Wellness

Ask Gerda: Do Cranberries Prevent Urinary Tract Infections?

Ask Gerda: Do Cranberries Prevent Urinary Tract Infections?

Ask Gerda: Do Cranberries Prevent Urinary Tract Infections?

Gerda

Gerda Endemann, our senior director of science and research, has a BS in nutrition from UC Berkeley, a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from MIT, and a passion for cherry-picking from our wellness shop. She spends a lot of her time interpreting research—established and emerging. And our wellness routines thank her for this. (Yours will, too. Send us your own questions for Gerda: [email protected].)

In July 2020, the FDA announced that labels can say: Cranberry juice or supplements may help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). This is a big deal, because the FDA rarely allows claims that diet or supplements could prevent a medical condition.

However, the FDA wasn’t wholehearted about the relationship between cranberry and UTIs. Here’s the wording it approved: “Consuming one serving (8 oz) each day of a cranberry juice beverage may help reduce the risk of recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI) in healthy women. FDA has concluded that the scientific evidence supporting this claim is limited and inconsistent.” Limited and inconsistent evidence? It’s not obvious what this means to the average person wanting to prevent UTIs.

For most of my adult life, I thought that emptying the bladder before and after intercourse was the gold standard for preventing UTIs. It had seemed to work for me since my twenties. When I was on a camping trip at the Bay of Fundy, I developed an unbearable UTI—but then aren’t they all? The doctor in the clinic asked if we were camping. He explained that bladder infections are common when camping since people avoid getting out of a nice warm tent to find a bathroom. He said all I had to do was pee after sex and I’d be set. What was also amazing: This advice—and the blessed antibiotic he gave me—was free. No insurance, no hassle, we love Canada.

But when another member of our team thoroughly researched UTIs for an article in our goop PhD series, she found that we do not have good evidence that peeing after sex is a cure-all. Perhaps something to do, but it isn’t known to work for everyone.

One thing that has been associated with lower rates of UTIs is drinking enough water, maybe because of more-frequent urination. You won’t want to drink water if it doesn’t taste good and doesn’t seem clean. The solution to that is reverse-osmosis-purified water that is delicious, and for that, the AquaTru countertop purifier is a perfect option. Keep the water clean and appealing in the Larq Self-Cleaning Bottle, which treats the water every two hours with
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UTIs are some of the most common bacterial infections, especially in women, and are of increasing concern because of increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics. And these infections very commonly recur.

It makes sense that cranberries could prevent UTIs, because they contain proanthocyanidins that can keep bacteria from attaching to the bladder. The proanthocyanidins in cranberries have a unique structure that appears to be better at blocking bacteria than proanthocyanidins in other foods, like chocolate and green tea.

The FDA evaluated five studies on cranberry juice and three on supplements. Some studies found that cranberry helped prevent UTIs, and some studies did not. Did results vary because the studies used different kinds of cranberry products or because cranberry affects different people differently? We don’t know. A couple of studies reported significant benefits for children. It’s likely that some people may benefit from consuming cranberries, and some may not—and we don’t know how to predict this.

For adults, a good daily dose appears to be eight ounces or a little more of a cranberry drink, which typically contains around 27 percent cranberry juice. In supplements, aim for 500 milligrams of cranberry or 36 to 72 milligrams of proanthocyanidins. One of our favorite herbal supplement companies, Gaia, makes a vegan capsule with organic cranberry concentrate.

Bottom line: Load up on the cranberry sauce and drink a glass of water after each glass of wine.

(And of course, as always, consult your doctor about any medical condition, such as a UTI.)

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.

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