Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common infection that can affect the bladder, urethra, or kidneys. Women mainly experience UTIs; however, men can also get them. UTIs can be uncomfortable but usually goes on their own without any treatment.
Depending on the symptoms or in certain situations, patients need to see their GP to get appropriate antibiotic treatments for UTIs. To learn more about UTIs and when to see your GP go to the NHS website. This post will focus on the use of cranberry juice in UTI treatment and prevention.
Why Cranberry juice in UTI?
The use of cranberries in the treatment of bladder infections goes back hundreds of years ago to Native Americans who used cranberries for medicinal purposes. This idea was confirmed by some laboratory studies that showed that certain chemicals in cranberries (called proanthocyanidins / PACs) prevent bacteria that cause the infection from sticking to cells that compose the urinary tract.
The model used in this study was not a human urinary track but a silicone surface and lab-grown E.
Coli bacteria exposed to a cranberry juice. E. Coli bacteria are responsible for the majority of uncomplicated urinary tract infections.
Overall there is strong evidence confirming the hypothesis that bacteria adherence to the urinary tract can be decreased; however, no quality evidence exists to support the use of cranberry juice/products in the treatment or prevention of UTIs, as we learn in the following paragraphs.
The best evidence for the use of cranberry juice in UTI treatment and prevention comes from the well-respected Cochrane Collaboration, which looks at different studies to provide reliable information.
Cranberry Juice: UTI Treatment
Currently, there is no good evidence from studies suggesting cranberry juice is effective in the treatment of UTIs. Well-designed studies, for example, double-blind studies (part of subjects unaware of treatment taken) comparing cranberry juice with placebo, are needed to assess the effectiveness of cranberry juice in the treatment of UTI (Cochrane, 1998).
Cranberry Juice: UTI Prevention
Cochrane Collaboration assessed 24 studies (over 4000 subjects) comparing cranberry juice with placebo or other treatments to prevent UTIs. Although some reduction of UTIs was seen in people using cranberry juice, Cochrane concluded that the difference between the use of cranberry juice and placebo or no treatment was not significant.
Additionally, many participants across different studies simply stopped drinking the juice. Cochrane also added that drinking cranberry juice in the long term may be unacceptable by many and should not be recommended as a method of UTI prevention.
To sum up, there is little evidence suggesting cranberry products help treat or prevent UTIs. Despite this, most over-the-counter products sold in a pharmacy for symptomatic relief of UTIs are cranberry flavoured to make them more appealing to the public. The actual active ingredients used are sodium or potassium citrate, which help control symptoms of UTIs by making the urine more alkaline.