Is Cranberry Juice for UTI Effective?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) affect both men and women worldwide, especially women. UTI is a bacterial infection characterized by a frequent and urgent need to urinate, painful urination, a burning sensation while urinating, etc. Being a bacterial infection, UTIs are treated with the help of antibiotics. However, many at-home remedies are known to help ease the signs of an UTI. Cranberry juice was recommended by doctors, friends, and family for many years. Is cranberry juice for UTI really effective?

Can You Use Cranberry Juice for Urinary Tract Infection?

Studies have suggested that unsweetened cranberry juice or cranberry supplements can ease the symptoms of a urinary infection, as well as prevent it from occurring in the first place in women who have a predisposition for such infections. This is especially true in cases of recurrent urinary infection.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, it is not yet clear how cranberry juice works, how much of cranberry juice you need to take a day, as well as, for how long you will need to drink this juice in order to treat or prevent urinary infections in the future.

How Might It Work?

For many years, it was believed that cranberry juice helps make the urine more acidic, making it a less friendly environment for bacteria such as Escherichia coli to multiply. We do all know that the most common cause of urinary infections worldwide is Escherichia coli.

However, recent studies have revealed a different theory about how cranberry juice works. New theories suggest that cranberry juice for UTI makes it harder for the bacteria to stick to the walls of the urinary tract. Drinking cranberry juice can change the bacteria and make them less sticky to the urinary tract walls, or cranberry juice makes the urinary tract walls more slippery, making it very difficult for bacteria to stick on these walls. The real mechanism of how cranberry juice works is not yet known.

People worldwide drink cranberry juice in order to relieve a urinary infection. However, it is good to know that the cranberry juice will not cure the infection. For this purpose, antibiotic medications are prescribed, but cranberry juice will keep you more hydrated, and help wash out the bacteria from the body more effectively.

Tips for Safe Use

There is no harm from drinking cranberry juice but certain things should be considered:

  • Cranberries are acidic and some people find them hard to consume or drink the juice.
  • If you are on blood-thinning medications such as warfarin, you should avoid cranberry juice as it interferes with its function, leading to bleeding.
  • Cranberry juice for UTI is high in oxalates, which can lead to kidney stones in people who have a higher risk for kidney stones.
  • Before taking cranberry supplements, consult your healthcare provider.

How Is UTI Treated?

Medical Treatment

Being a bacterial infection, antibiotics are recommended medications for the treatment of UTIs. Depending on your health condition and the severity of the signs, your healthcare provider will determine which type of antibiotic you will need, for how long and in what doses.

In general, the symptoms of UTIs clear up within a couple of days after medical treatment has started. However, you should continue taking the antibiotics just as your doctor prescribed them to you to prevent antibiotic resistance, as well as the recurrence of this urinary infection.

Analgesic medications are also often prescribed for the treatment of UTIs as they help relieve the pain and burning sensation while urinating.

In cases of recurrent UTIs, your doctor might recommend:

  • Antibiotics for about 6 months or longer in small doses
  • After sexual intercourse, only one dose of antibiotics if your UTI is related to sexual activity
  • Vaginal estrogen therapy when dealing with UTIs in postmenopause

In cases of severe urinary tract infections, intravenous antibiotics and even hospitalization might be required.

Home Remedies

Urinary infections can be quite painful and disturbing, especially if they are occurring too often. Besides cranberry juice for UTI, here are some tips on how you can ease the symptoms of UTI:

  • Keep yourself hydrated and drink plenty of water in order to dilute the urine and flush out the bacteria.
  • Avoid beverages that can irritate your bladder, such as coffee, soft drinks, alcohol, etc.
  • Apply a heating pad to your abdomen in order to minimize the discomfort and bladder pressure.
  • Empty your bladder whenever you have the need to do so. Regardless of how much urine you manage to eliminate, you will get rid and flush out some bacteria which have caused the infection in the first place.

How to Prevent UTI

In order to prevent and reduce the possibility of having recurrent urinary infections, you can follow these tips:

  • Drink plenty of water a day in order to dilute the urine and flush out as much bacteria as possible.
  • Empty your bladder immediately after a sexual intercourse.
  • Change your birth control method if needed. Condoms, spermicide gels and even diaphragms can help bacteria grow in the urinary tract, leading to urinary infections.
  • Wipe from front to back when using the toilet and not from back to front, in order to prevent any bacteria from the anal region to spread into the vagina and urethra.
  • Avoid feminine products which irritate the genital area. 
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