Cranberry Juice: Does It Prevent Bladder Infections?
Cranberry juice may help prevent frequent bladder infections. Learn more about this and other ways to avoid recurrent infections.

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Picture of cranberry juice Cranberry Juice: Does It Prevent Bladder Infections?

If you have frequent bladder infections, drinking cranberry juice may help prevent them.

Cranberry juice, a folk remedy, has come under scientific scrutiny in recent years. One of the cornerstone studies was a well-controlled trial performed on elderly women by Harvard Medical School. It was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study found that women who drank cranberry juice were less likely to develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) than those who drank a "placebo."

At some time, nearly half of all American women have cystitis, a bladder infection. Bladder infections are the most common of all UTIs.

The National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse recommends drinking cranberry juice as one way to help to prevent a bladder infection. Other tips that may help include:

  • Try vitamin C. Like cranberry juice, it increases the acid in urine so some bacteria can't grow easily.
  • Wear cotton underwear and clothes that are loose-fitting.
  • Urinate frequently. When you first feel the urge, urinate then. Don't wait.
  • Drink enough water to stay adequately hydrated.
  • Urinate shortly after sex.
  • When you use the bathroom, wipe from front to back, especially after a bowel movement.

More studies are needed to see if these tips really can help lower the chances of a bladder infection.

What's in the cranberry?
Doctors have often suggested that people with UTIs drink plenty of fluids, since fluids help flush bacteria from the urinary tract. But that doesn't explain why cranberry juice may help.

  • Cranberry juice seems to have an "anti-adherence factor." Studies show that cranberries contain a compound that makes it tough for the bacteria to stick to the bladder wall.
  • The bacterium that cause 90 percent of all UTIs is E. Coli. Researchers continue to study how effective cranberry juice is against E. Coli and how much cranberry juice is best to drink.

What is clear from the studies, though, is that cranberry juice is best used as a preventive measure. When an infection has already taken hold, antibiotics are the cure.

It is important that you drink real cranberry juice and not the sweetened drinks. If you don't like the taste of cranberry juice, you can skip the juice and try cranberry tablets, which you can buy in a health food store. With the tablets, you can also avoid the extra sugar that is found in the juice.

Also, people with a history of kidney stones should not drink large amounts of cranberry juice.

If you do suffer from frequent bladder infections, make sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will want to be sure that there are not other reasons for these infections.

By Jenilee Matz, MPH, Staff Writer
Created on 06/20/2008
Updated on 07/07/2011
Sources:
  • National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC). How Can I Prevent More UTIs?
  • Lee YL, Wadie NI, Owens J, et al. Anti-microbial activity of urine after ingestion of cranberry: A pilot study. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2010;7(2): 227-232.
  • BMJ Clinical Evidence. Recurrent cystitis in non-pregnant women.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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