Monday, January 24, 2011

Cranberry Juice and Your Bladder

Once again, cranberry juice and its role in possible prevention of urinary tract infections is in the news. Several studies published recently tried to address whether or not cranberry juice or cranberry extracts are effective in prevention of recurrent bladder infections. The results? Not too impressive...and the jury is still out.

Urinary tract infections are relatively common, especially in women. Once you have an infection, the relapse rate is nearly 30%, so we are always looking for non-antibiotic methods to reduce that number. Cranberry juice is known to decrease the ability of bacteria to stick on to the surface of the bladder lining. If fewer bacteria stick, they are less likely to multiply to the point of establishing an infection. Scientists have tried to narrow down the active ingredient that yields this result, and most believe it to be the PACs (proanthocyanidins). However, recent trials based on this theory have not demonstrated success in reducing the number of infections.

What CAN you do to reduce bladder infections?
1. Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of WATER.
2. Limit caffeine (it is a diuretic).
3. Women, make sure you wipe front to back after urination (to avoid bringing the rectal bacteria forward)
4. Urinate soon after sex (again, don't leave the moisture for the rectal bacteria to float forward)

Signs and symptoms of urinary infections are burning when you urinate, and urgency and/or frequency of urinating. As the infection progresses, you could develop back pain, nausea, vomiting and fever- all serious signs that it's past time to see your doctor!

Should you drink cranberry juice if you think you have an infection? Sure! But not to CURE it, just drink it because you ought to really hydrate with anything that does not have caffeine. It might help you (along with an antibiotic) to cure the infection, and it does no harm unless you don't like the taste.

BOTTOM LINE: Cranberry juice may slightly help to clear urinary tract infections, but there is not solid evidence that it helps prevent recurrences if you take it daily as a preventative treatment.

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