Any Thoughts on the Bladder Supplement CystaQ?

Ask Dr. Jen

Do you have an opinion on CystaQ for bladder infections? My urogynecologist recommended it twice daily, but I’m wondering if I’m wasting money on this supplement.

-Via The Vajenda

Short Take

CystaQ is a supplement that is advertised for “bladder health.” There is no data to support its use to prevent bladder infections and essentially no data to support it for any other bladder condition. It looks like a waste of money to me.

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CystaQ is advertised as a “patented blend of active ingredients that has been clinically tested and proven effective for bladder health and excessive urination in women by leading academic urologists in major medical centers.”

What is in CystaQ? Well, the company website is of no help here. This is what they say.

Literally nothing that is useful. I should NOT have to go digging to find the ingredients.

This is a red flag. Also, the “supplement fact sheet” doesn’t link to a PDF.

However, I was able to find the ingredients easily on Amazon. The active ingredients are a proprietary blend of Quercetin (from Quercetin Dihydrate), Bromelain 10:1, Papain USP/NF, Cranberry Fruit, Passion Flower Herb, Valerian Root, Wood Betony Leaf.

The only study I could find for CystaQ and the bladder is from 2001 and it has nothing to do with bladder infections. The study was published in a now defunct journal called Techniques in Urology and I wasn’t able to track down the actual article. This study involved using CystaQ to treat painful bladder syndrome, something completely different from recurrent bladder infections (but often misdiagnosed as recurrent bladder infections). The abstract tells me the study is low quality as there were only 20 patients who completed the study and no placebo arm. It’s an exploratory study at best. You can read the abstract here. I would not recommend a product based on this data.

Let’s look at a few of the ingredients.

Quercetin is a flavenoid, a natural substance found in many fruits, vegetables, seeds, and grains. It is believed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects, and immune modulating benefits. In addition to treating painful bladder syndrome bladder, quercetin is promoted as a treatment for cancer, diabetes, obesity, and yes, even COVID-19. This is always concerning as when there are claims that a compound can treat everything (or seemingly everything), it typically treats nothing.

There are quite a few studies in the lab looking at the effect on cells as well as rat studies looking at quercetin to treat inflammation in the bladder. These studies are preliminary work to test the hypothesis of using quercetin as an adjunct to help treat bladder cancer or to reduce bladder injury from chemotherapy drugs. However, we have no good data for humans for these conditions, which is what we need to recommend it.

It’s important to note that most of the clinical trials of quercetin on humans for non bladder conditions don’t show a meaningful benefit. For example, this study showed no change in body mass with daily use of quercetin and this study showed no benefit to the immune system. Many compounds have promise in the lab, but actually fail to hold up when tested appropriately in clinical trials.

Bromelain is a group of enzymes in pineapple. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health there is no convincing data it helps any condition. It has not been studied individually for the bladder.

Cranberry has not been shown in studies to be preventative for urinary tract infections. I know this is a hard one for people to accept as it is so ingrained in bladder lore, but it simply isn’t supported by the data. For some people cranberry may even irritate the bladder.

There is no evidence that CystaQ should be used for bladder infections and no evidence to support its use for painful bladder syndrome. Certainly, if it were a pharmaceutical it would not be approved for use as the data on it is essentially non-existent. And would you use a drug from “big pharma” if they didn’t supply quality data based on quality trials? Of course not. Then why should we accept any less from Big Natural and Big Supplement?

As for the incredibly high ratings the product has on the manufacturer’s site and on Amazon? That is an unreliable way to evaluate a product. You the consumer have no idea what medical condition these people have or whether they are even real people and not just paid to write reviews (paid fake reviews is an actual thing that happens on Amazon). In addition, there is no way to account for the placebo effect or to know how many people who didn’t like the product and didn’t leave a review. If CystaQ were truly that amazing, why wouldn’t the company study it? They should turn that $49.99 a month of almost pure profit into a couple of quality studies.

Verdict: I’d pass on CystaQ.