Urinary tract infections (UTIs) affect 1 in 5 women at least once in their lives. Twenty percent of affected women get a second infection, 30 percent get a third and 80 percent of women who have at least three UTIs will have recurrences throughout their lives. UTIs are uncomfortable and can be persistent.
One of the common home remedies for UTIs is drinking cranberry juice, or taking cranberry extract supplements. Does cranberry really work at preventing or curing a UTI?
Why Are You Susceptible to Urinary Tract Infections?
First, you should know why you’re susceptible to UTIs. A woman’s urethra is much shorter than a man’s, making for an easier trip for bacteria to travel to the bladder to cause infection, especially after sex. Also, the urethra is close to the rectal opening, so bacteria from the GI tract could make its way into the urethra as well.
Most urinary tract infections involve the urethra, the bladder or the ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidney to the bladder), but complicated infections can spread to the kidneys.
Some of the common symptoms of a UTI include:
- Pain or burning during urination
- Constant urge to urinate
- Urine with a distinct foul odor, or that’s cloudy or bloody
- Pain in your lower abdominal region
Do Cranberries Work?
Cranberries might not be able to cure or prevent UTIs, but they do have bacteria-defeating properties. Cranberries limit the adhesion of E. coli, a common strain of bacteria, to the walls of the urinary tract. This helps keep the bacteria from growing and multiplying.
However, the cranberry juice you buy at the grocery store isn’t pure cranberry — typically additives and sugar make up the majority of the “cocktail.” And cranberry supplements aren’t much better. The pill contains a very small amount of active ingredients, so any benefit you might receive is minimal.
The good news? Drinking a bottle of cranberry juice means you will be fully hydrated, which can help flush the bacteria out of your urinary system. So if cranberry is your favorite flavor, keep drinking!
Consider These Preventive Alternative Solutions
Instead of depending on cranberry juice to stave off symptoms when you feel an infection coming on, take a proactive approach and avoid using spermicides or diaphragms during sex. Both of these birth control methods increase the risk of UTIs.
Do what you can to keep your digestive system operating normally. When you’re constipated or have diarrhea, it’s more likely that bacteria from your rectum may enter the vagina. Try to keep bowel movements regular.
A change in the bacterial composition of the vagina could also be to blame, and this is highly likely in post-menopausal women. Take a probiotic supplement to propagate good bacteria in the vaginal region so bad bacteria doesn’t take over.
Most doctors recommend a course of antibiotics for urinary tract infections, so visit your doctor when you have symptoms. If the infection goes untreated, it can worsen and lead to dangerous complications, so don’t let your UTI go — call Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center for treatment.