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The Myth of Cranberry Juice and UTIs

Cranberry juice is not the UTI remedy we think it is

· Prevention,Health,UTIs,Treatment,Alternative Remedy

Individuals, caregivers, and doctors alike are unsure of how to properly prevent urinary tract infections, or UTIs. One oft-circulated theory is that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry capsules will stop UTIs in their tracks. People think that cranberries can not only prevent, but cure UTIs. That would be amazing, wouldn’t it? It would be, if it were true.

The History of Cranberries and UTIs

How did the misconception of cranberries for UTIs get started? It may have started with Native Americans centuries ago who would eat cranberries as a remedy for UTIs and other illnesses.

Many people continue to believe cranberries are the answer. One theory is that acidifying urine makes it more difficult for bacteria like E. coli, a typical cause of UTIs, to thrive. More recent studies, however, have found that acidifying urine is not sufficient in killing the harmful bacteria that could live in it.

Even cranberry juice companies like Ocean Spray are trying to market the juice with the promise that it will reduce UTIs. Through scientific research on the correlation between UTIs and cranberries and attempts to connect to hospitals, Ocean Spray is doing whatever it can to present itself as the most accessible form of UTI prevention. However, Bonnie Liebman, the nutrition director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says that these efforts are nothing more than “marketing ploys” intended to persuade potential consumers to find health benefits in the product that are likely not there.

Research on Cranberries and UTIs

According to a 2016 study by Dr. Manisha Juthani-Mehta at Yale School of Medicine, cranberries do not stop the onset of a UTI. She found that there was no decrease in UTIs among older women in nursing homes who were instructed to take cranberry capsules.

She observed 185 women who were at risk for UTIs, half of whom took two cranberry capsules per day and half of whom took placebos to see if they would have less frequent UTIs.

It’s worth noting that both tablets were the equivalent of 20 ounces of cranberry juice (the size of a Venti drink at Starbucks). Dr. Juthani-Mehta ultimately found that there was no correlation between consuming cranberries - in capsule form or otherwise - and lowering the risk of UTIs.

Dr. Lindsay E. Nicolle, a physician who specializes in infectious diseases at the University of Manitoba, agrees with Dr. Juthani-Mehta. She firmly believes that "it's time to move on from cranberries."

Ditch the Cranberry Juice?

According to research, one of the best ways to both prevent and treat a UTI is to drink fluids. This is because fluids essentially “flush out” bacteria in the urinary tract. Two studies, one which focused on children, and the other which focused on the elderly, both show that those who increased their intake of liquids and subsequently went to the bathroom more often were less likely to have UTIs.

Yes, liquids, in general, definitely have a therapeutic effect on people who are at risk for getting or suffer from UTIs. However, the presence of sugar in drinks like cranberry juice can actually cause UTIs. Bacteria present in the urinary tract when a UTI occurs use sugar as a nutrient, and sugar also makes the pH of the urinary tract more hospitable for E. coli.

UTI Prevention: What to do now

Scientists are still unsure about what works best for preventing UTIs. Even in this state of flux, we still don’t have a tried and true method. Nevertheless, there are approximately 880,000 hospitalizations alone each year in the US for older adults who are diagnosed with UTIs. Even other proposed methods, like not holding in your pee, or wiping in the right direction, don't appear to significantly reduce UTIs. Consistent hydration and monitoring with at-home technology like Pixie Smart Pads are the best ways to be UTI-free.

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