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Cranberry: Natural Protection for Urinary Health

Healthnotes Newswire (March 6, 2008)—Cranberry juice has long been a popular natural remedy for urinary tract infections (UTIs), and now a recent review suggests that cranberries in juice or capsule form may help prevent them, particularly in women who have repeated infections.

A new review looked at studies evaluating the effects of cranberry juice or tablets in preventing UTIs, and compared them with the effects of water or a placebo. Both the juice and tablets were most effective in preventing infections in younger women with recurrent infections. They had less effect in other groups of people who experience frequent urinary tract infections, such as the elderly and people whose urinary tracts are catheterized for chronic medical conditions.

“There is some evidence that cranberry juice may decrease the number of symptomatic UTIs over a 12-month period, particularly for women with recurrent UTIs,” said Ruth Jepson and colleagues from the University of Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom.

The authors noted that there were a large number of people who withdrew from the reviewed studies, which indicates that cranberry juice may not be acceptable to some people over long periods of time. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and increased frequency of bowel movements caused some participants to stop using cranberry products and some children withdrew because of dislike for the taste.

The optimum amount or form to take (juice, tablets, or capsules) to prevent UTIs is not clear, and the authors recommend further randomized controlled studies that last longer than six months.

Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, and other healthy nutrients. Cranberries may also contain unique substances that keep bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract and bladder, thereby helping to prevent infection.

Staying UTI-free

Women suffer from urinary tract infections more frequently than men because they have a shorter urethra which makes it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder. UTIs can be very painful so it is not surprising that people with recurrent infections are often looking for ways to stop them before they start. Here are some more tips to avoid UTIs:

• Always drink plenty of water.

• Urinate when you feel that you need to rather than waiting or “holding it.”

• Try to urinate before and after sex to help clear the urinary tract of bacteria.

• Wash the area around the genitals before and after sex to help decrease the bacteria that can lead to infections.

Anyone with recurrent urinary tract infections should see a doctor to determine if there is something more serious going on that may be contributing to the infections.

(Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008 doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001321.pub4)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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