Juicing for Bladder Infections

Urine is sterile in the bladder, but bacteria or other organisms can infiltrate the urinary tract and result in a bladder infection, also called cystitis. Bladder infections are more common in women than men — a quarter of all women in the United States get one at some time in their lives — but men with enlarged prostates are also susceptible to bladder infections. People with indwelling catheters are also more prone to bladder infections.

And so are honeymooners! The term “honeymoon cystitis” was coined to refer to the type of cystitis that occurs after rigorous and prolonged sexual intercourse.

According to researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, a urinary tract infection (UTI) starts when E. coli invade the bladder and penetrate a protective coating of the superficial cells that line the bladder. Once the E. coli is established in the bladder lining, the stage is set for infection.

How UTIs Happen

Bladder infections most commonly occur when the urinary tract is attacked by the bacteria E. coli, which thrives naturally in the digestive tract. Studies show that about 85 percent of bladder infections are caused by this nasty bacteria.

If you've ever had a bladder infection, you already know the first signs: frequency and urgency! You can't get to the bathroom fast enough, and it seems you're making many repeated trips. Other symptoms include cloudy urine, pain in the lower back, and fatigue.

Unfortunately, antibiotics are not always effective in treating UTIs. To complicate matters, even if the antibiotic does work, it weakens the immune system, making it easier to get a subsequent infection. The good news is that countless studies show that cranberry juice — either enjoyed alone or mixed with other fruit juices — can prevent UTIs before they can take hold.

Cranberries' high ORAC score means they are powerful antioxidants that fight disease and aging. They slow the oxidative processes and free radical damage that contributes to age-related cellular degeneration and disease. The antioxidants in cranberries can provide protection against everything from loss of coordination to cancer.

Cranberry Juice to the Rescue

Cranberries have an extremely high oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). Many scientists believe foods with higher ORAC scores more effectively neutralize free radicals. Raw cranberries have an ORAC score of 9,584, which means they are extremely effective at neutralizing free radicals and even more potent than much-touted blueberries and raspberries. By comparison, vegetable juice cocktails that combine the juice of a variety of vegetables have an ORAC score of just 548.2

France has permitted food, drink, and dietary supplement manufacturers a “function use claim” that highlights the health benefits of products containing cranberry to consumers. Since 2004, the country has allowed the claim that the North American cranberry can help reduce the adhesion of certain E. coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls.

A number of recent studies have shown that cranberries are effective in preventing urinary tract and bladder infections. A year-long Canadian study of 150 sexually active women found that cranberry juice significantly decreased UTIs and that it was also much more cost effective than taking antibiotics.

Research conducted in 2009 comparing the effectiveness of cranberry extract with a low dose of an antibiotic in the prevention of recurrent UTIs in older women found that while both the antibiotic and cranberry extract successfully prevented recurring UTIs, the antibiotic had more adverse side effects.

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