The debate over the usefulness of cranberry juice for treating or preventing urinary tract infections rages on. Studies concerned with this subject are plentiful and contradictory. For every study that suggests cranberry juice is an excellent help in preventing and curing UTIs, there is another that has shown it doesn’t help at all. Most do agree that it is better at preventing urinary tract infections than it is at curing them. If nothing else, it may ease the symptoms.
What is responsible for UTIs?
In 90 percent of urinary tract infections, the source is the bacteria known as E. coli. This bacterium is commonly found in the digestive system to aid in the breakdown of the food we eat so the body can process it. It can be found in abundance in the anus. When it makes its way into the urethra there is a very good chance it will cause a urinary tract infection.
Women are especially susceptible to UTIs because their urethra is located so closely to the anus, and their urethra is also very short compared to a male. The distance to the bladder is much less, making the woman an easy target for bacteria to wreak havoc.
Why not antibiotics?
Complicated urinary tract infections include those where the patient is severely dehydrated, has a high fever, is suffering with chills, has become mentally disoriented, has a swollen prostate which limits elimination, has kidney stones or other obstructions, or is known to have an immune disorder such as HIV, lupus, or cardiac disease.
Some individuals have resisted using antibiotics for various reasons. These include, but are not limited to the following issues:
- Allergic reactions to antibiotics that can be mild or severe
- Vaginal infections brought about by antibiotic treatment
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that are sometimes annoying side effects of antibiotic treatment
- Unusual headaches
- Abnormal functioning of the liver
- Bacteria that becomes resistant to antibiotics. This happens most often when a patient doesn’t finish the entire course of antibiotics or takes it improperly.
- Damage to “good” bacteria
Why would any study suggest that cranberry juice would be a preventative or cure for urinary tract infections? Cranberry juice is known to contain antioxidants which have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is one symptom of a UTI. Active ingredients in cranberry juice may work along with its acidity to fight against bad bacteria, such as E. coli, to stop it from gluing itself to the urinary tract where it has a chance to multiply and grow.
When tests were run using petri dishes, the E. coli didn’t appear to adhere to the other bacteria. This limited its ability to multiply.
However, opposing studies show that cranberry juice, and the supplements that can be bought which contain it, do not have enough of the active ingredient (A- type proanthocyanidins) needed in order to stop the E. coli from joining with the other bacteria. Unlike antibiotics, supplements are not regulated. The amount of active ingredient present is totally up to the manufacturer and will vary between brands.
Due to the contradictive attitudes and studies about cranberry juice and its helpfulness in urinary tract infections there is no specific dosage created for it. There is only a recommendation, which consists of approximately four hundred milliliters of a drink that contains at least twenty-five percent cranberry juice per day.
When do I need treatment?
The sooner treatment begins, the less invasive the urinary tract infection will become. Treatment should start at the first signal the body gives that something is wrong. The first clue will probably be one or more of the following:
- A continuous feeling that you need to urinate
- Pain, or what is described as a burning sensation each time you urinate
- Less output than normal
- Discolored urine; white, cloudy, pink tinged, red, or dark
- An offensive or strong odor to the urine
- A nagging backache
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Fever, chills
If one or more of these symptoms occur, it is recommended that the patient see a doctor as soon as possible for a proper evaluation. A urinalysis is required to prove that there truly is a UTI. Other infections can give the individual some of the same symptoms. There may also be underlying issues that you are not aware of; swollen prostates in males, kidney stones, yeast infections, or STIs (sexually transmitted infections) that need extra treatment.
How to avoid a UTI or aid in curing one
Most individuals would rather avoid having a UTI than searching for a way to treat it. There is nothing that can guarantee an individual won’t ever suffer from a UTI, but there are things people can do to lessen the risk of becoming a victim to this painful annoyance.
- Wipe in the proper manner, front to back. This lessens the likelihood of E. coli spreading from the anus to the urethra.
- Empty the bladder often. Never let urine sit in the bladder and grow bacteria.
- Limit caffeine and sugary drinks. Drink plenty of water instead. Six to eight glasses a day is recommended.
- Stay away from irritating or perfumed feminine products; douches, deodorant sprays, powders
- Wash genitals before and after having intercourse (both partners)
- Empty the bladder immediately after intercourse to flush out bacteria
- Some studies suggest taking probiotics.
- Go ahead and drink cranberry juice. It can’t hurt and may help according to some studies.
These preventative measures will also aid in the cure, often relieving some of the symptoms. For pain associated with urination some patients may add over the counter pain medications.
Until the researchers and scientists come to an agreement, there is no study that can guarantee that cranberry juice will save you from suffering with a UTI. However, there is also nothing that says cranberry juice is harmful to the body.
There is no substitute for a doctor’s diagnosis or care when a person becomes ill, especially when pain and fever are present. Whatever treatment you choose, be sure that a doctor checks out the infection to see that it actually is a UTI and not a more serious condition. Antibiotics remain the suggested treatment to eradicate a UTI.