Who doesn’t love a nice refreshing glass of cranberry juice on a warm day? Or a heaping spoon of cranberry sauce with Thanksgiving dinner? It’s crisp, yet sweet, with a touch of tang. Cranberries really have a lot going for them. Luckily, they’re also packed with all sorts of nutrients that are good for us. You may have even heard that drinking cranberry juice is a good way to fight off the all too common UTI (urinary tract infection). Here, we dig into this power-packed fruit to find out how to get the most benefit from it.
History Of The Cranberry
We’ve been eating cranberries for a long time. Native Americans often used them to treat urinary and kidney issues. Thanks to their high level of Vitamin C, cranberries kept scurvy away for many European sailors. The first evidence of cranberry juice being recommended by doctors to treat common bacterial UTI’s is found in the 1920’s. Back then, doctors thought that the cranberry juice created an environment so acidic that bacteria could not live. This meant that the bacteria died off and was flushed from the body, clearing up the infection. Though, more recent studies show that’s not quite the way things work.
Turns out, cranberries contain something called proanthocyanidins, also known as PACs. PACs are the key to the health benefits found in cranberries. These little guys activate when they interact with our bodies and may help with:
- Reducing incidence of certain infections
- Promoting heart health
- Protecting the urinary tract
- Decreasing inflammation associated with chronic disease and aging
- Supporting digestive health
For the bladder, specifically, PACs may prevent E. Coli from being able to stick to the walls of the bladder. If the bacteria can’t stick, it can’t grow and turn into an infection, which can cause incontinence. But, that doesn’t mean cranberries can treat an active infection. They’re more likely to heelp in preventing infections. However, is a glass of cranberry juice a day enough to keep the doctor away?
Getting The Best Cranberry Bang For Your Buck
Over the years, we’ve come up with many ways to eat and drink cranberries. Pure juice, juice cocktails, jams/jellies, dehydrated cranberry, and cranberry supplements just for starters. So, which is best if you’re looking for a little help with supporting your bladder health?
Sweetened Cranberry Products
There have been several studies conducted around cranberry juice and its effects on bladder health. Some say that drinking an 8 ounce glass of cranberry juice every day is enough to help reduce the occurrence of frequent UTI’s. Other studies have claimed that cranberry juice doesn’t have a high enough concentration of PACs to have a significant effect on bladder health. If you can find 100% pure cranberry juice, you definitely get a higher level of those coveted good-for-you nutrients. The trouble with cranberry juices, jams and jellies is that they often contain a lot of added sugars and that can actually worsen a UTI.
When you eat a whole, raw cranberry you are certainly getting a higher concentration of PACs than you would in a juice or jam. Eating whole fruits is a great way to gain all of the health benefits that food can offer. The catch here is that cranberries aren’t the tastiest fruit at the market. There’s a reason that most cranberry food products are laden with sugars. The fruit, in its purest form, has a very bitter, sour, unripe taste. If you enjoy that flavor profile enough to eat a handful of fresh cranberries every day, this might be a good option for you.
Dried, powdered cranberries in pill form make up cranberry supplements. This option delivers the highest concentration of all of the healthy things we love cranberries for. Since there are no added sugars and pills are swallowed whole you avoid the pitfalls of drinking the juice or eating the whole fruit. Does this make supplements the holy grail of cranberry products? Maybe yes, maybe no. Luckily, you’ll be able to try them for yourself soon when Lily Bird introduces them.
What To Watch For
For those sensitive to salicylic acid (a natural anti-inflammatory compound, used in aspirin) taking a cranberry supplement may cause some distress. For those with a history of kidney stones, there is evidence that high levels of cranberry can increase the risk of developing more. There is also potential for a cranberry supplement to interact with certain blood-thinning drugs. As with any other supplement, it is best to talk to a doctor first.
Choosing A Supplement
If you and your doc have decided that supplements are the way to go for you – the next step is to pick the right one. Some are made from dried cranberry juice. Others use dried cranberry skins, leftover from the juicing process. Sometimes you can even find supplements that are made from the whole berry. Each piece of the berry (skin, juice, and seeds) have different nutrients that combine to make the cranberry a super fruit. With that in mind, a supplement that uses the whole fruit is considered the best option. Dosages also vary with different supplements, so you’ll want to look for an option that gives you at least 36 milligrams of PACs per day. As with anything you eat or drink, make sure to check that label!
To Berry Or Not To Berry
With one in five women suffering from recurrent UTI’s that require antibiotics to treat, the need for prevention is huge. Especially since we’ve learned that repeated use of antibiotics can lead to strains of infection that are resistant to the drugs and can cause major illness. If you’re looking for a way to boost your bladder health in a natural way, cranberries are absolutely worth looking into.
Been looking for a cranberry supplement that has some extra added goodness just for your bladder? We’ll have just the thing for you soon! With cranberry and a couple other good guys that promote bladder health, our newest product will be just the magical* friend your bladder was looking for. Click here to add yourself to the waiting list.
*Real magic not included.
By Catherine Rodrigues