Cranberry capsules and juices have long been a solid home remedy for many internal ailments and in particular for women suffering from urinary tract infections (UTI). However, manufactured medicines may be a better alternative than nature’s way, according to a new study from The Netherlands.

Dr. Suzanne Geerlings, an infectious diseases expert at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam explains:

“Cranberries are less effective in the prevention, but do not result in resistant microorganisms. Women with recurrent UTIs do not like taking antibiotics for a long period because they know [about] the resistance problem. I think that doctors have to discuss the results of this study with the individual patients to make the best choice.”

For the study, women who took cranberry capsules were more likely to develop at least one symptomatic UTI compared with their counterparts who received the antibiotic, 4 versus 1.8, respectively. On average, women in the cranberry group developed a new UTI after four months, while recurrence occurred within eight months among those who received the antibiotic.

Escherichia coli is one of the most frequent causes of many common bacterial infections, including cholecystitis, bacteremia, cholangitis, urinary tract infection (UTI), and traveler’s diarrhea, and other clinical infections such as neonatal meningitis and pneumonia.

About half of all women will experience a UTI at some point in their lives, and 30% of women will develop recurrent UTIs as a result of Escherichia coli.

Most of the time, your body can get rid of these bacteria. However, certain conditions increase the risk of having UTIs. Women tend to get them more often because their urethra is shorter and closer to the anus than in men. Because of this, women are more likely to get an infection after sexual activity or when using a diaphragm for birth control. Menopause also increases the risk of a UTI.

Dr. Carolyn Dean, a naturopathic physician in Maui, Hawaii says there is still a role for cranberry juice and/or extract in preventing UTIs:

“We have been using cranberry juice extract and capsules for a long time. It stops adhesion of bacteria to the bladder wall. Sexually active women whose bladder feels irritated after sex should take cranberry capsules after intercourse as a preventative. If you do develop a UTI, you can increase the amount of cranberry extract you are taking or consider antibiotics.”

Exactly how cranberries may prevent or treat UTIs is not fully understood, but cranberries contain fructose (fruit sugar) and type A proanthocyanidins, which can prevent E. coli from sticking to the said bladder walls. Antibiotics kill bacteria, while the cranberry extract provides more of a mechanical solution.

In the research, after one month antibiotic resistance to E. coli was higher than 85% in the antibiotic group and less than 30% among women who took the cranberry extract.

Antibiotics taken by mouth are usually recommended because there is a risk that the infection can spread to the kidneys.

For a simple bladder infection, you will take antibiotics for 3 days (women) or 7 – 14 days (men). For a bladder infection with complications such as pregnancy or diabetes, or a mild kidney infection, you will usually take antibiotics for approximately two weeks.

It is important that you finish all the antibiotics, even if you feel better. If you do not finish all your antibiotics, the infection could return and may be harder to treat.

Source: The Archives of Internal Medicine

Written by Sy Kraft