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Dr Russ Blog - Berries or Biotics for Urinary Tract Infections?
Berries or Biotics for Urinary Tract Infections?
Created on 8/19/2011

Many women drink cranberry juice or take cranberry extract capsules to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). This isn't just an "old wives' tale" - studies show that cranberries can help prevent UTIs.

You see, cranberries (and blueberries, for that matter) contain compounds that help prevent bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall, and so help prevent bladder infection, also called UTI.

But conventional medical doctors have long relied on long-term use of antibiotics to aid in the prevention of UTIs. Which is better?

The authors of a study recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine sought to answer this question. They gave female study participants either an antibiotic known to be effective against many forms of UTI or a cranberry extract in capsule form for one year. At the end of the trial it was found that women who took the antibiotic had fewer epsides of UTI.

But that's not the end of the story.

The women who took the antibiotic also created bacteria resistant to antibiotic therapy, and within a relatively short time frame. As you know, as bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics they become much more difficult to treat (keep in mind that a person doesn't develop resistance to a bacterial infection - the bacteria develop resistance!).

The resistance lessened once they came off the antibiotic.

On the flip side, cranberry extract use was still pretty good as a preventive against UTI and there was no issue of bacterial resistance developing.

There is the problem of dosage - it remains unknown what the proper dose of cranberry might be - prior studies suggest that the dose of cranberry extract used in the present study was far too low to be very effectivie.

If you have repeated bouts of UTI your doctor may recommend long-term antibiotic therapy, but it's worthwhile asking your doctor if a trial of cranberry or blueberry extract, juice (look for low-sugar varieties), or simply eating the fruits more regularly would be worthwhile.

After all, if the berries are effective, they are a whole lot more tasty and fun to "take" than pills.

Be well.
Dr. Russ
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **


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