An old wives tale makes a comeback: Cranberry juice

Related articles

An old wives tale makes a comeback: Cranberry juice

When I was in med school and throughout my practice years, the old saw about cranberry juice protecting women from recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) was looked upon with disdain, even ridicule. We were too cool to believe such myths, relied upon by our senior mentors and even our moms. Not when we had all those powerful new antibiotics to fight off the bladder invaders. The most frequent offender was (and still is) the bug whose scientific name is E. coli, causative agent of honeymoon cystitis so-called because frequent sex was a known precursor to painful bladder infections in young women.

How times have changed. While E. coliremains vulnerable, by and large, to our most common antibiotics, many other varieties of bacteria have become resistant to multiple antibiotics. Worse, pharmaceutical researchers have been unable to develop many new, effective antibiotics over the past decade or so (although their proficiency in discovered new AIDS treatments remains a modern medical miracle). And evidence suggests that overuse of antibiotics contributes to resistant organisms, such as MRSA, a hospital scourge as well as being expensive and responsible for allergic reactions when used promiscuously.

Guess what? A recent study found that it s just possible that good ole fashioned cranberry juice may help to reduce the frequency of recurrent UTIs among women and men too! (Men can be victims of frequent UTIs, especially if they have enlarged prostates obstructing urinary outflow).

The study authors were based in Taiwan, and they evaluated ten prior studies involving over 1,400 patients, and found that those who consumed over 2 glasses daily of cranberry juice had about one-half as frequent UTIs when compared to those who drank less, or none.

Of course, this is not a gold standard-type of controlled trial from which a cause-and-effect conclusion can be drawn. Moreover, other studies have shown, over the years, that the beneficial effect of cranberry juice is modest at best. And cranberry juice, like other fruit juices, is quite caloric and too much of it can pack on the pounds if someone trying to reduce UTIs isn t careful.

Men or women with recurrent bladder infections should of course get checked out by a physician, which will often require referral to a urologist and kidney and bladder X-rays. Also, young women who have a tendency to get UTIs after sex can sometimes reduce their frequency by vigorous hydration a few glasses of water before and/or after sex.

One way or another, it is indeed rare for anyone with a normal urinary tract anatomy to have to suffer recurrent infections these days with appropriate evaluation and treatment even without using powerful antibiotics too often.