Can Cranberries prevent UTIs?
UTIs, or Urinary Tract Infections can be a painful experience for individuals, especially women. They are often characterised by a burning sensation, frequent urination, and discomfort.
One such remedy which has conflicting opinions is cranberries. Some people use it regularly, some are dubious but why?
What is a UTI?
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) occur where there is an infection in your urinary system, which can include your bladder, urethra, or even your kidneys.
An infection in your urinary tract is typically referred to as a UTI. When this infection specifically affects your bladder, it's known as cystitis. Urethritis is the term used when the infection is in your urethra, and if it spreads to your kidneys, it's called a kidney infection. While antibiotics are a common treatment for UTIs, they may not always be necessary.
Who can get a UTI?
A UTI can affect all ages. They can also occur in both men and women, however, is more common within women, affecting women up to 50 times more than men. This is because the urethra is shorter in women, meaning that it is easier for bacteria to enter the Urinary Tract.
UTIs can also occur in children, and in these cases, they can cause the child to be irritable, more likely to wet themselves and can experience sickness. In the elderly, UTIs can be problematic, especially for those with a urinary catheter. They may experience incontinence, deliriousness, and shivering because of the infection.
Symptoms of a UTI
Typical symptoms of a UTI encompass the frequent urge to use the toilet, and the sensation of burning or discomfort during urination, medically known as dysuria.
Other symptoms can include:
- Frequent trips to the bathroom at night
- Sudden urgent need to urinate
- Cloudy appearance of urine
- Presence of blood in your urine
- Discomfort or pain in your lower abdomen
- Aching in the lower back
- Elevated body temperature
- A low body temperature below 36 degrees.
- Dark or strong-smelling urine (this may also indicate dehydration)
Causes of a UTI
The main cause of a UTI is from the entering of bacteria into the urinary tract, potentially spreading to the kidneys, urethra, and bladder. E. coli infections are a comon cause of UTIs, especially affecting the bladder. These bacteria which can be found mainly in the gastrointestinal tract, can enter the body through sexual intercourse or inadequate wiping after using the toilet. These bacteria find their way into the urinary system through the urethra (the tube that urine comes out of).
Given that women typically have shorter urethras than men, the path for bacteria to enter the bladder or kidneys is more accessible, increasing the chance of getting an infection.
Sexual Activity can increase the risk of a UTI:
Engaging in sexual activity and not going to the toilet after sex can increase the risk of bacteria entering the urinary tract. This risk is higher in women, given the proximity of the urethra to the anus, and is further increased in those that engage with multiple sexual partners.
How anatomy can increase the risk of a UTI:
In some cases, people may have a shorter urethra, making it more susceptible to bacteria entering into the urinary tract. This is particularly relevant for women, as the urethral opening is near the bladder.
Urinary Retention can cause UTIs:
Urinary retention refers to the inability to comnpletely empty the bladder, a condition that can be due to an enlarged prostate, pelvic floor dysfunction, inflammation, or obstructions like bladder stones.
If left unaddressed, this condition can lead to the development of UTIs, resulting in discomfort and pain. The presence of bacteria within the urine that has not been expelled can spread through the urethra into the urinary tract.
Use of Catheters can increase the risk of UTIs:
In some instances, the use of a catheter which helps to drain urine can create a direct pathway for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.
Cranberries for UTIs
Cranberry supplements and juice are a popular remedy that people commonly use to prevent or manage their urinary tract infections.
Within cranberries, there is an active compound known as Proanthocyanidins (PACs). These compounds may inhibit certain bacteria, including E. coli, to adhere to the lining of the urinary tract. By preventing these bacteria from attaching to the bladder and urethral walls, PACs help their removal from the body, allowing the bacteria to be flushed from the body in the urine.
Cranberries, particularly their juice, are known to acidify urine. It was previously thought that this acidity might create an unfavourable environment for E. coli bacteria, preventing colonisation. However, studies have revealed that even in the most acidic pH levels of urine from UTI patients, Escherichia coli is still the most common bacterial species. These results suggest that these bacterial strains can survive, and in fact, the growth of E. coli tends to be higher in acidic conditions compared to alkaline urine.
Although scientific research provides support for the use of cranberries (in the form of juice or supplements) in preventing UTIs, evidence suggests that cranberries may not be as effective at treating UTIs once the bacteria has already stuck to the urinary tract walls.
Furthermore, supplements typically offer a higher concentration of Proanthocyanidins (PACs) compared to cranberry juice, and have the advantage of containing less sugar, making them a favourable alternative.
Cranberry Supplement Recommendations for UTIs
Terranova Cranberry supplements are designed to support a healthy urinary tract. Crafted from organic cranberry fruit, these supplements undergo freeze-drying to preserve their maximum potency. They are suitable for both vegans and vegetarians, and the recommended daily dosage is 1-3 capsules to be taken with food.
BioCare Cranberry Intensive is high potency nutrient complex with cranberry, hibiscus, vitamin C & 10 billion of the clinically researched Lactobacillus acidophilus live bacteria providing targeted, intensive support for a healthy urinary tract. This powder is suitable for vegetarians and vegans and provides a 10-day supply at 6 grams per day.
- UTI is an infection of the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra, or kidneys.
- Women are more susceptible to UTIs due to their shorter urethras, providing easier access for bacteria. UTIs can occur in all individuals of all ages and genders, however.
- Causes of a UTI include bacterial entry of species like E. coli, through sexual activity, improper hygiene, urinary retention and suppressed immune systems.
- Cranberries can help prevent UTIs using Proanthocyanidins (PACs) to prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract and allowing them to be removed from the body through urine.
Commonly Asked Questions:
Are there side effects of Cranberry Supplements?
Cranberry supplements are usually well-tolerated; however, some individuals may encounter side effects, such as stomach discomfort, abdominal pain, and an increased need to urinate following their consumption.
What is the difference between Cranberry Supplements and D-Mannose Tablets?
D-Mannose is a natural sugar that is found in fruits, including cranberries. Both D-Mannose and cranberries work in a similar manner, both preventing E. coli from attaching to the walls of the urethra. Cranberries contain Proanthocyanidins which, like D-Mannose, inhibit E. coli from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. It is worth noting that cranberries are also a natural source of D-Mannose.
What is the recommended dosage of cranberry to prevent UTIs?
Currently there is no universally established standard dosage for cranberry pills. However, studies have revealed that products with a minimum of 36mg of PACs are effective in UTI prevention.
Are there other benefits to cranberry supplements?
Cranberries provide various health advantages, including providing antioxidant properties. They support the body in fighting free radicals, which can lead to conditions like heart disease. The antioxidants found in cranberries may also help to decrease the risk of heart disease and enhance cholesterol levels. Research has also indicated that cranberries can help prevent H. pylori bacterial infections in the stomach, lowering the chance of stomach ulcers.