The Healing Secrets in Cranberry Juice; ALTERNATIVES

Article excerpt

Byline: DR JOHN BRIFFA

CYSTITIS, also known as urinary tract infection (UTI), is thought to affect up to 60 pc of women at some point in their lives.

Infections can recur, and at least a third of women with an infection experience another within a year.

The mainstay of conventional treatment for UTIs is antibiotics.

While these may help clear cystitis, there is growing concern that antibiotic use is leading to the emergence of organisms resistant to their effects.

The search is on, therefore, for more natural approaches to cystitis. Over the past 20 years there has been growing interest in the role of cranberry in the prevention of UTIs.

Last month, research published in the British Medical Journal showed that women consuming a drink containing cranberry juice halved their risk of succumbing to the infection.

So what do we know of cranberry's effect, and does it really offer promise for women suffering from this common and troublesome infection?

UTIs are almost always caused by bacterial organisms. About 80 pc of infections are caused by an organism called Escherichia coli (E. coli), which normally lives in the gut.

E. coli makes its way into the bladder from the outside by migrating up the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the outside (the urethra).

This organism is generally easily flushed out of the bladder during urination. Therefore, to cause a true infection it must actually stick to the inside of the bladder.

E. coli does this through the use of finger-like projections called 'fimbriae' which can penetrate and adhere to the bladder lining.

Cranberry is known to contain substances known as pro-anthocyanidins. These compounds impair E. coli's ability to form fimbriae. Unable to stick to the bladder wall, it can then be flushed harmlessly out of the system.

In the recent British Medical Journal study, 50 women were treated with 50ml of cranberry juice, with a little added lingonberry juice (a berry related to the cranberry) each day for six months.

At the end of the treatment period, it was found that women consuming the cranberry juice had suffered about half the number of UTIs compared to untreated women. Interestingly, this protective effect appeared to remain for a futher six months despite no additional treatment.

Why this should be is not clear.

However, the authors of the study suggest that some of cranberry's beneficial effects may come from inhibiting E. …