Cranberry juice: Benefits and risks for urinary and overall health

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Many women (and some men) have heard about the benefits of drinking cranberry juice when it comes to urinary health. Indeed, benefits of cranberry juice are many, but there is a fair share of risks when it comes to indulging in the tangy, often bitter, red liquid.

What are the health benefits of drinking cranberry juice?

Cranberry juice

There is significant evidence to suggest drinking cranberry juice can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

There is significant evidence to suggest drinking cranberry juice can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), though there are no guidelines on how much juice should be imbibed to stave off those unpleasant episodes.

In the early stages of investigation into the benefits of cranberry juice, experts thought the drink made urine more acidic, therefore creating an environment where bacteria responsible for a UTI were unable to grow.

That thinking has now been modified; instead of just creating more acidic urine, scientists feel cranberry juice—and other juices as well—can help prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract system. The exact mechanism behind this is not clear. Some studies have shown cranberry juice alters the bacteria itself, and other studies have indicated the potent juice leaves behind a slippery coating in the body’s system.

Urinary health is what cranberry juice is best known for, but the tart drink is beneficial for other reasons as well. Cranberries are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, substances thought to help promote a healthy immune and cardiovascular system.

Unsweetened cranberry juice can also help prevent a build-up of dental plaque in the mouth by decreasing the number of bacteria present on the gums.

SEE ALSO: Cranberry juice and urinary health: When NOT to drink it!

Another reason to drink cranberry juice is that it may help prevent the formation of kidney stones, though this has not yet been proven in a laboratory setting. Cranberries contain quinic acid, a substance medical experts feel helps prevent the formation of kidney stones; however, at the same time, cranberry juice also contains the chemical oxalate, which contributes to kidney stone formation.

Doctors recommend the unsweetened, pure cranberry juice (or cranberry fruits) instead of the sweetened cocktail juice often found in grocery stores.

What are the negative effects of cranberry juice ?

cranberry juice

Doctors recommend the unsweetened, pure cranberry juice (or cranberry fruits) instead of the sweetened cocktail juice often found in grocery stores. (Shutterstock photos)

Drinking cranberry juice is not a cure-all for everything that ails the urinary system. One instance in which cranberry juice is not recommended is in cases of  interstitial cystitis (IC). Also known as painful bladder disease, interstitial cystitis occurs when the lining of the bladder becomes damaged and allows urine to come into contact with sensitive tissue.

By drinking cranberry juice, which is very acidic, people with interstitial cystitis can find the condition aggravated, and unfortunately, because IC is commonly misdiagnosed as a UTI, cranberry juice is often the first thing women reach for when symptoms occur.

Another negative effect of cranberry juice has to do with dental health. While some evidence suggests the juice can keep bacteria out of the mouth, due to its high acidity, too much cranberry juice may cause the enamel of the teeth to wear thin. Not all juices are pure juice, either, and those with high sugar content will be just as bad for teeth as soda.

SEE ALSO: Benefits of cranberry juice: Urinary, heart health and more

People who are diabetics and those with sensitive stomachs should proceed with caution when it comes to cranberry juice consumption. According to the Mayo Clinic, too much cranberry juice may cause stomach upset, diarrhea and elevated blood sugar levels.

In some reported cases, cranberry juice has also been shown to interfere with certain heart medications. The wrong combination of juice and medication may lead to life-threatening internal bleeding. Always consult with your doctor and ask about drug and fruit juice interactions.

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