Do Cranberries Really Work for UTIs? What the Science Says

Cranberries for UTI

Perhaps one of the most widely held, popular beliefs is that cranberry juice can help prevent recurrent UTIs or get rid of them. 

A UTI itself can severely impact multiple parts of the urinary system – the bladder, kidney, and urethra. While UTIs are possible in men, women are more than 30 times more likely to experience them, with 55-60% of women having experienced one in their lifetime. They also account for close to 25% of all bacterial infections seen in women clinically. 

Women’s urethras are more susceptible to bacteria entering the urinary tract, compared to men's.

– if you experience pelvic pain, groin pain, urgent or frequent urination, or burning when you urinate, you should consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis of a possible UTI. 

Given the prominence of antibiotic resistance to Escherichia coli, implementing alternate strategies to reduce this exposure to antibiotics is essential to protecting yourself from antibiotic overuse. 

The majority of UTIs are caused by this bacterium, and this bacterium is becoming increasingly resistant to commonly prescribed UTI antibiotics like Bactrim and Cipro. 

Aside from conventional wisdom towards prevention (increasing hydration with water throughout the day and gentle cleaning), cranberries often have the potential to alleviate symptoms or help prevent recurrence – but they must be in the form of an extract, not just the juice. Most store-shelf cranberry juices are also loaded with added sugars and won’t offer any sort of health benefit. 

Recurring UTIs, while less common, are still a huge problem for a number of women and are often caused by the same pathogen. Do cranberries really work for UTIs? We’ll take a closer look at what the science says. 

Cranberry Extract for Uncomplicated UTIs - What the Science Says

Cranberry extracts contain a compound known as ‘proanthocyanin or “tannin.” This reduces the adherence of E. coli within the urinary tract and the colonization of the bacteria. 

Studies show that extracts can help to prevent recurrent UTIs, but that cranberry juice is of little benefit.

This is mainly due to the fact that there are not enough of the A-type proanthocyanins present in grocery store cranberry juice for it to be effective enough to stop bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder or urinary tract. 

One scientific review from 2013 found that cranberry extracts were found to be protective against recurrent UTIs, in a PAC (proanthocyanin) dose-dependent manner. 

You’ll typically want to look for 240 mg - 500 mg of cranberry extract per capsule, which contains ~15% PACs; 36 mg of PAC minimum in each capsule. Most brands won’t explicitly list the PAC content, so keep an eye out for the total mg of cranberry used per capsule. 

Taking a supplement like D-Mannose in conjunction with cranberry extract can help ensure faster elimination of bacteria, and shows greater efficacy at preventing bacteria from adhering. 

Given that cranberry extracts and unpasteurized cranberry juice products (with no added sugar) have no reported side effects and are of no harm, they offer a solution that is worth trying for any woman experiencing recurring UTIs.

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