New Research Suggests Cranberry Juice Doesn't Actually Help UTIs, Despite What Everyone Ever Has Told You

If you've ever had a Urinary Tract Infection, you know first-hand just how painful and frustrating the experience can be. For literal decades, the advice for treating UTIs has been the same: Drink cranberry juice. Or buy cranberry capsules. Or roll around in a cranberry bog and hope for the best. Basically, whether the advice was coming from your mother, your co-worker, or even your doctor, it included cranberries in some way, because it's been so widely believed that consuming cranberry helped both prevent and treat UTIs. According to recent research, however, this approach is basically debunked. That's right: When you feel familiar UTI symptoms coming on, running to the store for some pure cranberry juice might only give you a placebo effect.

If you are lucky enough not to experience UTIs, or you aren't entirely certain what the symptoms are, here's a quick review. According to the Mayo Clinic, common UTI symptoms include: a strong, persistent urge to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, pelvic pain (particularly in women), urine that appears cloudy or has an increased odor, and urine that appears pink or red (which signals there might be blood in your urine). UTIs can occur in both men and women, and in any age group, though they're particularly common in women. It's also possible to have a UTI but not experience symptoms, or to experience rarer symptoms such as back pain, fever, and vomiting.

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This new research, which appears in the Oct. 2016 version of the Journal of American Medical Association, has some pretty serious results: according to study researchers, healthcare professionals who suggest that patients simply consume cranberry, such as juice or capsules, to prevent UTIs are literally doing them a disservice. This is a huge change from the common thought that chugging some cranberry juice or popping a fill cranberry capsules will get you back into good health in no time.

So, where is this big shift coming from? Well, study researchers used a sample group of 147 older women in a nursing home and the process was simple: All women would take two capsules per day, seemingly of cranberry. Some of the women actually received cranberry capsules, while the other half received placebo pills (meaning they did not contain any cranberry). So, what were the results?

As explained over at Delish, "the number of women with laboratory evidence of infection — bacteria and white blood cells in their urine — varied during the study but averaged about 29 percent overall in both groups." Now, if the cranberry capsules had been doing their job, more women who had been taking the placebo pill should have shown signs of the UTI than women who were taking the actual cranberry capsules.

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Since we see first hand that cranberry doesn't seem to do a thing when it comes to preventing UTIs, it's super important that we all get to the doctor and get actual treatment, such as an antibiotic, instead of trying to medicate at home with cranberry juice from the local grocery store. While cranberries do have plenty of health benefits, it's important to seek professional medical care whenever you're experiencing concerning symptoms, and as this study shows, cranberry is not effective on its own in UTI prevention or treatment.

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