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Cranberry juice has long been thought to help ward off urinary tract infections. But is this a fact or a myth—what does the science say?
You’ve probably heard that drinking cranberry juice may help prevent or cure urinary tract infections (UTIs). But is this true? Here’s the lowdown on what the science says about cranberry juice and UTIs, and what else you can do to reduce your risk of getting these common infections.
Why Cranberries Are Studied for UTI Benefits
UTIs are an infection of the urinary tract system, which includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra; they can happen anywhere in the urinary system, but UTIs usually occur in the bladder. If not treated properly, the infection can travel up to the kidney and lead to a serious type of infection called pyelonephritis. Urinary tract infections are extremely common, especially in women: More than 50 percent of women will have at least one UTI at some point in their life. (1, 2)
UTIs are usually treated with antibiotics but cranberry juice has long been touted as a home remedy to treat and prevent UTIs. But what is it about cranberries that made researchers think they might be helpful for dealing with UTIs in the first place?
Cranberries increase the acidity of urine, which may make it tougher for bacteria like E. coli to stick to the walls of the urinary tract and lead to an infection. (3)
What Research Says About Cranberry for UTIs
Studies on the effectiveness of cranberry juice and products for UTIs have yielded mixed results, with some finding that cranberry may reduce bacteria in urine or reduce risk of UTIs and others concluding that cranberry juice and supplements are not effective in treating or preventing UTIs. (4, 5)
There doesn’t seem to be a downside to drinking cranberry juice or eating cranberries, which are actually a good source of fiber and vitamin C, so if you’re prone to UTIs and want to add it to your diet, keep these tips in mind:
- Drinking too much cranberry juice can cause stomach upset and even diarrhea, so don’t overdo it.
- Cranberry juice cocktail is loaded with sugar so stick to unsweetened cranberry juice instead.
- Don’t drink large amounts of cranberry juice if you’re taking warfarin, as it may increase the risk of bleeding.
- Remember that cranberry juice or extract is absolutely not a substitute for seeing a doctor or for antibiotics to treat the infection.(3, 4, 5)
Bottom line: While we don’t yet have a definitive answer to the question of whether or not drinking cranberry juice will help ward off UTIs, drinking cranberry juice in moderate amounts may help and won’t hurt. (3, 4, 5)
1. Urinary Tract Infections. Office on Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/urinary-tract-infections Updated January 31, 2019. Accessed March 28, 2019.
2. Urinary Tract Infections. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/uti Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2019.
3. Does Cranberry Extract Prevent UTIs? Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/does-cranberry-extract-prevent-utis Updated January 17, 2019. Accessed March 29, 2019.
4. Cranberry. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/cranberry Updated November, 2016. Accessed March 29, 2019.
5. Can Cranberry Juice Stop Your UTI? Cleveland Clinic.
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-cranberry-juice-stop-uti/ Updated October 1, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2019.