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Urinary Health
: Cranberries and urinary tract infections are often linked together in the news. Can cranberry juice actually help keep your urinary tract healthy?

Cranberries and urinary tract health are often in the news, with both positive and negative reports.  Headlines range from “Cranberry Juice Does Not Help” to “Cranberry Juice Does Help.”  Cranberry controversy abounds.

So, what is the real story? Does drinking cranberry juice help keep your urinary tract healthy?  We’ll answer these questions, and more, in this article.

Let’s start with some basics about urinary tract health.

What may cause urinary tract infections (UTIs)?

Bacteria from the colon and rectal area cause most urinary concerns. These bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. Bacteria use special hair-like structures called P-fimbria to stick to the wall of the urinary tract. Once the bacteria are attached, they can multiply and cause urinary tract infections.

Women are more likely to have a urinary tract infection than men. According to Dr. Martha Boone, Board Certified Urologist, about 95% of urinary concerns among people under 50 years of age occur in women. Women have higher rates because a woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s urethra. Therefore, bacteria have less distance to travel to reach a woman’s bladder.

Also, women are at higher risk for a urinary tract infection during pregnancy, as well as after menopause. Decreased estrogen levels after menopause can allow the overgrowth of bacteria at the urinary opening.

Sexual activity is a risk factor in women, too. During intercourse, bacteria from the rectal and vaginal area can enter the urethra, potentially causing a concern. Therefore, it is important for women to urinate after sex to help flush the bacteria out of the body. Also, be sure to wipe from front to back after urinating, which helps keep bacteria from getting into the urethra.

Cranberries and Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Cranberry has been a long-standing folk remedy for various bladder issues.* Researchers used to think cranberries were beneficial because of their acidity. However, drinking normal amounts of cranberry juice hasn’t been shown to make urine more acidic.

In recent years, research has revealed that cranberries naturally contain a specific group of compounds that may be beneficial. Top cranberry researcher Amy Howell, Ph.D. first isolated cranberries’ secret. She determined that compounds naturally found in cranberries bind to E. coli bacteria, preventing them from sticking to the urinary tract walls and causing an infection.* This binding makes it easier for the bad bacteria to be flushed out in the urine before a problem can start.  

Does cranberry juice help keep your urinary tract healthy?

Possibly. There is a fair amount of research that suggests that cranberry juice can help keep your urinary tract healthy.* One study in women with a recent history of urinary infections found that drinking 240 ml of a cranberry juice cocktail daily could help.* Other studies have also investigated the benefits of cranberry juice and have concluded that cranberry may offer protective effects.*  

According to the FDA, limited and inconsistent scientific evidence shows that by consuming one serving (8 oz) each day of a cranberry juice beverage, healthy women who have had a urinary tract infection (UTI) may reduce their risk of recurrent UTI.

What should you do if you have a urinary tract infection (UTI)?

Cranberry juice cannot treat an active urinary infection. Once bacteria have attached to the urinary tract and made themselves at home, cranberry juice won’t be much help If you are currently experiencing urinary tract issues, contact your healthcare provider. 

How much cranberry do you need to support urinary tract health?

Research suggests that drinking 8-10 ounces of 27% cranberry juice cocktail per day can help support urinary tract health – but what about other forms of cranberry?  According to the Cranberry Institute, an eight-ounce serving of 27% cranberry juice cocktail offers the same health benefits as:

  • ¼ cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup cranberry sauce
  • 2 ounces 100% cranberry juice

You have one more option to get your daily dose of cranberry: supplements. Limited scientific evidence shows that by consuming 500 mg each day of cranberry dietary supplement, healthy women who have had a urinary tract infection (UTI) may reduce their risk of recurrent UTI. So, look for a cranberry supplement that has at least 500 mg of cranberry and 36 mg of proanthocyanidins (PACs). PACs are the unique, key component of cranberries that makes them so effective for urinary tract infections.*

While cranberries may not be the solution for all your health concerns, they’re certainly promising in the realm of urinary tract infections.* So, if you’re struggling with urinary concerns, talk with your healthcare provider to find out if you’d benefit from a daily dose of cranberry juice, or even a high-quality cranberry supplement.*