Cranberry Capsules vs. Juice: Which Is Better For Preventing UTIs?

More than 3 million Americans – mostly women – experience a urinary tract infection each year. Often, the first thing patients do is reach for the cranberry juice in their pantry (or head to the store to buy some). A urinary tract infection, or “UTI”, is usually an infection of the bladder, however in more serious cases the kidneys can become infected as well (this is called pyelonephritis). The most common cause of UTIs in women is E. coli, which is a type of bacteria normally found in the GI tract. Although cranberry juice will not directly treat a UTI, research has shown that cranberries can make urine more acidic and help prevent E. coli from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, reducing the likelihood of infection. The question is, is cranberry juice really the best way to take cranberries?

Studies have pointed out that due to the added sugars and water that dilute the cranberry juice, cranberry capsules are a more effective alternative. In fact, it turns out that the active ingredient in cranberries that helps prevent E. coli from turning into an infection may not even be present in cranberry juice! A cranberry capsule is much more concentrated, and is the equivalent of drinking nearly 28 ounces of juice, which is why we recommend them to our patients.

These capsules can be found at almost any grocery store. Cranberry supplements should not be used to treat an infection, but can be taken regularly to help prevent the development of a urinary tract infection, especially in women who are more prone to developing UTIs. Women who are at increased risk for developing infections include those who experience urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, fecal incontinence, or other anatomic changes that can lower the threshold for developing an infection. UTIs should be treated based on symptoms and urine culture results.

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