If you are among the 50 to 60 percent of women who suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs), then you can say goodbye to the antibiotics, as cranberry juice comes to the rescue. A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking an 8-ounce (240 ml) glass of cranberry juice a day reduces symptomatic UTIs by nearly 40 percent in women with recurrent infections.

The researchers from Boston University believe that cranberry juice could help ease the widespread dependency on antibiotics in treating recurrent UTIs, and tackle the growing issue of antibiotic resistance. They further note that these findings may offer relief and significantly improve the quality of life for women who suffer from UTI symptoms, such as a strong, persistent urge to urinate or a burning sensation when urinating.

Antibiotics are not the answer

To find out whether UTI sufferers could be protected from a recurrent infection, Dr. Kalpana Gupta and her team analysed 373 healthy middle-aged women who had all gone through at least two UTIs in the previous year.

During the 24-week trial, the participants were randomly chosen to drink a daily one cup dose of either cranberry juice or a “placebo” drink without cranberries. The researchers found that the rate of recurrent infections reduced significantly among the cranberry juice drinkers. They reported 39 UTI diagnoses in the cranberry group compared with 67 in the placebo group.

“Currently the primary approach to reducing symptomatic events of UTI is the use of chronic antibiotics for suppression, an approach associated with side effects and development of antibiotic resistance. This study shows that consuming one 8-ounce (240 ml) glass of cranberry juice a day reduces the number of times women suffer from repeat episodes of symptomatic UTI and avoids chronic suppressive antibiotics,” said Dr. Gupta, infectious disease specialist and Professor of Medicine at Boston University’s School of Medicine.

Prevention is better than a cure

According to the American Urological Association, some 150 million UTIs occur annually worldwide. Up to 60 percent of all women will suffer a UTI in their lifetime; for 25 percent of these women, the infection will come back.

Antibiotics are usually the first line of treatment for women who suffer from UTIs on a regular basis. Unfortunately, over-prescription of antibiotics is leading to increased antibiotic resistance, and it is therefore far better to prevent UTIs through the daily consumption of cranberry juice.

Cranberries house a unique combination of compounds, including Type-A PACs (or proanthocyanidins), which prevent bacteria from attaching to cells in the lining of the bladder and causing infection.

It is also noteworthy that another recently published article reported on a new class of compounds, xyloglucan oligosaccharides, which show similar anti-bacterial properties against E. coli, a common gut bacteria, and one of the primary causes of UTIs.

These two unique compounds can be found in a myriad of cranberry products, ranging from fresh cranberries and cranberry juice, to dried berries and cranberry extracts, though it should be noted that the bulk of all the research on cranberries and UTIs have used cranberry juice.

“The key to cranberry’s benefit is consuming a glass daily to help avoid the infection altogether,” said Dr. Gupta. “Most people wait to drink cranberry juice until they have a UTI, but once the symptoms start they’ll likely need a course of antibiotics.”