Trudy Triumph's Neurogenic Bladder Blog

Do Cranberry Products help with MY Bladder Infections?

cranberriesDear Biosleuth,

Do cranberry products help in preventing bladder infections?

 

Thanks for asking!  Here is what I found in the medical research..

Our immune systems prevent infections that potentially occur from our daily encounter with invisible assailants (the microscopic world).  Pathobiology is the study of the various ways that pathogens evade all our defenses and the mechanisms in place to counter-attack in our defense (and subsequent health).  The microbial world and creative modes that pathogens use to invade our elaborate immune system fascinated me so much that I studied Pathobiology in graduate school and received a degree from the School of Public Health.  We live surrounded by bacteria and viruses; our immune systems successfully stave off infections that assault us every day of our lives.  (How cool is that?)  When the immune system or our bodies’ outer defenses (or inner) break down or are compromised, then we have problems.

Let’s look at ways we can help boost our immune system, especially when we have become more vulnerable to infection.  Anyone who has to self-catheterize is potentially providing an entry point for bacteria.  The body was not designed for foreign objects to be introduced upward through the ureters into the bladder.  The system is designed to provide an outlet for outward flow of urine from a sterile enclosure (the bladder) to the outside, which is covered in “normal flora”.  As long as the normal flora are kept on the outside, the skin is a barrier to their ability to cause infection.

Cranberry juice has for years been thought to boost the immune system’s ability to fight off Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) by bacteria.  Why?  Just as penicillin, produced by a mold, is able to kill some bacteria, cranberries contain a compound that interferes with adherence of some bacteria and yeast to attach to the cells lining the interior of the bladder (Rossi R, 2010).  Once bacteria have gained entry to a rich nutrient source like the inside of the urinary tract, their first goal is to attach, in order to start replicating and creating a thriving colony.  If they are unable to do so, although they may start multiplying, they will be continually dislodged and then washed out with the constant flow of urine through the bladder and urethra.  So, if proanthocyanidins, the compounds in cranberries that are thought to prevent adherence really are effective — that is good news for women who suffer from urinary tract infections.  However, it might depend on the type of bacteria that are living just outside the urethra, as to how susceptible they are to being prevented from sticking . . . and studies have indicated that women who chronically catheterize are not as likely to respond to the benefits of cranberry juice (Rossi R, 2010).

A recent review of the clinical literature as a whole (Jepson RG, 2012) concluded that cranberry juice is not effective against the prevention of UTI.  A follow-up article in the highly influential JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) suggested that the finding may actually be a flaw in the studies that were conducted or the way in which they were analyzed (Jepson R, 2013).  So, are we left with anecdotal stories of isolated cases where one woman has success in reducing the number of UTI’s with cranberry juice extract, where the next woman does not? . . . or is there something to it after all?  Dr. Oz is a big fan of the benefits of Cranberry Juice when it comes to treating chronic UTI’s (see http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/preventing-utis)  How about you?  Trudy is going to give Cranberry extract in a capsule form (Not Juice) a try — just twice a day to see if it helps her chronic UTI’s because she will be going off of her low-dose antibiotic next month.  If you want to take part in an informal “test” yourself — get some Cranberry Extract and try it along with her; log your progress by keeping track of each UTI your doctor diagnoses to determine if you have reduced the number of UTI’s you acquire with the nutrients found in cranberries.  Share your results with us by submitting your experiences under “Ask A Question” to ensure confidentiality (we will not share the names if we disclose any informal findings we make from feedback we receive).

We’d love to hear your general comments on this page as well!

Let’s talk more about ways to prevent UTI’s in the months ahead . . .

Take Care,

— Julia (The Biosleuth)

References:

1: Jepson RG, Williams G, Craig JC. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract

infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Oct 17;10:CD001321. doi:

10.1002/14651858.CD001321.pub5. Review. PubMed PMID: 23076891.

 

2: Jepson R, Craig J, Williams G. Cranberry products and prevention of urinary

tract infections. JAMA. 2013 Oct 2;310(13):1395-6. doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.277509.

PubMed PMID: 24084925.

 

3: Rossi R, Porta S, Canovi B. Overview on cranberry and urinary tract infections

in females. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2010 Sep;44 Suppl 1:S61-2. doi:

10.1097/MCG.0b013e3181d2dc8e. Review. PubMed PMID: 20495471.

 

4: Preventing UTIs

The Dr. Oz Television show

Posted on 12/17/2009

http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/preventing-utis

 

 

4 Responses to “Do Cranberry Products help with MY Bladder Infections?”

  1. ReplyLewis

    I’d love to help with your research but honestly I’ve only had 3 UTIs since I started ISC (nearly 3 years ago) so I probably won’t be of much help. I drink about a pint of cranberry juice daily; its actually my favourite fruit juice anyway because it’s not so sweet as the others. No idea whether this is what’s helping me stay clear of UTIs; I think what helps the most is the catheter I use which is the Hollister va-pro; it’s totally enclosed in a polythene sheath so no part of the catheter that goes inside is ever exposed to air, fingers or anything else. If you can get them in the US I highly recommend giving them a try. There’s a good video here:

  2. ReplyTrudy

    I have started taking cranberry tablets. Perhaps that will help too.I am so happy for you that you are able to be relatively infection free. What a gift!!
    thank you for sending along the u tube video about the catheter you use. Lewis, this is such an interesting catheter to look into. It addresses all of my concerns with the one I use now. I want to order some to try. Thanks for the tip.

  3. ReplyJulianna H

    Great post! I have been using cranberries to help with UTIs for about 20 years now.
    I am lucky that I don’t need to use a catheter, but I do have a physical situation that makes UTIs much more likely for me than “normal.” Here’s what I’ve found works really well for me:
    Note: I do not take cranberry tablets every day – I only take them when I feel like a UTI is coming on, or that the risk of developing one is particularly high.
    The Nature’s Way brand Standardized Cranberry is the easiest brand for me to find, though other brands offering standardized doses seem to work fine, too.
    In my experience, the dried cranberry capsules (vs standardized) are useless unless taken in huge doses, so if that is the approach someone wants to take, I’d say just eat a bag of dried cranberries (or drink the juice if you prefer :). I personally can’t handle the juice, or I’d probably try that approach.
    The Nature’s Way tablets contain 400mg of cranberry and 30mg of vitamin C per tablet. The bottle suggests taking 1 tablet 3x a day w/ water.
    When I feel a UTI coming on, I immediately take 3-4 of the tablets with a glass of water or other liquid, like tea. I will take another 3-4 tablets roughly 10-12 hours later (so total of 6-8 tablets in about 12 hours, depending on just how much of a hold the UTI already has on me). Generally that will knock it out right there.
    In the past, when I actually got full-blown UTIs, I would have to take 6-8 tablets a day for up to 4 days (usually 3 days), but that would take care of any but the very worst infections (ie, where I had to get a prescription to knock it out). Since it is just cranberry and a little bit of vitamin C, there’s no risk I’m aware of in taking more than recommended on the bottle, unless someone has major issues with adding that much acid into their system.
    Based on my personal experience, I would really recommend at least trying the standardized cranberry tablets or else the strong juice to try and help with a UTI that is just starting, or to stave them off – especially if it’s a chronic issue. Obviously, if you have a UTI and taking the cranberry isn’t noticeably making things better in, say, 24 or 36 hours (or you’ve been taking the cranberry as a preventative and developed a noticeable UTI that didn’t quickly improve by upping your prophylactic dose of cranberry), it’s probably time to call the doctor.

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