Are Cranberries an Effective Treatment for Urinary Tract Infections?

I've had several urinary tract infections (UTIs) over the last year. How can I prevent UTIs and does cranberry juice actually work?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in the urinary system caused by bacteria entering the urethra and travelling up to the bladder. If the infection is not treated, there is a risk that it could spread to the kidneys and cause lasting damage.


UTIs don’t always cause symptoms. When it does, your symptoms may include:

  • A strong urge to urinate that doesn’t go away
  • A burning feeling when urinating
  • Urinating often, and passing small amounts of urine
  • Urine that looks cloudy
  • Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored — all potential signs of blood in the urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain in women, especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone

Depending on the exact location of the infection in the urinary tract system, symptoms may be different. In older adults, UTIs may be overlooked or mistaken for other conditions.

Recurrent Infections

Since a woman’s urethra is shorter than a man’s, it’s easier for bacteria to reach a woman’s bladder. All women are at risk of UTIs, and some may find they have an average of two-to-three infections per year. Recurrent UTI’s are troublesome and can impact your quality of life and sexual health. If this is a concern for you, speak with your health care provider as they may recommend a preventative treatment.

Treatment and Prevention

If you suspect you have a UTI, see your health provider right away. They may recommend taking an antibiotic for five to seven days. Even if your symptoms improve quickly, it is important to continue taking the antibiotic until the end of the prescribed treatment to prevent the infection from returning.

If you do not feel any better after two days on the antibiotic, or develop new pain in your back, fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting, seek medical attention to rule out a kidney infection. You may require additional treatment.

To help lower your risk of contracting a UTI, drink plenty of fluids (especially water) so you urinate regularly. Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge to urinate. As urine flows, it flushes out any bacteria that may have spread into the urethra. Other tips are to empty your bladder after sexual intercourse or change birth control methods if certain products lead to irritation or discomfort.

What About Cranberries?

You might have heard that eating cranberries, taking a supplement, or drinking cranberry juice is a natural and safe option for preventing or treating UTIs. Cranberries should not be used to treat UTIs. While cranberries are a popular remedy, the research on whether they have any effect is mixed, especially when you already have an infection. Also, cranberry juice contains sugar and additional calories that are not helpful if you are concerned about your weight or sugar intake.

If you are taking any medication, especially anticoagulants, talk to your pharmacist before consuming any cranberry products.

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How ASEBP Supports You

ASEBP’s Extended Health Care benefits provide coverage for a range of antibiotics to treat UTIs. If you also have our Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), you have four cost-free hours of support each year. Use these hours to speak with a registered nurse for additional information on how to prevent UTIs.

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