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Which juice is best for urinary tract infection?

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are incredibly common, affecting around 60% of women at some point in their lives. While antibiotics are usually needed to clear up an infection, some research shows that certain juices may help prevent or treat UTIs when consumed alongside conventional treatments.

In this article, we’ll explore the science behind using juices to combat UTIs. We’ll also provide a comparison of the most common juices touted for UTI relief and prevention, including cranberry, blueberry, pineapple, and lemon juice.

What causes UTIs?

UTIs occur when bacteria, most often E. coli from the digestive tract, enter the urinary tract and begin to multiply. The urinary tract includes the urethra, bladder, ureters, and kidneys. While bacteria can reach the bladder a few different ways, the most common cause of infection is when bacteria enter the urethra and travel up to the bladder.

Some factors that can increase UTI risk include:

  • Being female – women have a shorter urethra making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Using a diaphragm for birth control
  • Menopause
  • Urinary catheters
  • Bowel incontinence
  • A suppressed immune system
  • Kidney stones
  • A structural problem in the urinary tract

Once bacteria colonize the bladder, they can cause uncomfortable symptoms like:

  • A strong and persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Cloudy, strong-smelling, and even bloody urine
  • Pelvic pain or pressure

How could juice help prevent or treat UTIs?

Some juices contain compounds that may make it harder for bacteria like E. coli to adhere to the lining of the urinary tract. Without the ability to adhere, bacteria may get flushed out before they can multiply and cause an infection. The juices with the most scientific support for combating UTIs are discussed below:

Cranberry juice

Cranberry juice has long been a go-to natural remedy for urinary tract health. Cranberries contain A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs), which prevent E. coli from adhering to the cells that line the urinary tract. PACs accomplish this by inhibiting P-fimbriae, tiny projections on E. coli that allow them to bind.

However, the amount of actual cranberry juice in most store-bought cranberry juices and cocktails is diluted and loaded with sugar. To get an effective PAC concentration, you’ll want to look for unsweetened cranberry juice or cranberry juice concentrate. According to research, drinking about 8 ounces of concentrated cranberry juice daily may help prevent recurrent UTIs.

Blueberry juice

Like cranberries, blueberries are rich in PACs that can disrupt E. coli adhesion in the urinary tract. Early lab research indicates blueberry PACs may be even more potent at preventing bacterial adherence than cranberry PACs. However, large-scale human studies are still needed.

Pineapple juice

Some research indicates that bromelain, an enzyme naturally found in pineapples, could help prevent UTIs. Bromelain may assist in breaking down the sticky proteins that allow E. coli to attach to urinary tract tissues. Studies show bromelain supplements can reduce UTI risk when taken regularly.

However, there isn’t research specifically on pineapple juice for UTI prevention yet. The bromelain content of juice may be lower and less concentrated compared to supplements. But pineapple juice may still provide some protective benefits.

Lemon juice

The high acid content in lemon juice creates an acidic environment that discourages bacterial growth. Some claim drinking lemon water regularly can help prevent UTIs by stopping bacteria from proliferating in the urinary tract. However, there’s limited studies to support using lemon juice to specifically prevent UTIs.

Juice comparison

Here’s a table summarizing some key points to compare the most researched juices for UTI prevention and treatment:

Juice Key compound Research support for UTI prevention Other possible UTI-fighting benefits
Cranberry Proanthocyanidins (PACs) Strong evidence when concentrated juice used May reduce UTI symptom severity
Blueberry Proanthocyanidins (PACs) Limited evidence – more research needed May have more potent PACs than cranberries
Pineapple Bromelain Limited evidence for juice specifically May reduce E. coli adhesion
Lemon Acidity Very limited evidence Can create acidic environment to discourage bacterial growth

Other tips for preventing UTIs with juices

Here are some other tips to maximize the UTI-fighting potential of juices:

  • Drink juice daily as a preventive method, rather than waiting until you have a UTI.
  • Look for unsweetened or low-sugar varieties to limit sugar intake.
  • Drink juices cold to provide a diuretic effect that flushes out bacteria.
  • Avoid juices high in citric acid like orange and grapefruit juice if you have a UTI, as the acidity can irritate the bladder.
  • Combine juices with probiotics to support healthy urinary tract bacteria.
  • Drink plenty of water in addition to juice to dilute urine and keep flushing bacteria out of the urinary tract.

Are juices enough to treat a UTI?

While juices may help prevent UTIs, juices alone are likely not enough to treat an active infection. Bacteria multiply very quickly once a UTI takes hold, so antibiotics are usually needed to clear the infection fully and prevent complications like kidney infection.

However, turning to juices when taking antibiotics may help shorten the duration of symptoms and prevent the infection from recurring. Always check with your doctor before making any changes to your UTI treatment plan.

When to see a doctor

See a doctor promptly if you have any symptoms of a UTI like burning urination, pelvic pain, or increased frequency and urgency of urination. While juices may help keep minor UTIs from recurring, they should not be used to self-treat an active infection.

It’s especially crucial to get medical treatment if you have:

  • A high fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Back or side pain
  • Chills and shaking

These symptoms could indicate the infection has reached the kidneys. Kidney infections can be very dangerous if left untreated.

Seek emergency care right away if you:

  • Begin vomiting and unable to keep any fluids down
  • Have pain so severe it hurts to walk or sit up
  • See blood or pus in your urine
  • Experience confusion, delirium, or fainting

These signs could mean the kidney infection is life-threatening and needs urgent treatment.

The bottom line

Research suggests drinking certain unsweetened juices like cranberry, blueberry, pineapple, and lemon juice may help prevent recurrent UTIs when used alongside conventional treatments. Cranberry juice has the strongest evidence so far. However, juices cannot treat active infections on their own.

Speak to your doctor to see if drinking UTI-fighting juices could be a beneficial natural add-on to your treatment plan. But always get medical attention for any suspected UTI, as prompt antibiotic treatment is crucial for clearing the infection.