Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused when bacteria (usually E. coli) gets into the urinary tract. It thrives in the warm, moist environment and may eventually affect urine production, the function of the bladder and result in frequent and extremely painful urination. The most common type of urinary tract infection is a bladder infection which is also often called cystitis. A less common but more serious kidney infection is pyelonephritis.
UTIs result in more than 11 million visits health care offices each year. It is estimated that about 20% of women will have a urinary tract infection sometime during their lives. Of those, about 80% will have a recurring infection within 18 months. Women are more prone to UTIs than males because the urethra of females is much shorter and closer to the anus than in males. Men also receive some protection from prostatic secretions. However, the incidence in men does increase with age.
Symptoms of Bladder Infections
- Frequent urination
- Feeling a need to urinate even though there may be very little urine to pass
- Need to urinate during the night
- Discomfort, pain or a burning sensation during urination
- Pain in the area of the bladder
- Pus in the urine or other discharge
- Blood in urine
- Mild fever
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
If you have a bladder infection, you should be watching for symptoms of it worsening into a kidney infection.
Symptoms of Kidney Infections
All of the above symptoms, plus:
- Back, side or groin pain
- Abdominal pain or pressure
- Shaking, chills and high fever
- Night sweats
- Extreme fatigue
Diagnosis of Urinary Tract Infection
Multiple bacilli (rod-shaped bacteria) as confirmed by a urine culture. In cases of severe urinary tract infection, urea and creatinine measurements may be performed to assess whether renal function has been affected.
If pain is in the back region (suggesting kidney infection) or if pain persists, if there is fever, or blood in the urine, doctor care is strongly recommended.
Since bacteria can enter the urinary tract through the urethra poor toilet habits can predispose to infection.
Other factors are:
- Prostate enlargement
- Food allergies can irritate the bladder wall and increase susceptibility
- Urinary catheters
- Nervous system disorders
- Long periods of convalescence or unconsciousness
Most uncomplicated UTIs are commonly treated with 3-5 days of oral antibiotics. These can lead to mild allergic reactions and rare but serious complications. Here is what you can do:
- increase water-intake
- void frequently
- take vitamin C at night to raise acidity of the urine and retard bacterial growth
- avoid sugars and alcohol as they can feed the bacteria causing the infection
- drink unsweetened cranberry juice or take cranberry supplements
Cranberry as a Treatment for UTI
The cranberry has proven extremely effective in the management of UTIs. In one medical study, women troubled with recurrent bladder infections found that, compared with a placebo, taking a capsule containing 400 mg of solid cranberry concentrate daily for three months significantly reduced new infections (Journal of Family Practice, vol. 45, 1997).
Another study reported that elderly women who drank 300 ml of cranberry juice daily reduced their odds of having a UTI by 58% (Harvard University, 1994).
Similarly, a British study showed that a daily glass of cranberry juice reduced a woman's risk for UTI by 56 percent (British Medical Journal, 2001).
Cranberry's secret: keeps bacteria at bay - the natural way!
Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs), which inhibit the ability of bacteria, including E. coli, to attach to the urinary tract wall. Findings reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that not only are cranberry PACs able to "un-stick" antibiotic-susceptible bacteria, but resistant strains as well, and the effect can last up to 10 hours (JAMA, June 2002).
While many fruits contain similar compounds, the PACs of cranberries have been shown to exhibit this effect most strongly. Science has proven that these PACs are structurally different from those of other fruits tested, which may account for the cranberry's unique ability.
Other Benefits of Cranberry
Cranberries or cranberry extracts:
- inhibit the adhesion of bacteria that cause dental plaque and periodontal gum disease. (Journal of the American Dental Association, vol. 129, 1998.
- inhibit the adhesion of Helicobacter pylori bacteria implicated in stomach ulcers. (Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, vol. 42, Suppl., 2002).
- contain significant amounts of flavonoids which may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and improve cardiac health because they inhibit low density lipoprotein oxidation (Life Sciences, vol. 62, 1998).
- help prevent/treat scurvy because of the high vitamin C content.
- act as a natural probiotic, enabling good bacteria to thrive while inhibiting pathogenic bacteria.
- may protect against age-related coordination and memory loss by protecting brain cells from free-radical damage. The USDA ranks the cranberry as highest on its list for oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) (The Cranberry Institute, 2004).
- inhibits the growth of a variety of tumor cells (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry). The University of Illinois demonstrated the potential anticarcinogenic properties of the cranberry (Planta Medica, 1996) as a protection against tumor growth.
Native Americans and early Europeans used raw cranberries as a wound dressing, and as a treatment for a number of ailments, including loss of appetite, digestive problems, and blood disorders.
Without question, cranberry juice is one of the best therapies in support of urinary tract and bladder health. Watch a 35-second video showing how it helps to fight a urinary tract infection: