Cranberries and cystitis – can they really help?

So what is true about diet and cystitis?

Unfortunately a lot of this evidence is anecdotal.  There isn’t much scientific evidence to back it all up I’m sorry to say.What health professionals are confident about is that eating a well-balanced diet should help to keep the immune system strong so as the body can fight infection.

Cranberries have been given the thumbs up for many years in terms of helping to combat cystitis and urinary tract infections (UTI’s) but why is this and how true is it?  Cranberries are rich in antioxidants called proanthocyanidins, which some studies suggest may stop bacteria from attaching to the lining of the bladder and urethra, meaning they are easily washed away.

However….on review of these studies, they are small in numbers and only show a small trend towards fewer UTI’s when people took cranberry products, such as capsules or tablets, compare to those who didn’t.  Cranberry juice also showed no significant benefit in preventing UTI’s.

Bigger studies are needed in the future to be able to positively recommend cranberries for the prevention of cystitis and UTI’s and so the routine use of cranberry juice or products is not recommended to treat these infections.  The exact dose needed to obtain any benefits is currently unclear and potentially individual responses vary.

Pointers (other than cranberries) to help prevent cystitis and UTI’s…

  1. Stay well hydrated – drinking at least 10 – 12 cups (200ml) of fluid a day and limiting alcohol will help to keep hydrated.
  2. If you are including cranberries as part of your diet, they do count towards one of your five a day and also provide Vitamin C, antioxidants and fibre, so they’re still worth including in your diet. Stick to just one glass (150ml) of cranberry juice per day to prevent overloading on fruit sugars (fructose) and putting your teeth at risk of decay.
  3. Vary your diet as much as possible by adding lots of different types of fruits and vegetables to help maximise antioxidant intake.