All it takes is one. Like that really bad hangover morning when you swore off Jägermeister for the rest of your life. The agony of a urinary tract infection (UTI) needs no introduction to the initiated. It’s super uncomfortable, devastatingly painful, and a-nnooooying. So you go to the walk-in, get some drugs, make the razor blades from hell stop, and then go to Google to figure out how to NEVER HAVE IT HAPPEN AGAIN!
There are plenty of opinions about how to prevent and get rid of UTIs, because UTIs are the worst. One of the most common myths is that cranberries can help treat and/or prevent UTIs. Cranberry juice, cranberry pills, cranberry extract, cranberry mystic mists.
Like chugging orange juice when you feel a cold coming on, the “cranberry therapy” is a well-established protocol, handed down from generation to generation. Maybe your older sister bought you a litre of juice that summer of ’06 when you cried for help. Maybe your friend swore by some pills she found online that is like 1,000 cranberries in one pill. Maybe you’re sure it even worked!
The idea that cranberry juice prevents UTIs is literally hundreds of years old. And for good reason. It’s a pretty cool little berry. They contain proanthocyanidins, something which kind-of-maybe helps interfere with UTI-causing E. coli bacteria from setting up camp in your urinary tract.
Cranberry is a fruit, so that's good for all the reasons your parents told you to eat your fruits and vegetables. It’s also a mild diuretic (helps you pee) which is good for flushing out the bacteria, but we all know that water helps you pee too and is also sugar-free! Cranberry pills help condense what goodness there is, but the dosing is inexact and studies don’t show any real impact, even with concentrated cranberry. That's right...there are no studies clearly showing cranberry's effectiveness in relieving a urinary tract infection. NONE.
Scientific studies show that you can’t rely on cranberry to help with anything (except maybe to successfully complete a well-known thanksgiving stable).
A study out of Yale University was published this year showing no reduction in UTIs in women who took the equivalent of 20 ounces of juice daily, for a year (1). A GOD DAMN YEAR. That is so much cran-cocktail. Medical experts have known this for a while and this time they’re speaking up.
Dr. Lindsey E. Nicolle, an expert on UTIs at the University of Manitoba responded strongly to the study, stating simply that “cranberry products should not be recommended as a medical intervention for the prevention of UTI”, and that “clinicians should not be promoting cranberry use by suggesting that there is a proven, or even possible, benefit.” (1).
In another 2016 study using cranberry capsules containing 72 mg of proanthocyanidin (PAC), a cranberry ingredient that is believed to inhibit bacteria in the urinary tract. In the study, 185 women living in nursing homes received either cranberry capsules or placebo for one year.
The researchers found that the cranberry capsules did not prevent bacteria in urine or have an effect on other health outcomes, such as hospitalizations and mortality.
The bottom line, says Dr. Manisha Juthani-Mehta, a geriatrics infectious disease expert: "While consuming cranberry products may have no harm on women with frequent UTIs, they don’t appear to have a proven benefit."
The truth is much more straightforward. There are things that you can do to keep the bacteria from hooking on, such as SUPER AWESOME d-mannose *** (naturally occurring carbohydrate) which is scientifically proven to prevent the bacteria’s “hooks” from working with a clear and manageable effective dose.
There are things that you can do to support your overall body health to prevent infection, such as taking immune boosting vitamins, or just doing all that stuff people tell you to do – sleep, hydrate, eat well, exercise. But if you get an infection in your urinary tract, you probably need antibiotics to cure it. Relying on anything else after the fact could be dangerous. A delay can result in the infection working its way to your bladder or kidneys. Not good.
So, if you don't know, now you know.
Sorry Ocean Spray.
(1) The New York Times – October 27, 2016; Jan Hoffman; The Cure for UTIs? It’s Not Cranberries.