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04/17/2003 - Articles

Can Your Diet Prevent a Urinary Tract Infection?

By: Tufts University

Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the bane of many women's existence. UTIs, which are marked by symptoms that include frequent and/or painful urination, fever, and back pain, affect more than half of all women at least once in their lives. Research shows that certain lifestyle factors, including diet, may influence the risk for UTI. According to a recent study, a diet high in berry juice (such as cranberry) and fermented milk products (such as yogurt), may offer some protection against UTIs. The results are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition .

Comparing the habits of women with and without UTIs

Researchers in Finland studied 324 women (average age 31) to determine whether dietary factors were associated with the risk for UTI. Of the 324 women, 139 had been diagnosed with a recent UTI (these women were the "cases") and 185 had no history of UTI for the past 5 years (these women were the "controls").

All of the women filled out detailed questionnaires that included information about their diets and other lifestyle habits. The researchers then compared the habits of the cases and controls to detect any noticeable differences.

Berry juice and yogurt show protection

The researchers found certain dietary habit were more common among the controls and, therefore, potentially protective against UTIs. The most notable were frequent consumption of berry juices and fermented milk products. For example, women who consumed fermented milk products three or more times a week were less likely to develop a UTI compared with those who consumed such products less than once a week. Similarly, those who consumed 0.2 liters (about 6.5 oz) of berry juice per day were much less likely than others in the study to develop a UTI.

[Incidentally, this study also found what other studies have found - that more frequent sexual intercourse (in this case, three or more times a week) was associated with a greater risk of UTI compared with less frequent intercourse (in this case, less than once a week)].

How these foods may protect

The exact ways in which berry juice and fermented milk products may protect against UTIs are still under study. UTIs are caused by coliform bacteria, which are normally found in the stool and can travel into and up the urinary tract. The "probiotic" bacteria contained in fermented milk products, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus , may replace some of the coliform bacteria in the intestinal tract. In addition, substances in berries called flavonols may disrupt the coliform bacteria's ability to adhere to cells in the body.

Eating to prevent UTIs

If you're prone to recurrent UTIs, you may benefit from adding several weekly servings of berry juice and yogurt to your diet. But be aware that many varieties of juice and flavored yogurts are high in added sugar. To keep the sugar and calorie content in check, choose juices made from 100% fruit juice with no added sweeteners (such as high fructose corn syrup), and choose plain, low-fat yogurt, instead of flavored yogurt.

To put it all together in a quick breakfast smoothie, blend together some plain, low-fat yogurt, frozen mixed berries, and a splash of cranberry juice. It could be a delicious way to keep a UTI at bay.


Dietary factors protecting women from urinary tract infection.
T. Kontiokari, J. Laitinen, L. Jarvi,  et al., Amer J Clin Nutr, 2003, vol. 77, pp. 600--604


  • Disease Digest: Urinary Tract Infection
  • A Treatment for Getting Up at Night
  • Urinary Tract Infection in Adults
  • To quickly access additional accurate information on this and other nutrition-related topics, visit Tufts University's Nutrition Navigator
Created on: 04/14/2003
Reviewed on: 04/17/2003

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Anonymous wrote 1 day 10 hours ago

Cranberries are filled with antioxidants and have long been considered a very valuable ally for our health. In addition to these antioxidants, cranberries contain hippuronic acid. This compound has been shown in some studies to make it much more difficult for the bacteria that causes urinary tract infections to attach to the bladder wall (because this acid works to acidify the urine). This lowers the risk of getting a UTI in some cases.
However, once you have a UTI, cranberries in any form will do little to help treat it, and can actually exacerbate painful urination, one of the main symptoms associated with a UTI. This pain is caused by irritation and inflammation of the urethra and urethral opening. The best thing to do is to go to your doctor for proper antibiotic treatment (he or she will take a culture to confirm the UTI), and, in the meantime, take an over-the-counter urinary pain relief medication like Cystex® to help calm the symptoms. Cystex® Urinary Pain Relief Tablets is the only over-the-counter (OTC) medication that has a dual-action formula, with both a pain reliever to help with the discomfort and burning, as well as an antiseptic to help keep the bacteria in check and the infection from worsening before you can get into your doctor’s office. Visit for more information.

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