The magic of cranberry juice

Most women know their bodies well enough to identify the onset of a UTI. In many cases a call to our primary care doctor results in antibiotics without too much hassle.

I am, however, a bit doctor-reluctant. So when I start to feel like a UTI is coming on, I fall back onto immense amounts of fluids augmented with 100% cranberry juice. Not the cranberry juice cocktail I grew up with, but straight, unsweetened, undiluted cranberry juice. I’ve never seen it at the local mega-marts, but various “crunchy” stores carry it.

It’s a very tannic drink, verging on the unpalatable. The tannins seem to be one one of the reasons that cranberry juice works to prevent UTIs. Various medical studies haven’t shown it to be effective in treating infections. I have used it to self treat infections.

I am not a doctor, I’m not even a working biologist any more and I do not recommend anyone do this. There are risks, including the fact that UTIs can be fatal and over hydration can cause a lot of medical problems including death. I only self treat for a very short period of time with the back up that I do have a PCP and can call him and get antibiotics if I’m not seeing improvement in 12 – 18 hours.

But when I think I’m getting an infection I start drinking the juice. 8 ounces in an hour and then an additional 4 – 8 ounces every 3 to 4 hours. I try to also drink at least 2 glasses of water between every glass of juice. I also take a supplement of water soluble vitamins (mostly B) and give into any craving I might have for salty foods.

Sometimes, though, I just can’t face another glass of the thick, crimson liquid. Today Steve came up to me with a 4 ounce glass of dark liquid and I just pitifully looked up at him. “I just drank my juice, please tell me that’s cherry juice and not for me.” It was cherry juice and not for me.

Mixing the juice with lemonade, or lemon lime soda (4 oz juice, 1-2 tablespoons of the other) cuts the tannins a bit and adds a little sweetness. I just finished a glass of cranberry and lime Jarritos which was actually quite tasty.

It may seem silly, but my biology training has led me to only want to use antibiotics when I have to. If I can fight off an infection without antibiotics I feel a lot better. This was only reinforced when I read an article recently showing that women who took antibiotics for UTIs harbored antibiotic resistant bacteria for months after they finished the course. My little refusal for 3 pills does nothing to actually reduce the antibiotic resistance of bacteria in the grand scheme of things, but it feels important to me. And I’m glad that there is something so effective, if a bit unpalatable, as 100% cranberry juice.

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