To cranberry or not to cranberry
If you’ve ever had a UTI chances are that someone on the internet or in real life has recommended chugging cranberry juice to make it go away. But is that actually effective? To get to the bottom of this, we sat down with Cheeky Bonsai medical advisor and Harvard urogynecologist, Dr. Emily Von Bargen, who shed some light on the whole cranberry fixation.
“It depends on the type of cranberry you’re using,” Dr. Von Bargen says. “We actually recommend avoiding cranberry juice because it’s high in sugar and very low in the amount of cranberry. You want to try to have the purest form of cranberry, which is not found in juices.” OK, so pure cranberry: good, cranberry juice: not so good. Feel free to go cranberry crazy over Thanksgiving, but don’t drop cranberry juice in the cart the next time you feel a UTI coming on.
So, why cranberries at all though? There’s actually a very good reason. “Cranberry produces this enzyme, this byproduct that prevents bacteria from attaching to the lining of the bladder,” Says Dr. Von Bargen. “It’s similar to D-mannose, which is also in the Cheeky Bonsai UTI Drink Mix.” D-mannose is a type of sugar that similarly prevents bacteria from attaching to the bladder lining. And what’s really great about both cranberry and D-mannose is that they are all natural. “They have some really promising health benefits for the bladder.” Especially if you’re someone who suffers from recurring UTIs, natural remedies can be a lifesaver when repeat rounds of antibiotics are beginning to cause more problems than solutions.
“UTIs can go away on their own,” Dr. Von Bargen says. “A lot of women’s fear is that it's going to go up and affect the kidneys, but that’s pretty rare. There are cases where women are able to get rid of the UTI on their own so they don’t always need antibiotics.” A study published by the journal of Translational Andrology and Urology states that “by some estimates, 25 - 42 percent of uncomplicated UTI infections clear on their own.” UTIs don’t need to be treated unless they are symptomatic, meaning burning, pain, blood in urine or frequent urination. To curb a mild UTI without antibiotics Dr. Von Bargen recommends drinking lots of fluids. “You’re trying to cleanse the urinary tract,” she says. “The best treatment for a UTI that’s symptomatic is going to be antibiotics, but not all UTIs need to be treated and definitely if a woman is not symptomatic, it doesn’t need to be treated.”
So, how do you know when it’s time to go to your doctor versus treat the UTI yourself? “Women know their bodies so well,” Dr. Von Bargen says. “Especially women who get recurrent UTIs. They kind of get the sense of whether or not it’s a low grade UTI where they can drink enough liquids to flush out their system and it will go away. But, if you’re having blood in your urine or other significant symptoms, that’s unlikely to go away with just hydration. It will make you feel better to stay really hydrated, but if you’re uncomfortable you’ll probably want to do the quickest thing and that’s going to be an antibiotic.”
To wrap everything we learned; cranberry in its purest form is good for preventing and helping to treat UTIs, but cranberry juice or cocktail isn’t going to do much. Options such as the Cheeky Bonsai UTI Drink Mix which combines cranberry with D-mannose and electrolytes for hydration is a much better as a preventative measure as well as to help flush out low grade UTIs. If you have severe symptoms you should consult your doctor about whether you need to take antibiotics. The bottom line is that we are the only ones who truly know our bodies, and we need to listen to them. If you struggle with recurrent low grade UTIs there are options and strategies out there that don’t involve constant antibiotics, but as with anything it's a process of trial and error to find what works best for you. It can be extremely frustrating, but as Dr. Von Bargen says, “UTIs are very common.” Lots of women struggle with them and no one needs to feel ashamed or isolated while taking care of their everyday health.