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Cranberries Protect Against Urinary Tract Infections: August 6, 2012

Women have done it for years - drink cranberry juice to help fight a urinary tract infection. But there was no science to back it up, until now; researchers believe there might be a real benefit.

At any given time, two percent of the world’s female population will have a urinary tract infection.

“A urinary tract infection is probably one of the most common things in urology that we treat.  It’s very prevalent.  At the best it’s an annoyance; at the worst it could cause serious illness,” says Dr. Mark Mintz, a urologist on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Infections result when bacteria, most commonly e-coli, inhabit the urinary tract. Most infections are uncomplicated and respond to sulfate medications. The problem lies with chronic infections.

“It becomes an issue when you’ve had them for over years and years.  If you keep getting chronic urinary tract infections, they’ll start to do damage to the bladder.  It can give you a situation where you have problems with your bladder control or cause your bladder to get scarred so you get smaller capacity,” says Dr. Mintz.

Turns out our mothers may have been on to something when they served up advice on UTIs. New research shows cranberry juice or capsules may have an affect in fighting these infections. Until now, most talk at was anecdotal.

“There’s some people who develop like these low-grade symptoms and they take cranberry extract or cranberry juice, flush fluids.  And there’s a small percentage of people who resolve it,” says Dr. Mintz.

These new findings seem to suggest certain compounds in cranberries, and maybe other berries, might prevent bacteria from attaching to tissue in the urinary tract, thereby warding off infection. The big question is - how much?

“I think you’d need a lot of cranberry juice, cranberry pills, flush fluids.  And yes, it will get rid of the infection but those people who develop a significant infection usually say ‘oh I’ve taken lots of fluids, I think it’s better.’  I’m able to look at the urine and it’s still there.  So the best thing to do is just treat it,” says Dr. Mintz.

While it’s not a cure-all, incorporating a daily dose of cranberry in your diet might keep your urinary tract on the right track.