Cranberry pills have long been touted for their effects on preventing UTIs, and countless studies have shown evidence that they may be useful as a preventative measure. However, cranberry extract for UTIs and cranberry pills are used for other conditions and may have other uses.

What Is Cranberry Extract and What Is It Used For?

Cranberry extract pills are made from the fruit of the cranberry plant, which is an evergreen shrub. Cranberry plants prefer to grow in very wet areas and can be found in northern parts of the United States.

The dark red cranberry fruit is most often associated as being a treatment for Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and can act as a preventative measure. Some people take cranberry pills as a supplement to help with various health conditions other than a UTI with varying effects.

Health Benefits

Cranberry pills have been recommended as a preventative supplement that can help with urinary tract health. While some people never need cranberry pills, others suffer from frequent UTIs and use the supplement to help reduce the occurrence of infections.

Cranberry pills work to interfere with unwanted bacteria that can make its way into the bladder and cause an infection. It may also work as a diuretic, and cranberry has been a staple in alternative medicine.

Cranberry extract can be in the form of juice or pills, but the benefits of cranberry extract are similar in all forms. You can find cranberry extract for helping with UTIs, or any pain when urinating, where you would find other dietary supplements.

Raw cranberries and cranberry extract are typically low in calories, with a raw cup of cranberries coming in at only 25 calories. Not many people will find them palatable raw, however, light cooking, juicing, and blending them into smoothies are ways to get all of the benefits, with less of the sour taste.

There is a small amount of evidence to suggest that cranberry extract and cranberry pills may help with other conditions, such as prevention of some types of cancer, decreased blood pressure, and possible improved immune function.

While more research is needed, cranberry pills are a promising option that is widely available. Researchers seem optimistic that cranberry extract may be useful for UTIs as well as a host of other conditions.

Some people prefer to eat their cranberries raw instead of in cranberry pill form. Cranberries can be very nutritious, and naturally low in toxins when of high-quality and grown organically. They can cause some stomach upset due to their tartness, but cranberry extract is also readily available and may be a milder option.

Cranberry Extract for Dogs

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Cranberry extract benefits are not only for humans with UTIs. There is evidence that it works for dogs, as well! While the proper dose for a dog will vary based on their weight, many dog owners report the cranberry pills to be helpful in preventing UTIs in their beloved companions.

There are special cranberry extract brands for dogs, however, a proper dose of the same cranberry extract pills intended for human consumption will work just as well. Be sure to check with your veterinarian about what the correct dose for your dog would be and the best way to administer it.

You may have trouble coaxing your dog into eating cranberries raw, so it is likely best to use a cranberry pill when supplementing your dog’s diet. Raw cranberries can be highly nutritious, but their tartness may cause stomach upset in dogs.

For some dogs, cranberry pills may be a temporary supplement that they may only need for a relatively short amount of time. However, other dogs may require cranberry pills consistently for years, or the rest of their lives. Consult with your veterinarian to see what length of time a cranberry supplement might be most beneficial for your dog.

How Does Cranberry Extract Work?

It was previously thought that cranberry pills and cranberry extracts, in general, worked by making urine more acidic. It was believed that this higher level of acidity in the bladder killed rogue bacteria that would otherwise remain and cause a UTI.

While this theory makes sense, and the Ph of your urine may change after consuming cranberry pills or cranberry extract, the way that it works on the bacteria is slightly different than previously thought.

Researchers now believe that when you consume cranberry extract, it ends up in your bladder where it works to prevent the bacteria from sticking to the bladder walls. Bacteria such as E. coli would normally stick to the bladder wall and multiply, causing a UTI.

When the compounds found in cranberry extract are present though, the bacteria cannot adhere to the bladder wall in order to replicate, and instead is flushed out when the bladder is emptied.

However, once you have a UTI, drinking cranberry juice or consuming cranberry extract will not be enough on its own to treat the infection. Once an infection has taken hold, it’s advisable to seek medical attention, and inquire about whether cranberry pills can be helpful as part of the treatment for your UTI.

Research from 2012 shows that women with recurrent UTIs experienced fewer UTIs over a 12-month period when they included a cranberry pill or supplement in their diet.

It’s also important to remember that cranberry pills fall under supplements, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, it is not known for sure how much of the active ingredient is included in each brand of cranberry pill or cranberry extract.

You may find that many products will not have enough of the ingredient found in cranberries which prevents bacteria from being able to stick to the bladder. Some online sources have sent supplements to labs for testing, and this information may be helpful when selecting a cranberry extract or pill for UTI prevention.

What Are the Other Benefits of Cranberry Extract?

Cranberries are a low-calorie food and are also high in vitamins A, C, and K. They contain an antioxidant called proanthocyanidins, which are thought to take part in preventing a variety of diseases. Due to the amount of vitamin K found in cranberries, those who take blood thinners should consult with their doctor before consuming cranberry as a supplement.

Cardiovascular Disease

There is some evidence that cranberries may help with some kinds of cardiovascular disease. Polyphenols found in cranberries are thought to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in most people by doing three things.

Polyphenols may trigger anti-inflammatory mechanisms found in the human body, they may reduce blood pressure, and they can also help to prevent platelet build-up. While everyone has a different risk for CVD, you should absolutely consult your doctor before adding cranberry as a supplement.

Cancer

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Recent research has also shown that the properties of cranberry may also help to slow cancerous tumors, and also translates to a positive change in prostate, ovarian, colon, liver, and breast cancers.

While this benefit is still being heavily researched, scientists are hopeful that cranberries can slow tumor growth, and potentially be administered to patients in the near future. While other advancements in cancer treatment continue, cranberry extract is a low cost, low tech, and available option.

Oral Health

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In the same way that cranberry extract can prevent bacteria in the bladder from adhering to the bladder wall, it can also keep bacteria from adhering to your teeth.

Proanthocyanidins have been recognized as the compound found in cranberries that can prevent bacteria from sticking, and researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center believe that it may also be helpful in preventing gum disease.

With fewer bacteria adhering to the teeth and gums in a person’s mouth, the rate of decay and general destruction by bacteria is greatly reduced. While cranberry won’t replace normal brushing and flossing, it may be a useful preventative supplement.

While drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills is one way to get a dose of proanthocyanidins, researchers are hoping that the compounds could be added to toothpaste or mouthwash which may increase their effectiveness without additional calories.

Side Effects of Taking Cranberry Extract

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Cranberry extract and cranberry pills are largely considered to be “likely safe” for most individuals when taken in appropriate amounts by mouth. Taking too much cranberry extract or eating too much cranberry juice may cause stomach upset and diarrhea and should be avoided.

Some research suggests that drinking more than 1 liter of cranberry juice for an extended amount of time may increase your chances of kidney stones forming and is also not advised.

If you are allergic to aspirin then you will want to avoid drinking large quantities of cranberry juice. Cranberry contains large amounts of salicylic acid which can be seen as similar to aspirin by a person’s body. Those with an aspirin allergy may have some kind of reaction from consuming large amounts of cranberry juice.

If you have inflammation in your stomach or suffer from low stomach acid, you may also want to avoid cranberry juice as it can alter the amount of B12 that your body absorbs. If your stomach is inflamed, cranberry juice can cause your body to absorb additional B12. Low stomach acid can also result in an increase in absorption of B12 when cranberry juice is consumed.

Individuals that suffer from diabetes may also want to check cranberry juice for the sugar content. Many kinds of cranberry juice products come sweetened to help make the natural sour taste of cranberries more palatable. Some are sweetened with sugar, while others use artificial sweeteners.

Some people will be allergic to cranberries and may break out in hives or have trouble breathing. They may also experience swelling around their face which effects their lips, tongue, and throat.

If you experience any pain when you urinate, or there is blood in your urine you should call your medical provider immediately. Likewise, if you experience severe stomach pain, or you are urinating significantly less, or not urinating at all.

Most side effects are much less serious and may be mild enough that they are easily overlooked. Many people report having no side effects at all, however, if you do experience side effects it is a good idea to report them to your doctor.

Other Health Conditions that Might Be Helped by Taking Cranberry Extract

Cranberry can be used for a variety of health applications besides preventing UTIs. Cranberry is also used to prevent catheters from becoming blocked, to help heal skin around surgical incisions in the stomach, and to help with the disease called neurogenic bladder.

Some people also believe that cranberry can kill germs, increase their urine flow, and help to reduce fever as a supplement to other treatment.

Urine Odor

Preliminary research suggests that drinking cranberry juice could potentially reduce the odor of your urine. While researchers are still figuring out how it works in full, those that have difficulty controlling their urination may benefit.

Kidney Stones

There are two competing theories on whether cranberry pills and cranberry extract or juice help reduce kidney stones. Early research showed that cranberry juice could lower your risk of having kidney stones form. However, other research suggests that cranberry juice or extracts may increase your risk of developing kidney stones.

Research is ongoing, however, the current evidence available is inconsistent, and individuals should consult their doctor before using cranberry to help with kidney stones.

Cold and Flu Symptoms

Research shows that if you drink cranberry juice every day for at least 70 days you may be able to reduce the symptoms of the cold or flu. While consuming cranberry juice will not make it less likely that you will contract the cold or flu, you may be able to reduce symptoms and their intensity.

Stomach Ulcers

Certain kinds of stomach ulcers may benefit from consuming cranberry juice. If your stomach ulcers are caused by a Helicobacter pylori infection, consuming cranberry juice could help to eliminate the offending bacteria.

By drinking cranberry juice for at least 90 days, you can lower the amount of Helicobacter pylori bacteria in your stomach, and by also taking conventional medication, the condition may be curable in adults and children.

There is also some other research that shows that consuming cranberry juice does not help in terms of healing time when compared to taking conventional medication alone. Before consuming cranberry juice for treatment of stomach ulcers, always consult with your healthcare provider.

Can Pregnant Women or Children Take Cranberry Pills?

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Children can consume smaller amounts of cranberry juice by mouth as part of the regular food and drink they consume. Consult with a pediatrician regarding how much your child should consume.

Children will experience the same benefits of cranberry pills and cranberry extract as adults, however, they may be more prone to stomach upset and should be monitored for signs of allergy.

Chewable cranberry pills are available for children that prefer them to drinking cranberry juice, swallowing cranberry pills, or eating dried cranberries. Children may also suffer from recurring UTIs and cranberry products may be helpful as part of their treatment.

Recurring UTIs in both children and adults are undesirable as they can lead to long-term health problems such as kidney issues, or high blood pressure. Recurring infections can also encourage antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can make treatment more difficult.

Cranberry pills and other cranberry products are considered to be safe for the general population, however, not much evidence exists on whether or not they are safe for pregnant women. It is highly recommended that if you are pregnant and interested in supplementing with cranberry that you consult with your doctor first.

Some sources tout cranberry juice as a good source of vitamin C, and a good way for pregnant women to stay hydrated. However, little evidence exists on whether large quantities of juice or the high concentrations found in cranberry pills are safe for breastfeeding and pregnant women.

A study published in 2013 by NCBI found that in over 68,000 women, no increased risk of malformations existed that were congenital. There was also no evidence or association with stillbirth, neonatal death, or low birth weight.

The researchers also examined gestational size at different ages, the number of preterm births, and the baby’s Apgar score when born. They found no significant increased risk in any of the outcomes and concluded that cranberry did not appear to be harmful to pregnant women.

This study is part of a larger body of evidence, and the medical community still has different opinions on the safety of cranberry for pregnant women. Given the diversity of opinions, it is advisable to consult with your doctor to determine what is best for you.

Pregnant women may also suffer more side effects at lower doses of cranberry, and this should also be reported to your doctor.

What Medications Interact with Cranberry Pills?

Given how much vitamin K can be found in cranberries, if you take blood thinners you’ll want to consult your doctor before taking cranberry supplements. Vitamin K can interfere with how the blood thinners work and can change how your body bruises and bleeds.

Warfarin interacts negatively with cranberry and can produce a moderate change in how this medication works. Warfarin is used to slow the process of the blood clotting, and the presence of cranberry can lengthen the amount of time that Warfarin stays in your body.

Ingesting cranberry while on Warfarin can also increase your likelihood of bruising and can increase how likely you are to bleed when your skin is broken.

Other medications have milder interactions with cranberry that are considered to be milder. Certain medications that transform in the liver, for example, can be impacted by the presence of cranberry and may behave differently in the body.

Cranberry can alter how quickly the liver is able to break down medications and can extend the process of medication being released into the body. By taking cranberry with certain medications you may also intensify the effects of the medication, and may also increase the side effects.

Medications that are changed in the liver include:

  • Valium
  • Celebrex
  • Ibuprofen
  • Warfarin
  • Zyflo
  • Voltaren
  • Lescol
  • Glucotrol

Before adding a cranberry supplement to your diet, be sure to consult with your doctor to determine if there are any risks or interactions you should be aware of.

How Much Cranberry Extract Should Be Taken Daily?

Cranberry extract and cranberry pills can have many benefits when taken in correct doses.  Since cranberry is considered safe for the general population you should consult with your doctor if you have any health problems prior to consuming cranberry.

Adults and children will understandably have different recommended doses; however, your doctor is ultimately the best resource for determining the correct dose either as a preventative measure, or a supplement to medical treatment.

Adults

Adults will want to consume 10-16 ounces of cranberry juice per day in order to adequately prevent UTIs. If you intend to take cranberry pills as a supplement, aim for between 800 milligrams and 1600 milligrams per day.

If you experience any allergy symptoms, or if you have side effects, it’s a good idea to report them to your doctor so that they can properly advise you on future doses. While some pregnant women may experience side effects at lower doses, non-pregnant adults may also experience side effects as well.

Children

While there is a great amount of evidence that shows tested doses of cranberry for adults, there is significantly less research regarding the correct dose for children. A 2012 study stated that upon screening over 3500 infants, they found 2% of girls, and 3.7% of boys have urine that contained bacteria.

Girls between the ages of 1 and 11 years old were 9-10 times more likely to have bacteria in their urine due to how short their urethra is. This increase in bacteria is not a surprise, as there is current evidence that infants have bacteria in their urine even in their first year of life.

Even with all of this data available, the correct cranberry dose for your child may depend on several factors such as health conditions, weight, and what purpose the cranberry extract is intended to serve.

Many children find pure cranberry juice to be too acidic, and so cranberry cocktail which contains 33% cranberry juice is a common alternative. A recent trial involving children tested cranberry doses of 5 milliliters per kilogram of body weight, which was then divided into several doses each day.

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