Urinary tract infections (UTI) can affect any part of the urinary system, such as kidneys, bladder, or urethra. Women are at higher risk of UTIs and recurrent UTIs. More than 3 million people, mostly women, experience a UTI every year.
The condition is self-diagnosable, and the symptoms include frequent and painful urination, pelvic pain, and traces of blood in the urine. The infection does not usually last long.
The first port of call for many of us is a box of cranberry juice. We might have heard that these berries can help prevent UTIs. Do they really work?
The research on the effect of cranberries is not clear. Few studies have found that drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills can prevent UTIs. Cranberries don’t seem to work for everyone, and they may not help UTIs that are already there.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology says that unsweetened cranberry juice and cranberry supplements may make UTIs less likely. Still, it’s not clear how much and how long we need to take.
How Do Cranberries Really Work?
Initially, it is thought that cranberries protected against UTIs by making the urine more acidic, which is less friendly for bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli), which are the main culprit for UTIs.
Now, researchers have come up with a new and different theory: Cranberries make it harder for infection-causing bacteria to stick to the urinary tract walls.
The reason can be that nutrients in cranberries change the bacteria so that they can’t stick to the urinary tract or cranberries usually create a slippery coating on the urinary tract walls that makes it hard for E. coli to get a good grip.
Few things to remember while taking Cranberries
Cranberries can be hard to take for some people because of their acidic nature.
Cranberry juice is high in oxalates, which can increase the risk of kidney stones, especially for those who already tend to get these stones.
People on blood-thinning medications like warfarin should avoid cranberry products, as cranberries can interact with warfarin and cause bleeding.
Cranberry capsules can reduce the prevalence of UTI
Researchers studied 160 patients undergoing surgery and are most likely to develop UTIs. Half of the patients received two cranberry extract capsules twice daily, which were equivalent in strength to 2 8-ounce servings of cranberry juice for 6 weeks after surgery. The other group received a placebo.
Cranberry capsules lowered the risk of UTIs by 50% in the people who received them. In the cranberry treatment group, around 19% of patients developed a UTI, compared with 38% of the placebo group.
Cranberries contain A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs) that interfere with the bacteria’s ability to adhere to the bladder wall, reducing the likelihood of infection.
So, do they work or not? Let’s not think too much. Let’s enjoy them in either the juice or the berry form as a quick snack.
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