Arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, affects as many as 50 million Americans. It may be influenced by different factors including age, gender, injuries, infections, autoimmune diseases and weight. Arthritis treatment includes a variety of pain and anti-inflammatory medications as well as topical creams and ointments. However, many Americans are looking to alternative treatments and natural products to treat and try to prevent such medical conditions as arthritis. One such food that shows promise for easing rheumatoid arthritis is cranberry juice.
Cranberries and cranberry juice have a long history of use by the Native American Indian tribes to treat urinary tract infections. The berries come from an evergreen shrub that grows throughout much of North America. In the treatment of urinary tract infections, researchers believe that the chemicals within the cranberry work to block bacteria from adhering to the sides of the urinary tract and prevent the bacteria from growing and multiplying. Since cranberry contains salicylic acid, a natural blood thinner, patients who take medications like Coumadin should avoid having large amounts of cranberry juice due to an increased chance of bleeding.
Arthritis is a condition where there is pain and swelling of the joints and a breakdown of cartilage in the body. This swelling can over time cause permanent damage to the joints. There are different types of arthritis including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and infectious arthritis. Osteoarthritis is traditionally related to age or to an injury. Rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are considered autoimmune diseases, which means the body’s immune system turns on itself and attacks the joints.
Current medical research shows that cranberry juice has the largest effect on rheumatoid arthritis. In a study published in the March 2006 journal “Clinical and Developmental Immunology,” researchers found a connection between the bacteria Proteus mirabilis and rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers believe that this bacteria, a cause of urinary tract infections, is a possible trigger for rheumatoid arthritis. Cranberry juice is able to block this bacteria from growing and multiplying; researchers believe that patients in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis can benefit from a high intake of cranberry juice.
While adding cranberry juice to your diet is safe for most people, there are some interactions that will need to be considered. Because cranberries and cranberry juice contain salicylic acid, which acts as a natural blood thinner, you need to take precautions if you are taking prescription blood thinners or have an allergy to aspirin. Because aspirin is similar to salicylic acid, drinking large amounts of cranberry juice could cause an allergic reaction. If you suffer from kidney stones or have a history of kidney stones, avoid drinking large amounts of cranberry juice as it can increase your risk of kidney stone development. As with most dietary or treatment changes, consult your physician, who can best recommend how much cranberry juice is beneficial for your condition.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Arthritis; October 20, 2010
- MedlinePlus: Cranberry; February 24, 2011
- MedlinePlus; Arthritis; February 14, 2011
- “Clinical and Developmental Immunology”; Rheumatoid Arthritis is an Autoimmune Disease Triggered by Proteus Urinary Tract Infection; A. Ebringer and T. Rashid; March 2006