Can Cranberry Juice Treat Bladder Infections?

Can Cranberry Juice Treat Bladder Infections?
4.9 (98%) 10 votes

Cranberries may reduce the recurrence of urinary tract infections, but their role in treating infections is limited.

Discuss
Republish

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

How could any bacteria cause a bladder infection without just getting flushed away, literally? Certainly, if you’re not drinking enough, or men who have prostate enlargement and can’t empty completely, leaving behind a stagnant pool. But, in most people, there should be a constant flow of water through there. Well, bladder infection-causing E. coli evolved these finger-like projections that they use to stick to the walls of the bladder, so they don’t get washed away. 

Almost 30 years ago now, it was demonstrated that if you drip cranberry juice on E. coli, they don’t stick as well. Grape juice doesn’t work, nor does orange or apple juice, or even white cranberry juice made from unripened berries. So, maybe it’s one of the red phytonutrients that’s doing it.

Even if it works in a petri dish, though, we don’t pee cranberry juice. I mean, how do we know that the anti-adherence phytonutrients in cranberries are even absorbed through the gut, so they make it into the bladder? Well, subsequent studies showed that if you drip urine of someone who drank cranberry juice onto E. coli, you get the same anti-stick effect. Ah, well, now we’re getting somewhere.

Here’s the stickiness of strains of E. coli wading in urine from someone drinking water, and here’s their stickiness in the urine of someone drinking cranberry juice. Within hours of consumption, there’s a drop in E. coli stickiness that appears to last throughout much of the day. So, might cranberries really help prevent bladder infections?

Well, the best way to prevent infections is to not get infected in the first place— which may involve the avoidance of chicken, as I’ve already discussed, so you’re not constantly reinfecting yourself. But, if that doesn’t work, if your gut remains stubbornly colonized with these bad bladder bugs, various tested cranberry products appear to reduce the recurrence of bladder infections by about 35%. Not as effective as antibiotics, but cranberries don’t foster antibiotic resistance, and have fewer side effects.

There’s good evidence to suggest that cranberries are effective for prevention, but not as an effective treatment; that makes sense, right? Cranberries prevent the initial adherence, but, that occurs at the start of the infection. When the infection is present, it’s already stuck there. Then, there’s no clinical data to suggest that cranberries are effective in the treatment of urinary tract infections—meaning cranberries don’t work better than placebo. But, placebos work! For example, ibuprofen seems to work just as good as antibiotics for the treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infections.

Now, some people you really do need to treat with antibiotics—pregnant women, children, men, those with kidney infections, systemic symptoms like nausea and vomiting. But, for most healthy women, bladder infections just go away on their own, without antibiotics.

So, all the women who drink cranberry juice and have their symptoms disappear may falsely attribute their recovery to the juice. But, when it comes to most UTIs, nothing works! Nothing, in fact, actually works—leading doctors to try to figure out how they can harness the placebo effect for themselves.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

How could any bacteria cause a bladder infection without just getting flushed away, literally? Certainly, if you’re not drinking enough, or men who have prostate enlargement and can’t empty completely, leaving behind a stagnant pool. But, in most people, there should be a constant flow of water through there. Well, bladder infection-causing E. coli evolved these finger-like projections that they use to stick to the walls of the bladder, so they don’t get washed away. 

Almost 30 years ago now, it was demonstrated that if you drip cranberry juice on E. coli, they don’t stick as well. Grape juice doesn’t work, nor does orange or apple juice, or even white cranberry juice made from unripened berries. So, maybe it’s one of the red phytonutrients that’s doing it.

Even if it works in a petri dish, though, we don’t pee cranberry juice. I mean, how do we know that the anti-adherence phytonutrients in cranberries are even absorbed through the gut, so they make it into the bladder? Well, subsequent studies showed that if you drip urine of someone who drank cranberry juice onto E. coli, you get the same anti-stick effect. Ah, well, now we’re getting somewhere.

Here’s the stickiness of strains of E. coli wading in urine from someone drinking water, and here’s their stickiness in the urine of someone drinking cranberry juice. Within hours of consumption, there’s a drop in E. coli stickiness that appears to last throughout much of the day. So, might cranberries really help prevent bladder infections?

Well, the best way to prevent infections is to not get infected in the first place— which may involve the avoidance of chicken, as I’ve already discussed, so you’re not constantly reinfecting yourself. But, if that doesn’t work, if your gut remains stubbornly colonized with these bad bladder bugs, various tested cranberry products appear to reduce the recurrence of bladder infections by about 35%. Not as effective as antibiotics, but cranberries don’t foster antibiotic resistance, and have fewer side effects.

There’s good evidence to suggest that cranberries are effective for prevention, but not as an effective treatment; that makes sense, right? Cranberries prevent the initial adherence, but, that occurs at the start of the infection. When the infection is present, it’s already stuck there. Then, there’s no clinical data to suggest that cranberries are effective in the treatment of urinary tract infections—meaning cranberries don’t work better than placebo. But, placebos work! For example, ibuprofen seems to work just as good as antibiotics for the treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infections.

Now, some people you really do need to treat with antibiotics—pregnant women, children, men, those with kidney infections, systemic symptoms like nausea and vomiting. But, for most healthy women, bladder infections just go away on their own, without antibiotics.

So, all the women who drink cranberry juice and have their symptoms disappear may falsely attribute their recovery to the juice. But, when it comes to most UTIs, nothing works! Nothing, in fact, actually works—leading doctors to try to figure out how they can harness the placebo effect for themselves.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to The Atlantic

Doctor's Note

The reference to poultry as the source of bladder-infecting E. coli is from Avoiding Chicken to Avoid Bladder Infections.

What else can cranberries do? Check out Which Fruit Fights Cancer Better? and Cranberries vs. Cancer.

How can you consume cranberries palatably? Check out my recipe for Pink Juice with Green Foam.

I find it so fascinating that the white berries don’t have same effect. For more on these elusive phytonutrients, see Phytochemicals: The Nutrition Facts Missing from the Label. And, for those doubting the power of plants, see Power Plants.

I discuss the controversy around doctors giving placebos in The Lie that Heals: Should Doctors Give Placebos?

If cranberries are so good at keeping bacteria from sticking to the wall of the bladder, what about keeping bacteria from sticking to other places, like our teeth? That’s the subject of Childhood Tea Drinking May Increase Fluorosis Risk.

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Does Cranberry Juice Work Against Bladder Infections? and Tea & Flouride Risk.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

26 responses to “Can Cranberry Juice Treat Bladder Infections?

Comment Etiquette

On NutritionFacts.org, you'll find a vibrant community of nutrition enthusiasts, health professionals, and many knowledgeable users seeking to discover the healthiest diet to eat for themselves and their families. As always, our goal is to foster conversations that are insightful, engaging, and most of all, helpful – from the nutrition beginners to the experts in our community.

To do this we need your help, so here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

The Short List

To help maintain and foster a welcoming atmosphere in our comments, please refrain from rude comments, name-calling, and responding to posts that break the rules (see our full Community Guidelines for more details). We will remove any posts in violation of our rules when we see it, which will, unfortunately, include any nicer comments that may have been made in response.

Be respectful and help out our staff and volunteer health supporters by actively not replying to comments that are breaking the rules. Instead, please flag or report them by submitting a ticket to our help desk. NutritionFacts.org is made up of an incredible staff and many dedicated volunteers that work hard to ensure that the comments section runs smoothly and we spend a great deal of time reading comments from our community members.

Have a correction or suggestion for video or blog? Please contact us to let us know. Submitting a correction this way will result in a quicker fix than commenting on a thread with a suggestion or correction.

View the Full Community Guidelines

  1. Thank you, Dr. Greger. Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice always worked for me when on the rare occasion I had a bladder infection. They never seemed to return.

  2. I had an interesting experience with cranberry UT prevention. I don’t particularly like the taste so I started taking the cranberry food supplement capsules. One fine day I discovered red spots all over the lower half of my body. Not a rash but red spots had developed as if capillaries leaked just beneath the skin. I called the doctor and he said, “What’s new?”

    I told him about the capsules I had been taking. He advised me to stop taking them, and that each capsule contains the chemistry of a pound of cranberries. He told me that apparently I had set up a cranberry allergy and that I would have to avoid cranberries in the future. The spots went away when I stopped taking them. However they quickly come back if I eat or drink anything with cranberry in it. I have become mostly vegan so I never get the UTI’s anyway.

  3. I had terrible bladder infections a few times per year for 10 years. I often had to go to emergency because of the pain and take antibiotics, of course. The doctors always seemed shocked that I had blood in my urine, and I always tested positive for bacteria even when I didn’t have an infection. I drank cranberry juice off and on for years, the real stuff. About six years ago I got into a phase of drinking very diluted apple cider vinegar every day. This was for a few months. I haven’t had a bladder infection since (6 years and counting), and my urine tests are clear of bacteria. Are there any studies that explain this?

    1. Curious how diluted was your apple cider vinegar drink? My mom who is 86yrs old has been dealing with UTI’s from 5/2012 to present. She has been on numerous antibiotics, some more thn once. They do fine until about 7-8 days after last dose then another UTI pops up. Feel so bad for her that I can’t help her in some way on a natural path. Tried the cranberry juice & pills but they aren’t doing any good. I am at a loss & no faith in the medical field at this point. U can contact me at satynros@aol.com

    2. My dog got a UTI as a puppy and the antibiotics did not help. I tried diluted apple cider vinegar in her food and water and like magic she improved virtually straight away. I used for a few weeks and gradually tapered the vinegar off and the infection has never returned. Would use it again that’s for sure!

  4. I used to get bladder infections pretty regularly and cranberry juice seemed to help but then it stopped working. I then discovered D-mannose ( there is some in cranberries, secret ingredient?) I would take a couple of caps at the first sign and for a day or 2 after – worked for me. I still carry it with me, though I haven’t needed it in quite a while. I wasn’t eating or cooking chicken at the time, mostly vegan diet but too much sugar and peri menopause perhaps. There is no way I could sit around and wait for it to go away on its own, that sucker hurts!

  5. This is so interesting. I have a duplicated ureter and required kidney surgery for a horrible infection when I was 19. I wonder if it didn’t show up before then because I never really ate a lot of chicken? I was vegetarian (but not vegan) at age 19.

    Anyway, this is the same advice my urologist gave me when I was sick, and I pass the same info on to my friends with UTIs looking for treatment. The thing I found that works the best is to drink a lot of water. Since you feel the constant urge to pee, actually having urine in your body makes it a little more comfortable to do so. I haven’t had a UTI treated with antibiotics in years.

  6. Dr Greger, please comment on D-mannose. Are there any studies which show its effectiveness treating UTIs? I have been told it is always effective if the bug is E.coli.

  7. The important factor of a human being can experience is “healthful body”. But, how can we have a healthy living? By eating a nutritious food such as vegetables and fruits. And we also need to drink juices from vegetables & fruits. In extracting liquid needs a machine. What is the best juicer?. Visit: http://www.benefits-of-juicing.net/

  8. Dr. Greger, have you found any studies regarding D-Mannose and UTIs?
    And/or could you comment on cranberry supplement vs. cranberry juice?
    As a healthcare provider, I would like to know how to advise my patients
    regarding preventative medicine. Also, at a low-income community
    health clinic, supplements are cheaper than pure unsweetened cranberry
    juice. Thank you

    1. Hello Molly,
      I can attest to the effectiveness of D-Mannose. I suffered with recurrent UTIs for 17 years and tried everything under the sun including gallons of cranberry juice, gallons of water, cranberry pills, you name it, I tried it. After discovering D-Mannose, I never again needed antibiotics for a UTI and it’s now been ten years since I had one. The best thing about D-Mannose is you can take it as a prophylactic whenever you are in a situation when you might be prone to an infection. You don’t ever have to have another UTI ever again.

    2. HI Molly. Have you clicked on the links in the “doctor’s note? Dr. Greger addresses cranberry juice and UTIs. As far as D-mannose I only see one clinical trial, here.

  9. Bullshit, in my early twenties, after an unsuccessful round of antibiotics to “treat” my UTI, the clinic doctors told me to go across the street to the grocery store and buy two half-gallons of cranberry juice, and drink as much as I could over the next few days. I dunno, a few days later, I was disease and symptom free. Doctors nowadays, giving such advice, would probably be thrown in jail.

  10. Hello, i was looking through the website to see if you had any videos on how to rid candida from your body or videos on candida in general? i’ve suffered from urinary infections and candida for 7 years now, have seen specialists in the uk and they’ve not been able to help, have just said its part of being a woman. I was on a high dosage of Roaccutane for 3 years as a teenager and i believe (through my own research) that this has been the course of my problems. I no longer have a mucus lining through my bladder and have been doing the candida diet to try and rebuild this, but if i deviate even slightly the symptoms come back (but the doctors on locate low candida or small infection in my bladder) even when being very strict on it, the candida still can come back. I would be very interested to hear your take on the candida diet (as they all vary in what you can and can’t eat) and if you think theres anything else i could do? I know so many woman are suffering from the same problems but there is a shame in talking about it.

  11. Dear Dr. Greger and Team,
    I had been eating vegetarian for 10 years but went vegan after reading your book. Last year I had to take 4 antibiotics back to back after UTIs (that weren’t identified properly right away). Since my body wasn’t particularly happy with the antibiotics (surprise), I lost a lot of weight due to stomach/gut issues and became very weak. Milk wasn’t an option anymore because my body suddenly refused it and so I decided it was a good time to change my diet. I slowly got better.
    Unfortunately, my bladder seems pretty harmed by all the infections and antibiotics and I’ve been dealing with bladder pain/interstitial cystitis (IC) for a couple of months now.

    My question:
    IC apparently can’t be cured but diet seems to play a huge role in flare ups. Could you and your team maybe do a video on this topic with the current research? I think this would be particularly interesting in contrast to this bladder infection post since cranberry juice is actually NOT recommended for people with IC.

    Finally I would like to thank you and your team for the amazing work that you are doing. I thouroughly enjoyed reading the book and watching the videos. After simply following doctors orders and ending up properly sick because of it, your book encouraged me to take control of my own health.

  12. Bladder infections are painful so at midnight when I was desperate, I got an idea. I saw your video on the effectiveness of Green Tea vs. mouthwash. I flushed it out instantly with green tea! Totally gone in just minutes! I also drank about 2 TBS of apple cider vinegar and I’m sure that didn’t hurt, but it was clearly the Green Tea that did the trick!

  13. I saw your video on the effectiveness of Green Tea vs. mouthwash. So I flushed out a bladder infection instantly with green tea! Totally gone in just minutes!

  14. Thank you for this wonderful site. I especially like that it has no advertisements. I was wondering if you can do some research regarding interstitial cystitis and diet. I’m sure I was suffering from IC although I was diagnosed as chronic UTI. I was always given antibiotics at the urgent care but at times my cultures were negative. My doctor casually suggested that I could try prelief. While researching prelief online, I came across IC. A lot of people with IC seemed to get relief from eliminating certain foods. So, I started paying more attention to my diet. I figured out that I was sensitive to alcohol, grapefruit, papaya, and beets. I am also sensitive to parabens, which are in monistat which of course I had to use each time I took antibiotics for my UTI’s. I was getting four to five UTI’s per year for about 10 years. It can be quite debilitating. Now, after changing my diet and eliminating parabens, I rarely get a flare up. Thanks again for giving us the tools to help us stay healthy naturally.

  15. Hi,I’m from Brasil, I’ll tell my experience with cranberry.
    I do have a paraplegic female dog who happens to have cronic blader infections, with the bacterias resitent to all antibiotics,cranberry extract is the only thing that somehow controls the infectios not to get really bad to the point of her having blood in the urine, as soon as I see that her urine changes collor, the cranberry extract will work as wonder right away.

  16. Hello, since many years I have bladder infection because I chateter. Many antibiotic don´t worke (resistent). Now I have juice a celery (most important), spinach, salad and carrot. And when I test the urin, the the e-coli bacteria is gone. I have test so many things, but with the time the most natural things don´t work.
    Fresh horseradish in juice works aslo very good in combination.
    Best for you.

  17. Your research may be correct for some, BUT I wasn’t expecting cranberry juice cocktail to work when I started using it. I found that EVERY time I use it within a day of pain with urinating it is totally gone after drinking a whole short bottle each day for 5 days. The pain starts getting better later the first day even. That research may say it is placebo, I think it is not correct for all people. I’ve no need for antibiotics for 5-10 years now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This