Cranberry Juice Won't Get Rid Of Your UTI

Mom was wrong.

If you've ever been subjected to the agony that comes with a urinary tract infection, you know you'd do just about anything to relieve the pain.

And while for years friends, mothers and even doctors have advised women to drink cranberry juice to make it all go away, a Texas A&M Health Science Center urologist recently explained that this probably won't give you the relief you need.

“Cranberry juice, especially the juice concentrates you find at the grocery store, will not treat a UTI or bladder infection,” said Dr. Timothy Boone in a statement. “It can offer more hydration and possibly wash bacteria from your body more effectively, but the active ingredient in cranberry is long-gone by the time it reaches your bladder.”

Le sigh. The myth may have started with a somewhat sensible hunch, but just doesn't turn out to be true. As A&M explains, cranberries contain an active ingredient called proanthocyanidins, or PACS, that can keep bacteria from binding to the walls of the bladder. The catch is, PACs aren't present in commercial cranberry juice.

“It takes an extremely large concentration of cranberry to prevent bacterial adhesion,” Boone said. “This amount of concentration is not found in the juices we drink. There’s a possibility it was stronger back in our grandparents’ day, but definitely not in modern times.”

You may have seen cranberry capsules in the pharmacy aisle. These do have a concentrated amount of PACs and can help prevent the risk of UTIs. According to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, cranberry capsules reduced the risk of UTIs by 50 percent in women who had a catheter in place while undergoing gynecological surgery.

“In this study, they took the cranberry itself and put it in a capsule -- the equivalence of drinking 16 ounces of cranberry juice," Boone said. "As you can see, it takes a large amount of pure cranberry to prevent an infection."

Oleksandr Bilozerov via Getty Images

UTIs account for an estimated 8.1 million visits to health care professionals each year and are the second most common type of infection in the body. The majority of those affected are women, who have more than a 50 percent risk of infection over their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The infection can be caused by several different types of bacteria in the urinary tract. Symptoms include a constant urge to pee, pain with urination, pelvic pain or blood in the urine. The symptoms are often short-lived, but the infection usually needs to be treated with antibiotics -- not just an over-the-counter cranberry pill. "Sometimes it easy to confuse a UTI with overactive bladder, so it’s always best to consult your physician about any adverse symptoms you’re having,” Boone said. “UTIs may also progress into kidney infections which are much worse.”

There's not much a person can do once they're infected, but to decrease your risk for UTI, the Mayo Clinic recommends not holding in your pee, not douching, and peeing before and after sex.

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