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