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Why Is Cranberry Juice Good for Bladder Infections?

By Renee Thompson ; Updated August 14, 2017

Cases of cystitis, or bladder infection, are more commonly known as urinary tract infections, which are unpleasant and painful. Although easily treated with an antibiotic, prevention can save time and money. While American Indians once used cranberries to treat UTIs, a study published in 2009 in "Drugs" concluded that cranberries may be very effective at preventing -- but not treating -- UTIs.

Urinary Tract Infection Defined

The urinary tract is composed of the bladder, kidneys and ureters -- which take urine from the kidney to the bladder -- as well as the urethra. A UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract, which is typically sterile. Symptoms of the infection include cloudy or bloody urine, pain or burning upon urinating and the the urgency to urinate even after recently voiding. Seek a health care provider immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms. If left untreated, severe complications can arise, including a blood infection known as sepsis, kidney damage and kidney infection. UTIs are easily treated with an antibiotic, but for those who suffer from reoccurring UTIs, bacteria may become resistant to antibiotics. For this reason, prevention of UTIs is critical.

Prevention with Cranberry Juice

Components found in cranberries, including fructose and proanthocyanidins, are able to prevent bacteria from attaching to and colonizing the urinary tract. A study published in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" in 2011 found that 16 ounces of cranberry cocktail juice was able to prevent bacteria attaching to the urinary tract two hours after drinking the juice. The study also found that cranberry cocktail juice may prevent bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract for up to eight hours after drinking.

Cranberry in Various Forms

Whether in tablet or juice form, cranberries have been shown to help prevent reoccurring UTIs. One study published in "Journal of Family Practice" had volunteers who suffered from reoccurring UTIs eat cranberry capsules containing 400 milligrams of cranberry solids daily. The volunteers who ate the cranberry capsule instead of the placebo had fewer reoccurring UTIs. Other researchers, who published their work in the "Journal of Infection and Chemotherapy" in 2013, had volunteers drink 125 milliliters (about 4 ounces) of cranberry juice or a placebo every day. Those who drank the cranberry juice had significantly fewer reoccurring UTIs than those who drank the placebo.

Possible Side Effects

While cranberry juice may prevent UTIs, drinking too much may cause weight gain. A 6-ounce glass contains about 100 calories. Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea from cranberries. Also, those who are allergic to the vaccinium genus should avoid cranberries. Individuals who take blood thinners such as warfarin, medications that affect the liver or cytochrome P450-metabolized agents should consume cranberry juice with caution or speak to their doctor before eating cranberry products. Cranberry juice is also high in sugar, so those with difficulty controlling blood sugar may want to consume sugar-free cranberry juice.

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