Cranberry Juice and Urinary Tract Infections

David W. Sobel, MD
Cranberry juice

For many years, cranberry juice or cranberry supplements have been promoted to prevent or treat urinary tract infections.  Some consider this a “home remedy” while others may cite research studies that show cranberry as an effective treatment.  Let’s explore cranberry juice, the facts and fiction.   

What is a urinary tract infection?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria in the kidney, ureter, bladder or urethra cause an infection.  This may cause symptoms such as pain, burning or difficulty urinating, frequent urination, an urgent need to go to the bathroom, blood in the urine, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, lower back pain, or fever.  A UTI is diagnosed by a urine test and typically treated using an antibiotic. The length of treatment can vary from three days to a longer course of medication, depending on the severity of the infection.

The facts about cranberries and UTIs

More than 20 national and international studies were examined, including randomized controlled research trials, considered the gold standard for evaluating effectiveness of a treatment.  These studies evaluated the role cranberries play in preventing or treating a urinary tract infection among a variety of populations, including children, adults, men, women, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions.

As of 2020, the current research shows cranberry products provide very little or no benefit in the prevention or treatment of a UTI when compared to a placebo.

How to prevent UTIs

Despite the lack of effectiveness of cranberries, there are things you can do to help prevent a urinary tract infection:

  • Drink water.  Hydrating with about two liters of water a day will help to flush the urinary tract, prevent infection and also is the most important way to prevent kidney stones.
  • Practice good hygiene.  Women should wipe front to back after urinating and a bowel movement.
  • Urinate after sex.  Urinating will help flush the lower part of the urinary tract.

Although cranberries are not effective in preventing or treating urinary tract infections, they are tasty, have antioxidant properties and are always a great compliment to holiday dinners!

If you are experiencing symptoms of a UTI, your primary care doctor can help.

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