the urinary tract walls.

Why cranberry juice does NOT work but capsules DO

The study also says that cranberry juice doesn’t really do the job. [21]

Here’s the reason why: researchers emphasize that for cranberry to work, our body needs a whole lot of it... and pure ones at that!

A single capsule can provide an equivalent of 8 ounces of cranberry juice. However, drinking that same amount of sourness sounds like an ordeal.

Another reason is that most cranberry juice found in the grocery store won’t really treat nor prevent UTI. The reason for this is because typical grocery store cranberry juice isn't made from pure cranberries. Additionally, it doesn't contain enough actual cranberry juice in it in order to help fight off any infection causing bacteria.

Other health benefits of cranberries 

Aside from preventing UTI, cranberries also bring these other benefits into our bodies: [22]

  • prevents stomach cancer and ulcers
  • strengthens cardiovascular health and lowers cholesterol
  • high fiber count helps you lose weight
  • gives you a healthier digestive system
  • prevents colds and flu
  • helps control your blood sugar
  • contains antioxidants to fight harmful radicals

Because of all of these benefits, it's a great idea to consume cranberry. Look for some pure cranberry juice concentrate in your local health food store. Or if you don't want to drink so much juice you can easily take it in a capsule.

 

Sources

[1] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/cranberries#section2

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10721936

[3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21148516

[4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15863410

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23076891

[6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11431298

[7https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19042940

[8https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8093138

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12121581

[10] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults/definition-facts

[11https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024568/

[12] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/uti-home-remedies#section1

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3108201/

[14] https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/type-2-diabetes-women

[15] https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-are-antibiotics-for-uti

[16] https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-are-antibiotics-for-uti

[17https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16055161

[18https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17509358

[19https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25172705

[20] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16397814

[21] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/306498.php

[22] https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/a22104544/health-benefits-of-cranberries/




Tina Sendin
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