When does the population consume more cranberries and drink more cranberry juice than during the holidays? For some who suffer from urinary tract infections (UTI’s) they have a little cranberry juice or even a cranberry pill every day.
Urinary tract infections are common, in fact, they are the second most common infection that people seek treatment for. Over a lifetime, a woman has a fifty percent chance of having a bladder infection. But it’s not just women at risk for these pesky infections, men get UTI’s too. It just happens to be more common in women because they have a shorter urethra, in comparison to men, and that makes it easier for bacteria to get into the bladder.
The most common cause of a UTI is bacteria, but viruses and even yeast can also travel through the urethra and into the bladder causing an infection. There are also several medical conditions that can put one at higher risk for a UTI. Individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk, as we age the risk goes up, and women in menopause can have a higher incidence. Sexual intercourse can increase the risk and bowel conditions such as constipation or loose stools can also increase the risk of a UTI. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of an impending bladder infection, because if you catch it early, you may not need medical intervention.
Early symptoms of a UTI include:
- Urgency to urinate
- Discomfort – painful or burning sensation during urination
- Frequency – visiting the bathroom frequently even if there is little urine
Advanced symptoms include:
- More severe urgency and frequency
- Cloudy, dark, foul-smelling or bloody urine
- Difficulty urinating and emptying the bladder fully
- Nausea or back pain
The first line of treatment for a suspected UTI can start at home – start by increasing your consumption of fluids. Make sure you are emptying your bladder often and fully. And finally, add a little cranberry to your diet. It is a farce that cranberry will cure a UTI; it will not kill the bacteria. It is a fact, however, that cranberry juice can be a part of the cure because cranberry actually prevents the adhesion of bacteria to the bladder wall allowing the body to win the battle against the infection. Some studies show that it provides up to an 80% reduction of bacterial adhesion. So, while cranberry doesn’t kill the bacteria, it does make it unable to grab onto the bladder wall and bacteria can then pass through and out of the bladder easier. Therefore, cranberries have been shown to reduce the risk of a symptomatic urinary tract infection by about 40%.
There are a couple ways to add cranberry to your diet. You can drink one 8 oz glass of cranberry juice each day, or for those who don’t like cranberry juice or are watching their sugar intake, they can take cranberry tablets, one pill should be equilivent to one eight-ounce glass. Both contain the active ingredient proanthocyanidins. This is what helps to prevent infection. Bladder infections can go away on their own – especially if you catch them early enoughand if you can take enough cranberry to help fight it off. If following these steps, you are still unable to get relief from your symptoms, see your health care provider to have a urinalysis and possibly a culture. If you have more than three infections in a year you should consider an evaluation with a urologist.