Cranberry juice is the tart, refreshing drink many of us know as a method to reduce the risk for uncomfortable urinary tract infections (UTIs).

But there are a lot of other rumors out there about cranberry juice too, including that it can help you poop if you’re constipated.

Keep reading to find out if cranberry juice has not one but two (or more) reported health benefits, as well as some tips on constipation prevention and treatment.

There isn’t a lot of research or data to suggest that cranberry juice can make you poop more than drinking any other liquid can.

Here’s what we found out in our research.

Gut health

A 2019 study attempted to isolate the effects of cranberries in general on the gut. They pinpointed salicylic acid, or salicylate — the compound that gives the juice its tart flavor.

Researchers found that natural salicylate in cranberry juice may decrease the amount of Enterobacteriaceae, including E. coli, which are found in higher levels in those with digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

They also found that salicylate increased the presence of Bacteroidaceae, a healthy gut bacteria that researchers believe helps promote digestive health.

In addition, the researchers found that cranberry juice helped kill bacteria in a dose-dependent manner, but didn’t specify how much a person would need to consume to enjoy potentially beneficial effects.

But this study was small, with only 26 participants donating stool samples before and after drinking cranberry juice made of concentrated cranberry powder mixed with water.

This study points to one potential benefit of cranberry juice: helping those with IBS who may struggle with symptoms like constipation.

But there are other possible causes of constipation, so cranberry juice may not be the solution for everyone.

A 2016 report from the Cranberry Health Research Conference found that cranberry juice contained compounds such as proanthocyanidins, isoprenoids, and xyloglucans.

Each of these compounds has a potentially protective effect against harmful gut bacteria, including E. coli.

Fluid factor

Some people experience a greater incidence of constipation due to dehydration.

Your body needs water to make stool easier to pass. So drinking more cranberry juice can decrease your dehydration and help with constipation.

But there’s no evidence to suggest cranberry juice accomplishes this more effectively than plain water.

Additionally, cranberry juice (even low sugar or low calorie versions) has calories that could lead to weight gain over time. This means that it may not be your go-to choice on a daily basis for constipation prevention.

Summing it up

Even if you love cranberry juice, you may want to find other reasons to drink it besides helping make you poop.

There are other juice choices, such as prune juice (high in fiber) and apple juice (high in sugars that have mild constipation-reducing effects), that may be a better solution for constipation than cranberry juice.

Probably one of the most well-known reported effects of cranberry juice is its potential for preventing UTIs. But studies related to drinking cranberry juice to prevent UTIs are mixed.

Laboratory-based studies show that cranberry juice should have some protective effects.

But human studies haven’t conclusively proven this to be true, according to a few other studies:

  • A 2011 study of 319 college-age women with UTIs found that drinking cranberry juice had no effects on UTIs in comparison to women who drank a placebo fluid.
  • A 2017 study of 227 women over 60 years old who received urinary catheters after hip surgery didn’t find cranberry juice to be effective for preventing UTIs associated with catheter use.
  • A 2019 study did find a correlation between cranberry juice and UTIs, but it related specifically to the enrichment of gut bacteria like Bacteroidaceae and controlling the growth of Enterobacteriaceae.

Researchers do know that cranberries contain more than 150 bioactive compounds — a lot for a small berry. Some of the key anti-inflammatory components include flavonoids, phenolic acids, and anthocyanins.

These compounds likely provide many of the health-protective effects of eating cranberries as well as drinking their juice.

And there may be some additional potential benefits of consuming cranberries in different preparations.

Cardiac benefits

Some studies on rats have identified that eating cranberries can help to reduce serum lipid levels and inflammation in the body.

But most of these are surrounding the use of cranberry powder, not juice.

Reduced blood pressure

Researchers have connected drinking cranberry juice in amounts ranging from 250 to 500 milliliters (mL) (8.5 to 16.5 ounces) to decreasing systolic blood pressure (the top number) by 3 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Another 2015 study on men and women found that drinking cranberry juice helped to lower diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 4 points.

Cancer-fighting benefits

A 2016 review of 14 laboratory-based studies regarding cranberries and cancer found that the berries can help promote cell death and reduce growth of cancer cells.

But there aren’t any short- or long-term human studies that prove any definitive effects of consuming cranberries and reducing or fighting cancer.

Constipation often isn’t the result of just one cause, but a lot of contributing factors. Some potential causes include:

  • Medical conditions. Some medical conditions affect how fast stool moves through your body, which may lead to constipation. Examples include IBS, a history of colon surgery, or pelvic floor dysfunction.
  • Taking certain medications. Some medications are known to worsen constipation, including calcium channel blockers, diuretics, iron supplements, antidepressants, opioids, and some antacids that have aluminum or calcium. But don’t stop taking these medications unless your doctor recommends it.
  • Lifestyle factors. Not engaging in regular physical activity or some dietary factors, such as not drinking enough water or eating a high fiber diet, can all contribute to constipation.
  • Phase of life. Older adults are more likely to experience constipation related to changes in their intestinal movement. Pregnant women are also more likely to have constipation as a side effect.

Constipation can be uncomfortable but also potentially dangerous because it can lead to intestinal blockage.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience the following symptoms related to constipation:

Ideally, you should seek treatment before these symptoms begin. If you have constipation that persists beyond at-home care methods for several days, contact your doctor’s office.

Healthy, regular bowel movements usually begin with a healthy lifestyle. Examples include:

  • Consuming a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. These are high in fiber, which adds bulk to your stool. Women need about 25 grams a day while men need about 38 grams, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • Drinking plenty of water and other liquids a day. Your urine color should be pale yellow on a daily basis.
  • Engaging in regular physical activity. The twisting and movement of exercise can help stimulate your intestines. Aim for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • Using the bathroom every time you feel the urge. Delaying your bowel movement can lead to further constipation. Many people find they poop at around the same time every day. Try to keep with a schedule whenever possible.

You can also review your medication list with your doctor to see if any of your medications may be worsening your symptoms.

In addition to lifestyle changes, you can use treatments to reduce constipation. Some are available over the counter, but it’s still best to check with your doctor before using them. Examples include:

  • Fiber supplements, such as Metamucil or other psyllium-based supplements. These add bulk to your stool.
  • Stool softeners, such as docusate sodium (Colace). These make your stool easier to pass.
  • Osmotic agents, such as milk of magnesia or polyethylene glycol (MiraLAX). These draw water to your stool so it’s softer and easier to pass.
  • Stimulants, such as bisacodyl (Dulcolax) or senna tea (Senokot). These stimulate the bowels to move more.
  • Lubricants, such as mineral oil (Fleet’s enemas). These lubricate the intestinal lining so stool is easier to pass.

Over-the-counter constipation relievers are meant as short-term solutions to relieve constipation. If you find you can’t have a bowel movement without taking medications, talk to your doctor.

Prescription medications are available that may be a more long-term solution. There are also other approaches, such as bowel training or biofeedback, that can help you work with your body to reduce constipation.

While there isn’t a lot of research to support that cranberry juice makes you poop, cranberry juice isn’t a bad choice overall for health in moderation. Look for low sugar versions to keep calories down and blood sugar steady.

While you’re focusing on that healthy choice, don’t forget to take other steps to prevent constipation. These include eating a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, and engaging in regular physical activity.