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Cranberries: a natural remedy for cystitis

Both bitter and acidic, the little red cranberry has been known in the United States for many years. Cranberry juice is not just a thirst-quenching drink, but is also well known for its health benefits, particularly as a remedy for cystitis.

Cranberries for cystitis
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Known (and loved) for decades in the USA, cranberries are small red berries with a unique acidic and bitter taste. Americans consume them both as a breakfast juice, and as a traditional remedy for urinary tract infections in juice or tablet form.

A traditional remedy for cystitis

Despite the pain and the incapacitating nature of recurring urinary tract infections, there’s not much available in terms of medication. Reference treatment relies on antibiotics, which reduce the rate of recurrence. However, bacterial resistance to antibiotics is increasingly frequent and so medical care can sometimes become a conundrum.

In the United States, cranberry juice (Vaccinium macrocarpon) has been used for several decades as a traditional remedy for urinary tract infections.  But many of granny’s remedies have proven to be nothing but folklore, so what about cranberry juice?

Several very serious studies have proven that consuming cranberry juice helps to reduce the frequency of urinary tract infections in young women1,2 as well as older women3. A reduction, which according to the studies and doses, varies between 20% to 60%. The same effect is also observed using encapsulated powder tablets4.

The regular consumption of cranberry juice offers even better protection against bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics5. Faced with this constantly increasing phenomenon, antibiotics risk becoming less effective and alternatives such as cranberry juice are more than welcome.

Cranberries and their sticky tricks

But how can the cranberry’s miraculous properties be explained? Contrary to what we used to think, it’s not the acidification of the urine by the cranberry juice that provides this protection. Further research has shown what the real mechanism is.

Cranberries contain flavonoids, anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins. The barbarically named latter are apparently capable of fixing onto certain Escherichia coli bacteria which cause cystitis and prevent them from adhering to bladder cells and thus from causing infection. Without their anchor point, these bacteria are therefore naturally eliminated through the urine.

Not much is known about how long this miracle remedy actually takes to work. In June 2002, a study suggested that the beneficial effects appear within two hours following ingestion and remain perceptible for more than 10 hours in the urine5. These results merit a call for taking a dose of cranberry juice (or in tablet form) in the morning and evening for optimal coverage.

If, you suffer from recurrent cystitis, you should be able to find your cranberry magic in supermarkets (Ocean Spray cranberry juice) , health food shops (Biona organic pure cranberry juice, Dynamic Health cranberry juice concentrate) or in tablet form (Seven Seas Cranberry Forte capsules, Healthspan Cranberry Double Strength) at pharmacies.

1. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(2): CD001321
2. BMJ 2001; 322: 1571
3. JAMA 1994 Mar9; 271(10): 751-4
4. Can J Urol.2002 Jun; 9(3): 1558-62
5. JAMA. 2002; 287: 3082-3083

Posted 18.04.2011

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