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Addressing UTIs Naturally
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Addressing UTIs Naturally
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Addressing UTIs Naturally

By Sherry Torkos

Urinary tract infections (UTI) are the second most common infection that affects women. The symptoms—urinary burning, frequency, urgency and pain—are unpleasant and in some cases debilitating. According to the Kidney and Urology Foundation of America, 1 in 5 women will develop a UTI in their lifetimes. In the United States alone, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates 8.3 million doctor visits per year are attributed to UTIs, and they are the second leading cause of lost work days for women. As with most health problems, prevention is the key.

There are several reasons why women are at greater risk of UTI. In women, the urethra is closer to the rectal area, making it easier for bacteria to enter the bladder. Pregnancy increases risk because the growing baby presses on the bladder, which may prevent it from completely emptying. Menopause also increases UTI risk because lower estrogen levels lead to thinning of the urinary tract, making it easier for bacteria to enter.

Sexual intercourse is the most common cause of UTI in women age 20 to 40. During sex, bacteria can be pushed from the rectal area toward the vagina and can then enter the urethra and ascend into the bladder. Men can also get UTIs. Those with an enlarged prostate, diabetes or cancer and those under stress are at increased risk.

Treatment Options

Prompt treatment of a UTI is essential to prevent the infection from spreading and causing damage to the kidneys. Treatment most often requires antibiotic therapy, which is associated with several drawbacks. Side effects of antibiotics may include nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and secondary infections (yeast overgrowth). The overuse of antibiotics is now recognized as a major factor in the development of antimicrobial resistance. In some cases, antibiotics are prescribed prophylactically for women who get frequent UTIs.

A more natural option is cranberry, which has been revered for centuries for urinary tract health. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that its mechanism was elucidated. Cranberry works in part by preventing bacteria from adhering to the bladder. The condensed tannins or proanthocyanidins (PAC) adhere to the tiny hairs of the bacterial surface, changing the structure of the bacteria and preventing bacteria from implanting in the bladder wall. Additionally, researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute found chemical changes caused by cranberry juice create an energy barrier that keeps the bacteria from getting close to the urinary tract lining in the first place.

Most of the early research on cranberry yielded mixed results. This is likely due to the fact that these studies primarily involved juice cocktail and the amount studied varied greatly. Studies that yielded positive results involved large amounts of juice: up to 34 ounces per day. Most juice cocktails contain only 27 percent cranberry juice, along with sugar and water. A high intake of sugar and calories presents a problem for weight management and blood sugar control. Pure juice is available but quite expensive and very tart. For all of these reasons, cranberry supplements offer significant advantages.

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06-27-2012 05:24 AM
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