Cranberry juice for cystitis – what’s the evidence?

Is cranberry juice the go-to for cystitis?

Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
Ask Emma

12 February 2016

Cranberry and cystitis, what’s the story?

Cranberry juice and cystitis have been traditionally linked, but is it all a big myth or is there some convincing evidence behind it all?

Well, perhaps I should start by explaining a little as to how cranberries are thought to work in helping with urinary tract infections (UTI’s). So, many of the pathogenic bacteria that cause UTI’s have little fimbriae (I think of these as little arms with sticky hands on the end!) and unfortunately for us, by putting these to good use, they are able to successfully latch on to the cells lining the inside of your urinary tract. Once attached, the bacteria can do their thing and cause all sorts of chaos – they can multiply, and even work their way up towards your kidneys! This is when it can get serious so really best avoided.

So, where does cranberry come into all of this? Cranberries are thought to contain special structural components which the bacteria are able to mistake for our urinary tract cells. All going well, they can then attach to these instead of us, and can get flushed out of your system when you next go to the loo – ideal!

Cranberry for treating cystitis?

So, how effective is cranberry for treating UTI’s then? A Cochrane Report1 reviewed the bulk of trials in this area and aimed to assess the overall efficacy of cranberry to treat UTI’s. It was concluded that there was no significant evidence available to suggest that that cranberry was effective as a treatment for UTI’s.

Ok, but, what about prevention?

The fact that cranberry may not necessarily treat UTI’s is fine, for one, we recommend our Uva-ursi for helping to relieve the symptoms of cystitis, plus, other research suggests that Cranberry istill has its place and may be effective for preventing infections instead.

A large clinical trial involving 928 adults living in nursing home facilities in the Netherlands found that after taking 500mg cranberry capsules twice daily for a year, participants had a 26% reduction in the incidence of UTI’s compared to the control group2.

Even more pronounced, were the results of another clinical control trial set in Italy. This trial involved 44 participants, all of whom were given lifestyle advice on how to prevent UTI’s, and half also received a cranberry supplement. Results showed that the cranberry group experienced a 73% reduction in the incidence of infections3. In comparison, the group who only received the advice, had only a 15% reduction in their frequency of infections. Further to this, 7 participants (just under 1/3 of those involved) from the cranberry group were symptom-free by the end of the trial, compared to none in the comparison group3.

So, as a result of studies like the ones mentioned above, it looks very likely that there’s sufficient evidence to suggest cranberry is effective in helping to prevent recurrent cystitis infections.

And just to clarify, what about the use of cranberry in terms of treatment? Well as the research suggests, cranberry doesn’t appear to work quite so well as a treatment for UTI’s. And this makes sense. Once the bacteria are established, they’re more stubborn, harder to shift, and this is where our antiseptic herbs come in instead. Uva-ursi, for example, (or in more extreme cases antibiotics) can target the bacteria more specifically as it works as an anti0septic.

Then how does cranberry juice compare to tablets or capsules? Well, in the same Cochrane report as mentioned above1, it was determined that one of the reasons some of the studies weren’t successful was a result of a number of participants dropping out of trials because they didn’t like the taste of cranberry juice. As a result of this, the authors had suggested that tablets or capsules may be more acceptable.

Well, I agree that cranberries naturally have quite a tart flavour – and I also admit that this is a taste sensation that many of our rather feeble taste buds nowadays might struggle to deal with! But, as a result of this, many companies resort to adding lots of sugar to their juices, which I certainly don’t agree with. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your gut and this really contradicts what we’re trying to achieve here. So, tablets are an option, yes, but so is the Biotta Cranberry Juice. In order to overcome the whole sugar / taste dilemma, they’ve added some lovely birch leaf infusion and a tad of agave syrup in order to add a delicious, subtle sweetness.

Now, one last point to make, this same Cochrane report1 also concluded that cranberry was as effective as antibiotics for preventing UTI’s. This is a fantastic result – with the overuse of antibiotics we have all sorts of potential problems cropping up; from the threat of antibiotic resistance to the risk of further upsetting the balance of bacteria in and around your gut! So if we can avoid using antibiotics for issues such as cystitis then it’s definitely a bonus!
So, I think that might just be one more reason to give our Biotta Cranberry Juice a try. Enjoy!


1. Jepsom RG et al. Cranberries for treating urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1998, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001322. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001322 Updated July 20102. Caljouw, MA et al. Effectiveness of cranberry capsules to prevent urinary tract infections in vulnerable older persons: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial in long-term care facilities. J Am Geriar Soc. 2014, 62(1), p103-1103. Ledda A, Bottari A, Luzzi R, et al. Cranberry supplementation in the prevention of non-severe lower urinary tract infections: a pilot study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015, 19(1), p77-80.

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