Can Cranberry’s Protect Against UTI’s
Infections in the urinary tract, or UTIs, are a fairly common health problem that results in roughly eight million trips to the doctor's office each year. UTIs are more common among women than men with approximately one in five women experiencing a UTI within their lifetime.
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:
- An ongoing urge to urinate even when there is little urine to expel
- A burning sensation while urinating
- Pain below the ribs, in the side or back
- Dark, cloudy or smelly urine
- Blood in the urine
- Chills or fever
Cranberry products have long been touted as a possible natural remedy for urinary tract infections. While they have not been proven to treat existing infections, there is evidence that increasing the intake of cranberries may help prevent UTIs. It has been shown that certain compounds found in cranberries can prevent bacteria from sticking to urinary tract walls. In fact, these compounds have proven to be effective as quickly as eight hours after consumption.
Researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts collected urine samples from healthy individuals before and after drinking Cranberry Juice Cocktail a popular cranberry beverage. The researchers then grew strains of E. coli bacteria in the samples and found that compounds in the juice prevented the E. coli from sticking to other bacteria which blocked its ability to flourish.
In 2008, ten clinical trials were reviewed by a team of researchers that tested the use of cranberry products for the prevention of UTIs on 1,049 patients. The products, which included cranberry juice and cranberry supplements, were shown to be more effective than placebo when it came to reducing the occurrence of UTIs over the course of a year. Cranberry products were especially effective in women with recurring UTIs. This report was published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
While cranberries appear to have some benefit for the prevention of UTIs, there is a downside to consuming some of these products. Some individuals experience gastrointestinal upset or diarrhea. Cranberry can also interact with certain medications like aspirin, blood-thinners and medications that affect the liver. Also, cranberry juice is high in calories if consumed in large amounts which can contribute to weight gain.
Research with cranberry products carries important implications for individuals that can tolerate them considering the prevalence of UTIs and the associated expense. Individuals should always consult with a health care professional if a UTI is suspected, but cranberry juice or supplements can be an inexpensive and healthy addition to the medicine cabinet or refrigerator. Look for cranberry juices made from 100% juice - these are lower in sugar for extra good health!
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Cranberry [NCCAM Herbs at a Glance". NCCAM Publication No. D291. Created September 2005. Updated July 2010.
National Institutes of Health. "Urinary tract infection adults: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia". December 2010.