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Is Cranberry Juice Effective Against UTI's? Why You Should Consume The Cocktail — But Not Rely On It To Cure You

Nov. 4 2021, Published 2:57 p.m. ET

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Chances are, your mom was the first person who told you to imbibe cranberry juice for your bladder issues. No one knows who first argued for the effectiveness of the beverage, but Americans as early as the 1900s were using the berries as a "folk treatment for UTIs," explains Manisha Juthani-Mehta, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Yale School of Medicine.

Since then, "scientists have doggedly tried to confirm this well-known folk truth with dozens of studies, some in test tubes and some in people," says Abigail Zuger, M.D.

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While "some research suggests that cranberry juice and cranberry supplements may reduce the risk of UTIs in certain populations, not all studies have found cranberry treatment helpful for UTI prevention," registered dietitian Jillian Kubala says. For example, one review of seven studies found that "cranberry may be effective in preventing UTI recurrence in generally healthy women," while another randomized controlled trial concluded that "cranberry juice did not significantly reduce UTI risk compared with placebo."

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Although the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the berries, researchers are willing to consider them as a potential treatment because they contain "200 active substances in addition to vitamin C, citric acid and an array of other acids," says Dr. Zuger. While these acids don't sterilize the urine, as some would claim, a component of the little red fruits called proanthocyanidin "does effectively prevent some species of bacteria from adhering to the cells that line the urinary tract." Sounds pretty good for you, right?

So, next time you notice your urine smelling a little funky, should you drink the libation or not? While the evidence for using cranberries as a treatment is inconclusive at best, many doctors, such as urologist Courtenay Moore, MD, agree that “cranberry won’t hurt, but it may help. It could be worth trying if you struggle with frequent UTIs, as the risk in doing so is very low."

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In order to consume the tart drink as a preventative measure, "a dose of 8–10 ounces (240–300 mL) per day may be most effective," suggests Kubala.

If you're wondering how you could ever endure eight whole ounces of juice, make one of these blends. Better yet, try a supplement — just note that "dosing varies depending on the ingredients."

"Research has shown, that doses of cranberry extract ranging from 200–500 mg per day may reduce UTI recurrence in some people," says Kubala.

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Urinary tract infections are no joke — ignoring them can lead to kidney damage, premature birth and sepsis, "a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection," warns Mayo Clinic. If you are experiencing pelvic pain, a "strong, persistent urge to urinate, strong-smelling urine, or a burning sensation when urinating," you should take it seriously and seek out a professional. Whatever you do, don't rely on a cranberry concoction to cure you.

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