Cranberries are one of those natural remedies that come to mind first thing when someone mentions urinary tract infections. Usually, when a recommendation like cranberries for UTIs has passed the test of time, it’s because there is validity to the claim.
So, we can accept that cranberries are good for UTIs, but are they being used in the most effective manner? This particular study put cranberry capsules head to head with an antibiotic regimen for a year in women who suffered with recurrent UTIs.
The results were that the antibiotics were more effective, but within a single month antibiotic resistance was beginning to develop. Keep in mind that the cranberry was effective, just not quite as effective as the antibiotics by a few percentage points.
Now for the important things to consider. First, I am not a fan of using supplements vs the actual juice. Then, it needs to be the real stuff, not the cocktail, sugar laden junk that many buy thinking it’s going to help with their UTIs. I will usually tell patients to down a jar in a day for the strongest effects.
Even better is a two step approach. First, it is actually a non-metabolized sugar called d-mannose that is believed to do the work of the cranberries. So our bodies absorb it, but most of the d-mannose shows up in the urine and has no effect on blood sugar.
E. coli is the most common agent causing UTIs and creates problems when the pili attach to the lining of our urinary tract. When d-mannose is present, however, the E. coli attach to the d-mannose instead of your urinary tract and subsequently gets washed away. So using the d-mannose directly instead of the cranberry juice can be far more effective in managing chronic UTIs.
The other step involves making sure that E. coli does not make it to the opening of the urinary tract (the urethra) in the first place. In a normal female who has never been on antibiotics will have plenty of healthy bacterial flora present to constantly secrete low levels of lactic acid, thus keeping the E. coli from the urethra in the first place.
Ironically, antibiotics may actually increase the risk for UTIs by destroying this normal flora, making it easier for E. coli to make it to the urethra. So, the second step is actually using probiotic douches (preferably with distilled water, if not, then vinegar is ok) daily for a week.
The combination of the d-mannose and probiotic douches will be far more effective than the cranberry juice alone. So, if this study finds that antibiotics are only a little better than cranberry juice, I’d love to see this 2 step approach go head to head with antibiotics.