You’ve tackled some medical issues before now (prenatal vitamins, etc), so here’s another one for you. I am pretty susceptible to UTIs. Any woman (or man for that matter) who has been there, knows that it’s no joke. In addition to the, “aaarrrrgh, it burnnnsssss!” pee moments, I also have this stupid ditty that gets stuck in my head every time I wee: “oh lord, it burns when I pee” (to the tune of janis joplin’s “mercedes benz”. Like I said, no joke.
Because I am so susceptible, it’s kind of a pain in the ass to go to the doctor every time for an antibiotic regime, and I just moved to the states, and don’t have insurance yet. In the past, I have pretty much always had to get the antibiotic though I managed to fight one off (I drank a fuck load of cranberry juice, but that might not even be related). Anyway, my question is this: is there any validity to treating UTIs with cranberry, or attempting to raise the acidity levels in the urine?
First my standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. The internet is no substitute for seeking care from an actual MD. You should go to the doctor whenever you feel that you may have an infection. To reinforce this fact, I got in touch with an OB/GYN for comment.
I contacted Dr. Jennifer Gunter, an OB/GYN, sex health expert and pain medicine physician to get her take on what to do with recurring bladder infections and to give us the scoop on cranberry juice. Emphasis added by me.
There is no medical evidence that suggests cranberry juice or tablets will treat a bladder infection. If you think you have a bladder infection, while it is OK to take cranberry, you should see your doctor to get the correct diagnosis and be treated with antibiotics.
Cranberry juice and tablets can prevent bladder infections and this has been studied. The optimnal dose is unknown. We usually recommend tablets (juice has calories and that adds up over time, also many people find the pure cranberry juice less than palapatble). For preventing a bladder infection we recommend looking at the bottle and taking what ever the recommended dose is twice a day.
There is no medical evidence that emptying your bladder after sex prevents a bladder infection, although we recommend women (who have a history of bladder infections after sex) do it as it will not be harmful
Some people think that vitamin C 1,000 mg three times a day by mouth can help prevent bladder infections as it makes the urine more acidic which theoretically might make it harder for bacteria to grow. However, there are no medical studies to support this.
For women close to menopause and after menopause vaginla estrogen (prescription) is very effective at preventing bladder infections (more so than cranberry).
In addition to Dr. Gunter’s comments I want to really reinforce the fact that prior to taking any supplements you should first discuss it with your primary care physician as there is mounting evidence that some vitamin supplements may do more harm than good.
In addition, it has also been established that while drinking cranberry juice prior to onset of infection may be helpful, drinking cranberry juice is no better than water once an infection has set it. Keeping hydrated and flushing your system may have some benefit but yeah, you can drink water for that.
I also want to reinforce the MAY BE as in might be, as in probably more myth than actually helpful part of drinking cranberry juice.
Dr. Mark Crislip an infectious disease specialist from Science Based Medicine Blog writes in his article entitled, wait for it …wait for it …yep: Cranberry juice.
From Dr. Crislip’s article:
There have been a variety of clinical trials, in different populations, to see if cranberry products are of benefit in the prevention of UTI’s and there has been variable efficacy.
There are, I am shocked, shocked to find, problems with the studies.
First, no one has ever done basic pharmacokinetics on proanthocyanidins to see if there is, indeed, proanthocyanidins in the urine of patients who take cranberry products.
Doing clinical trials without determining first if there is sufficient material that CAN be effective, before showing that it IS effective, is the homeopathic, and most SCAM, method of research. No one has been methodical in their evaluation of cranberry juice, so we are left with a hodgepodge of incomplete studies.
Mark mentions a recent published study from January, 2011 that is titled: Cranberry juice fails to prevent recurrent urinary tract infection: results from a randomized placebo-controlled trial. You get the idea from the title but feel free to click the link for more detailed anaysis or read Dr. Crislips article.
In conclusion, while there may be some E.coli bacteria fighting qualities to cranberry juice, the story doesn’t end there and there is not enough quality evidence to prove it is actually beneficial. At this point in time your best bet is to still seek out professional care and antibiotics and not to rely on juice or vitamin C, unless you are thirsty …or have scurvy.
And remember that recurring bladder infections could be a cause of an underlying condition, so please do see a doctor!
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