Does Cranberry juice relieve bladder symptoms due to radiation cystitis?

bowl of red round fruits

Many people do look for natural remedies to help with their symptoms.

Anectodally, many patients undergoing radiotherapy have reported that Cranberry Juice has eased their radiation cystitis symptoms.

What is the scientific evidence behind it ?

Should all patients having cystitis symptoms during radiotherapy take cranberry juice?

There is certainly scientific basis to expect benefit from Cranberry Juice.(1).

A lab study and a volunteer study (with volunteers from Japan, Hungary, Spain and France) has shown that certain chemicals in Cranberry can make bacteria ‘less sticky‘ to urinary tract walls and hence potentially reduces virulence of the bacteria.(1). But subsequent large studies have NOT confirmed any large benefit from Cranberry in terms of treating or preventing urinary tract infections. (2)(3).

But Radiation Cystitis is not due to bacterial infections although infections can co-exist sometimes. Hence the use of Cranberry has been studied separately in patients undergoing radiation therapy.

A New Zealand study involved 41 men undergoing radiotherapy for prostate cancer. Taking Cranberry (one capsule a day at breakfast) was found to reduce symptoms of pain and burning. (4).

On the other hand, in a study from Canada involving 112 patients , consumption of Cranberry juice compared with apple juice had no effect on radiation cystitis symptoms. (5).

Another study from United Kingdom was inconclusive because of poor patient recruitment and poor compliance. (6).

So the scientific evidence is inconclusive at present.(7).

Practically, if someone is keen to try it – the best course of action – ( for someone not intolerant of cranberry juice) – is to try it and see whether it offers any symptomatic benefit .

Disclaimer: Please note- This is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss options.

There are prescription medications available to help with radiation cystitis symptoms.

References:

1.Dosage effect on uropathogenic Escherichia coli anti-adhesion activity in urine following consumption of cranberry powder standardized for proanthocyanidin content: a multicentric randomized double blind study. BMC Infect Dis. 2010 Apr 14;10:94.

2. BBC News. Does Cranberry juice stop cystitis. By Claudia Hammond. (Accessed 1st Jan 2019).

3. BBC News. Ditch cranberry juice for urine infection . (Accessed 1st Jan 2019).

4.Standardized cranberry capsules for radiation cystitis in prostate cancer patients in New Zealand: a randomized double blinded, placebo controlled pilot study. Support Care Cancer (2015) 23: 95.

5. A Randomised Trial of Cranberry Versus Apple Juice in the Management of Urinary Symptoms During External Beam Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer. G.Campbell et al. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2003 Sep;15(6):322-8.

6. A Randomised Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial to Determine the Effect of Cranberry Juice on Decreasing the Incidence of Urinary Symptoms and Urinary Tract Infections in Patients Undergoing Radiotherapy for Cancer of the Bladder or Cervix. Cowan CC, et al. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2012.

7.Chemical- and radiation-induced haemorrhagic cystitis: current treatments and challenges. BJU Int. 2013 Nov;112(7):885-97.

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