Most women have experienced at least 1 urinary tract infection in their lives. You know that feeling….pain and burning with urination, feeling like you have to go every hour, having a sense of urgency and even some lower abdominal pressure.
Unfortunately, after an initial urinary tract infection (UTI), 24% of women (ages 18-39), will experience a recurrence within 6 months.
Cranberry juice is a folk remedy and commonly used today to help prevent UTI. Some in vitro experiments have suggested that cranberries decrease the adherence of E. Coli to the lining of the bladder. Escherichia coli is the most common bacteria that causes UTI. However, the effectiveness of cranberry juice in preventing UTI recurrence has not been established in controlled trials.
A recent trial at the University of Michigan Health Service examined this issue by doing a double-blind trial among women aged 18 to 40 between August 2005 and October 2007 who had acute UTI. Out of the 319 participants that were randomized to drink either 8 ounces twice daily of placebo juice or cranberry juice (standardized concentration of proanthocyanidin- the good stuff) the recurrence rate was 19.3% in the cranberry juice group vs 14.6% in the placebo group.
This study certainly didn’t show us that the proanthocyanidin in cranberries reduced the incidence of recurrent UTI.
Clinically, I have seen some women benefit from drinking concentrated unsweetened cranberry juice in treating and preventing bladder infections and others have found no benefit at all.
The key is to look for the causes. The recurrence has to do with 2 main issues. One, is the repeated exposure of high risk behavior such as frequent sex, high sugar intake, food allergens, high acidic foods, not emptying your bladder when you feel the urge, or being dehydrated. The other cause is the fact that even 1 bladder infection makes your bladder lining more sensitive to bacteria and accelerates the proliferation leading to infection. Bacteria going into the bladder is not as much the problem as bacteria not going OUT. So drink more fluids (not alcohol or coffee), to help flush the kidney and bladder. There are many other preventative steps you can take, such as allergy testing, avoiding high acidic foods, treatment with herbs, etc. Work with a qualified health practitioner to advise you in treating and preventing this common bladder problem.
Reference: Ampel, N. Clin Infect Dis 2011 Jan 1; 52-23. Barbosa-Cesnik C et al. Cranberry juice fails to prevent recurrent urinary tract infection: Results from a randomized placebo-controlled trial.