Cranberry pills are sold in health food stores and pharmacies as a way to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). In a study published in the November 2016 issue of the journal JAMA, researchers found that cranberry supplements were more effective than placebo at decreasing the number of UTIs in nursing home residents. However, this is only true if the cranberry pills contain enough of the bacteria-fighting ingredient. Tests of seven popular cranberry pill brands found that most contained too little of this ingredient to have any effect.
The cranberry’s natural acidity interferes with the ability of certain bacteria to stick to the lining of the bladder and urethra. This is why cranberry juice and supplements are often recommended for people at high risk of developing UTIs, such as women who have frequent episodes of bladder inflammation. The cranberry’s anti-inflammatory properties are also thought to be responsible for its other health benefits, such as improving the symptoms of menopause, and alleviating premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Unfortunately, the same compounds that help prevent UTIs may also cause them in some people. For example, cranberry pills can irritate the bladder and can lead to pain or burning during urination. This is believed to be the result of high amounts of proanthocyanidins, which can increase urine acidity. These chemicals can also interact with some medications, including the blood thinner aspirin and other drugs that are broken down by the liver.
Other side effects of cranberry pills can include stomach upset, diarrhea, and constipation. If these symptoms occur, it is important to stop taking the cranberry pills and speak to your doctor. Moreover, over-consumption of cranberry pills can lead to dental problems, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Many cranberry pills and cranberry juice products are high in sugar, which can have negative health consequences. In addition to raising the risk of obesity and heart disease, excessive consumption of sugar can have an adverse impact on oral health. Tooth decay and gum disease are among the most common problems associated with excess sugar intake.
If you have diabetes, consuming too much cranberry pills and juice can raise your glucose levels and lead to complications, such as diabetic neuropathy and retinopathy. In addition, the sugar in cranberry pills can make it difficult to control your blood sugar levels if you are already taking insulin or other medications to manage diabetes.
Cranberry supplements can also interfere with the absorption of iron from foods and increase the risk of kidney stones in some people. These side effects can be avoided by eating a diet rich in whole foods and avoiding supplemental cranberry products that are high in sugar. If you have a history of kidney stones, be sure to check with your doctor before taking any cranberry pills or juice. They can recommend an appropriate dose and discuss any potential interactions with other medications or vitamins you are taking. This will help you avoid any unnecessary side effects and get the most benefit from your cranberry supplement.