If you have ever had or heard of someone else having a UTI, then you have probably heard someone say “try cranberry juice!” This old saying comes from the idea that these berries have antibacterial properties. But are cranberries good for kidneys or is this an old wives tale?
What Are Kidneys?
The kidneys are vital organs located near the middle of the back, just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine. They are bean-shaped and around 13cm long and around 8cm wide. Their function within the body is to filter blood and remove waste and excess water. The kidneys also balance the volume of fluids and minerals in the body. This balance in the body is called homeostasis.
There are a number of diseases which can affect these vital organs including kidney stones; kidney infections; cancer; and kidney failure. The National Kidney Foundation reports that factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and family history can increase the risk of kidney disease, however, there are also a number of supplements and natural foods which can help to take care of the kidneys, assist the cleansing process and ward off diseases. One of the most popular and effective is the cranberry.
What Are Cranberries?
The red-black, ripe fruit of the cranberry or Vaccinium Macrocarpon has been used as both a food and a medicine for centuries. It is native to North America and was originally used by Native Americans to treat bladder and kidney diseases. Early settlers from England learned to use the berry both raw and cooked for many ailments, including appetite loss, stomach problems, blood disorders, and scurvy caused by a lack of vitamin C.
Are Cranberries Good For Kidneys?
The American National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse officially endorses drinking cranberry juice to flush out the bacteria responsible for creating Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) from your system. That’s because, according to research, Cranberry juice can act as a cleanser of our kidney’s by helping to remove excess water and break down the fatty tissue.
Urinary tract infections are the second most common type of infection in the body, accounting for about 8.1 million visits to health care providers each year. Women are especially prone to UTIs for anatomical reasons. This type of infection that can happen anywhere along the urinary tract such as:
- The bladder – an infection in the bladder is also called cystitis or a bladder infection.
- The kidneys – an infection of one or both kidneys is called pyelonephritis or a kidney infection.
- The ureters – the tubes that take urine from each kidney to the bladder are only rarely the site of infection.
- The urethra – an infection of the tube that empties urine from the bladder to the outside is called urethritis.
If you head down to your local supermarket looking for cranberry juice to cure you of a urinary tract infection, you’ll be disappointed. Cranberry juice is usually diluted with sugars and high fructose corn syrup. The actual amount of cranberry in it is limited. Therefore you should either purchase organic cranberry that is unsweetened or buy fresh cranberries and make your own juice using a juice extractor (this can also be frozen). You can also cook cranberries and mix them with applesauce to naturally sweeten.
However, the most convenient option for many may be to go for a cranberry supplement. This is an effective way of increasing your cranberry stores without having to drink copious amounts of cranberry juice every day. A study published in the International Journal Immunopathology and Pharmacology found that cranberry extracts prevent the adhesion of bacteria on the epithelial cells of the kidneys, thereby helping to prevent kidney infections from developing. Research in the BJU International further suggests that cranberry juice can help to reduce the risk of developing kidney stones.
However, studies suggest that cranberry extracts are not as effective once a UTI has developed. This is because in preventing UTIs, it helps keep bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract. It’s less effective once the bacteria have already attached. For this reason, cranberry is more effective at preventing UTIs than treating them. UTIs should be treated with conventional antibiotics.
Cranberries can help to ensure your kidneys function efficiently and can help to prevent the development of infection or disease. Other health benefits of the cranberry include: aiding cardiac health, lowering cholesterol and protecting against cancer so is definitely an extract worth keeping in the kitchen cupboard.