Many people have heard that if you begin to experience the symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), you should begin to drink large amounts of cranberry juice because it will help rid the infection. Many people wonder, is this myth or fact? Actually, it is a little of both.
You may have heard about cranberry juice helping with UTIs before, but you may not even know the symptoms of a UTI. The most common symptoms include pain or burning with urination, an urgent need to urinate, urinating more frequently than what is normal for you, not making it to the toilet and leaking urine on the way, back ache, fevers, or chills.
Cranberries contain a component that helps to prevent bacteria from adhering to the wall of the bladder. These are called proanthocyanidins (PACs). In order to ingest enough PACs by drinking cranberry juice, you would have to drink juice by the gallons! We recommend patients find cranberry extract pills over the counter that have more than 36 mg of PACs noted on the label. Sometimes this is not noted on the label, so look for greater than 400 mg of cranberry extract. We recommend that patients take these supplements twice daily as the concentration of PACs decreases throughout the day. By taking the supplement in the morning and evening, the level of PACs is maintained throughout the day.
Studies have shown mixed reviews on whether cranberry extract pills are effective in preventing UTIs. For this reason, we recommend over-the-counter cranberry extract to patients who suffer from frequent UTIs (3 or more per year). Cranberry extract should NOT be used to treat an infection if it is already present. It should only be used to prevent infections from starting. If you believe that you currently have an infection, you should call your primary care provider to be seen and leave a urine sample.
If you have questions about taking any over-the-counter supplementation, you should always consult your healthcare provider first. He or she will be able to lead you in the right direction on whether that supplement is appropriate for you.