Q. Do you have any information about remedies for urinary tract infections (UTI) other than antibiotics? What about cranberry juice?

A. Cranberry juice is a time-honored folk remedy for preventing or treating UTI. The science, on the other hand, is quite confusing.

An analysis of ten different controlled trials concluded that there is some evidence cranberry juice or pills prevent recurrent UTIs (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2008. Issue 1).

The most recent study did not find a difference between cranberry juice and a look-alike, cranberry-flavored placebo beverage (Clinical Infectious Diseases, Jan. 1, 2011). The authors were surprised, however, that women in both arms of the trial had only half as many infections as anticipated. They speculate that the placebo might accidentally have contained the infection-fighting ingredient in cranberries.

Readers of this column report that cranberry pills have been helpful: “I was having frequent UTIs when a friend suggested taking a 500 mg capsule of cranberry daily. I haven’t had a UTI in the two years since then.”

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  1. C. Lennek

    My husband has had several bouts of bladder infections over the years. The urologist just put him on a low-dose anti-biotic plus a cranberry pill called Theracran. I believe this pill is herbal and I am concerned as he takes several medications and I have heard that herbals do not mix well with medications. Do you know anything about this?

  2. mc

    I have recently taken a teaspoon or slightly less of baking soda in 8 oz. of water and was able to nip an oncoming UTI in the bud. I also made sure to drank lots of water until I was sure the danger had passed.
    Good luck!

  3. Alex R.

    A magazine from Whole Foods focused on alternative medicine I read some years ago discussed a natural cure for UTIs other than cranberry juice. The authors swore that within a few hours the problem would be gone, and they explained why. It was something really simple like a tablespoon of sugar or vinegar or what??? At the time, I thought I’d “remember” the cure if I ever had one. Now, I can neither remember the cure nor the name of the magazine. And I have one! Does anybody have any suggestions for the name of the magazine or this other remedy? Cranberry juice is not working for me.

  4. Barbara W.

    I take pills every day of my life because I’ve had so many flare-ups. AND if I get the
    beginnings of one, I take 8 pills and it simmers right down.
    A friend once said, “I think I’ve got a UTI.” Boy, I KNOW when I’ve the inklings of one!
    AND the advice from a urologist was, “Go to the bathroom every hour.” I was a psychotherapist in a hospital and worked through the morning without and again through the afternoon with no bathroom breaks. I needed the advice!

  5. Rhonda

    I saw on Dr. Oz recently that a bit of horseradish twice a day fights infection. I used to have a chronic case so I took Macrobid for years. I’ve just found little things to do daily to prevent them. Staying hydrated is one big thing… Which is probably why people think cranberry juice helps so well. Hope this helps it is a miserable feeling.

  6. dp

    Cranberry juice as purchased doesn’t work for me, but the concentrate, diluted as per instructions-1 part concentrate to 5 parts water- works every time. As we become woman of a certain age our parts descend. Maybe this contributes to frequent UTI’s. Symptoms for me: more urgency and very frequent bathroom trips. A couple of days of concentrate, and everything goes back to normal.
    Have not tried the tablets. Use the sweetened berries in cooking and snacking but they don’t seem to prevent the infections. Purchase the concentrate at a health food market. Refrigerate after opening.

  7. Cindy B.

    I used to have frequent UTI’s as a teenager/young adult. I take a cranberry supplement every day and haven’t had a UTI for at least 25 years now. I attribute this to the supplement, for sure.

  8. Becky

    Cranberry juice is a miracle cure. I used to be prone to bladder infections. I would run to whole foods and buy pure cranberry juice, it tastes terrible, but you don’t care because it relieves the pain immediately. I would guzzle the bottle. As soon as it hit the bladder, which does not take long, it gave instant relief.

  9. CAR

    For some time I was having urinary tract infections & saw a gynecologist-urologist & got real help. A great combo for women’s UTI’s. I have been doing the cranberry pills & drinking a glass of cranberry juice each PM & haven’t had a recurrence of the infection. It’s helped me.

  10. Mary

    The cranberry pills help, I think. When I stopped them because I didn’t think they were doing much, my bladder infection got worse. Craisens help a lot –
    I put 1/3 cup of them in a bowl and nibble on them throughout the day.

  11. MC

    My best home remedy for a UTI is to drink a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of water. You need to do this as soon as you can once you feel the UTI coming on. I also try to drink as much water as I can until I’m sure the danger has passed. I have been on the cusp of two UTIs over the past year and the baking soda did the trick both times.

  12. rw

    I have used cranberry juice for years and it has been successful and unsuccessful. It requires a lot of juice and discipline. I have had better luck with cran-actin supplement or blueberry concentrate and (oddly enough) lemon alka seltzer. The alka seltzer works very well and in only a few doses.

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