Cranberry Juice and Urinary Tract Health: What the Research Says

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    The antioxidant properties in cranberry cranberry juice are promising for urinary tract health. Are cranberry products a fit for your health?

    Cranberry juice is commonly recommended to those looking to support urinary tract health. But with any recommendation, it’s important to know what the research says. Research suggests that the antioxidant properties in cranberries and their juice and extracts can support urinary tract health as well as cardiovascular, oral, and gut health.

    The urinary tract is responsible for filtering and draining wastes and extra fluids from the body. Reducing the growth of unwanted bacteria in this system is one of the major ways to keep a healthy urinary tract. We’ll discuss how cranberry juice can help in supporting urinary tract health.

    What can disrupt urinary tract health?

    Urinary tract health can be disrupted in several ways. Among sexually active people, intercourse can introduce bacteria near the urinary tract opening in women. Recent diaphragm use with spermicide can alter the vaginal microbiome and thus negatively influence the microbiome in the urinary tract.

    Interestingly, blood type and secretor status may also play a role. People with blood types B and AB who are “non secretors,” meaning they do not secrete certain substances from the blood into other fluid secretions in the body, may have higher risk for urinary tract issues.

    How might cranberries help support the urinary tract?

    Cranberries contain natural plant compounds called proanthocyanidins, which have a high antioxidant content. These compounds can prevent adhesion of bacteria to the urinary tract. Part of this ability is through inhibiting biofilm formation by bacteria. It is well known that bacteria within biofilms are more resistant to antibiotics and the body’s own immune system defenses. Cranberry proanthocyanidins may be useful as part of urinary tract health support.

    Cranberry juice vs. cranberry supplements

    Cranberry juice is one way to get the health benefits of cranberries, but not all juices are equal. Cranberry juice can be high in sugar, which can feed the wrong types of bacteria in your gut and urinary tract.

    If you do choose cranberry juice, try the 100% kind without added sugar. Ideally, you’ll choose not-from-concentrate juice, which typically contains more anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins than reconstituted juice from concentrate. Check the ingredients list to make sure it only contains cranberry juice with no other juices mixed in. Also avoid cranberry juice cocktail, which tends to have higher sugar content with less actual cranberry juice.

    Cranberry supplements may be a better alternative than cranberry juice to bypass the extra sugar while still getting the benefits from cranberries. Supplements are often more concentrated than juice.

    How much cranberry juice should I drink?

    There is limited data on exactly how much cranberry juice to drink for urinary tract health. However, it is wise to keep cranberry juice to one serving of 6-8 ounces at a time to keep sugar intake in moderation.

    Does Cranberry juice have other benefits for women?

    In addition to supporting urinary tract health, cranberries have additional health benefits. Thanks to antioxidant content from vitamin C and flavonoids, cranberry juice can help support a healthy heart and immune system and promote gut health and periodontal health.

    Antioxidants can help maintain the structure and healthy function of immune cells. For example, one study found that drinking about 2 cups of cranberry juice daily results in significantly higher immune cell production. Research on women also supports that daily cranberry juice intake is associated with increased antioxidant capacity and supporting factors related to arterial health.

    Similar to how they support urinary tract health, cranberry proanthocyanidins can also support the healthy bacterial levels in the gut microbiome.

    These cranberry properties may be also beneficial in the prevention and management of periodontal issues. The benefits may come from the ability of proanthocyanidins to beneficially inhibit oral bacterial action and bone breakdown.

    What are other natural ways to promote urinary health

    Beyond drinking cranberry juice, you can incorporate the following natural ways to support urinary health:

    • Hydrate well. A common rule of thumb for daily water intake is to drink half of your body weight in ounces.
    • Urinate regularly. Holding urine in for too long can weaken bladder muscles and make it harder for your bladder to empty completely. Bacteria can grow when urine is left in your bladder for too long.
    • Wear cotton underwear. This allows for proper air flow to inhibit growth of bacteria which favors a moist environment.
    • Wipe from front to back. This prevents bringing bacteria from the anus towards the opening of the urinary tract.
    • Do pelvic floor exercises. These exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which help bladder and bowel function.

    When to speak to a doctor about symptoms?

    Although urinary tract health issues are common, especially among women, it is important to seek out medical help when needed. Speak to a doctor if you begin experiencing discomfort or pain with urination, notice changes in color and/or smell or your urine, or experience fever or nausea.

    Key takeaways

    With promising research to back it up, cranberry juice may be a helpful option for those seeking to support urinary tract health as well as heart health, immunity, gut health, and periodontal health. While clear recommendations are lacking for exactly how much cranberry juice to drink for urinary tract health, incorporating no sugar added 100% cranberry juice into your regular diet can be helpful for your health. Supplements can also be an easy way to get the benefits of cranberries.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.