Watch out turkey!
Everyone loves having cranberry sauce or jelly with the Thanksgiving turkey, or just drinking refreshing cranberry
juice when thirsty – but this ruby red and tangy berry also has a health supplement
use as well. Yes, the humble cranberry has long been known as an effective natural treatment
for urinary infections, especially in women.
What is cranberry?
A native plant of America the cranberry is closely related to another American berry well known for its health promoting properties – the blueberry. The ‘craneberry’ as it was originally called, due to the shrubs flowers looking like the Crane’s heads that lived in its natural boggy habitat, has been used for centuries in both cooking and healing. In times past the berries would have been crushed and used in poultices to treat wounds and tumors whilst he juice was commonly used to combat scurvy – a vitamin C deficiency causing gum and bleeding disorders.
The cranberry and UTIs
The flower is said to resemble a Crane’s head.
UTIs are Urinary Tract Infections
that are caused by E. coli and other bacteria. In the 1920s it was noticed that people who drank large amounts of cranberry juice
produced urine that was more acidic in nature and, therefore, as a result of this higher acidity was ‘purer’ urine – in terms of the bacteria it transported. Apparently cranberry juice stimulates the production of Hippuric acid in urine – which has a natural and strong antibiotic effect
on the urinary tract. More recently it has been found that the cranberry can prevent certain harmful micro-organisms from adhering to the cells lining the urinary tract. Thereby reducing the opportunities for bacteria like E. coli to multiply and cause an infection
. The active ingredients responsible for this effect is are phytochemicals called proanthocyanidins.
The benefits of cranberries
Cranberry juice - probably the most commonly taken form of this health supplement.
Several studies have now shown that cranberries in either the berry or capsule form, or drinking cranberry juice in particular – are highly effective in both preventing and treating UTIs
. Although men can and do develop UTIs – women are ten times more likely to develop a UTI than a man is and around one third of all women aged 20 to 40 will experience a UTI at least once. UTIs typically take the form of an internal burning or itching sensation when passing urine
and in extreme cases will cause pain. Whilst any bacterial infection should be treated with a course of antibiotics – regularly drinking cranberry juice, or taking cranberries in some other supplemental form, will definitely help the healing process and once healed, help to prevent any recurrence. A secondary benefit of cranberries killing bacteria
in the urine is that the urine will also lose the odor associated with anything that contains bacteria. As such, the urine of people who drink cranberry juice or take a cranberry supplement
will, in effect, smell sweeter than if they didn’t take it. This makes cranberry a useful dietary supplement
to anyone suffering from urinary incontinence
as, by removing or altering the odor of the urine it can also lessen the embarrassment of an incontinence episode. Whilst the natural high vitamin C
content of cranberries makes them an ideal natural vitamin supplement
there are also indications that cranberries could also help to raise good (HDL) cholesterol levels
in the body and increase antioxidant levels
. Both of which can help to reduce the risk of heart disease
Taking cranberry as a supplement
Cranberry can be taken/used with or without other foods and has very few exceptions in terms of its combination with other foods or medications. However, as it will acidify your urine using it at the same time as the bearberry (a herbal remedy for UTIs) may prove to be unproductive. Cranberry supplements
are usually in the form of a capsule or as a freshly squeezed juice of the berries drink. For UTIs two 400mg capsules are recommended, which could also be taken as one 500ml drink of undiluted cranberry juice
or as a tincture. To prevent UTIs for recurring those doses should be halved. If you suspect you have a UTI trying self-treatment with cranberry juice can be tried for 24 to 36 hours. However, if after that time the symptoms persist you should seek medical advice. Shivering, back pain
and blood in the urine
in particular are indications of a more serious problem such as a kidney infection
rather than just a UTI.