UTI’s are a type infection caused by bacteria entering and taking hold inside your urinary system. Your urinary system involves the kidneys, two ureters (the tubes from your kidney’s to your bladder), your bladder, and the urethra (the tube from your bladder to the opening of where the urine comes out). The most common type of infection is caused by E-coli bacteria (Escherichia coli). Most of these bacteria are thought to come from fecal matter. Since most women’s urethra are closer to the anus than with males, women are more likely than men to get infections- about 1 in 3 women will have a UTI before the age of 24. For comparison’s sake, only about 1 in 2000 men will have a UTI in that same span.
There are many types of E-coli bacteria, most are harmless and some are beneficial, helping with the production of vitamin K, which helps with bone and heart health. The ones that cause UTI’s have Fimbriae on them. These little hair-like structures allow the bacteria to attach to cells within the urinary system. Once there, they begin to propagate and form a biofilm that allows the infection to begin.
Originally, it was believed that cranberry juice might be effective against UTIs because it made the urine more acidic, creating a hostile environment for bacteria. That has since been disproved and the latest theory suggests cranberries contain certain sugars and flavanol compounds that stop bacteria from sticking to cells that line the bladder, so preventing infections.
Laboratory tests carried out in Canada in 2013 show cranberry powder made from whole cranberries had some success in fighting a bacterium known as proteus mirabilis that commonly causes UTIs. The problem is that these tests were carried out in a lab and not on humans, so it’s not certain that the same results would apply to people. But even if cranberry juice doesn’t help much or at all with preventing UTI’s directly, drinking more fluids when you have a UTI is helpful for flushing out bacteria and the Proanthocyanidins and Flavonols in cranberry juice may well help a bit in that process, it just won’t specifically cure the infection. Also, drinking cranberry juice is quite good for you outside of UTIs. Several studies have shown that those infamous Flavonols in the juice might be helpful in preventing cancer, among other health benefits of drinking the juice.
People used to think that cranberry worked for urinary tract infections by making the urine acidic and, therefore, unlikely to support the growth of bacteria. But researchers don’t believe this explanation any more. They now think that some of the chemicals in cranberries keep bacteria from sticking to the cells that line the urinary tract where they can multiply. Cranberry, however, does not seem to have the ability to release bacteria which are already stuck to these cells.
This may explain why cranberry is possibly effective in preventing urinary tract infections, but possibly ineffective in treating them.
The debate continues on whether cranberry juice is effective or not but the health benefits of having cranberry juice cannot be overlooked.