Diet may play a role in the risk of contracting a urinary tract infection (UTI), an illness that will affect more than half of women at some point during their lives.
UTIs are caused by bacteria in the stool, and dietary changes can affect the bacterial flora involved, which is why researchers suggest that diet may affect risk.
Cranberry and cranberry-lingonberry juices have been found to be particularly effective in preventing UTI recurrence, as women who consumed fresh juices, especially from berries, were less likely to have experienced a UTI recently.
Most berries are rich in flavonols, such as epicatechin. Plants produce flavonols in response to microbial infection, which suggests that these substances may play a role in antimicrobial defense.
Further, epicatechin potent prevents bacteria like E. coli from attaching to human cells. Since the bacteria cannot attach to the lining of the bladder wall, they slide out of the bladder without causing an infection.
Although fruits such as apples, cherries, and plums are rich in epicatechin, the flavonol content of berries is higher, which may explain why berries are associated with a reduced risk of UTI recurrence.
Another dietary factor associated with a low UTI recurrence was frequent consumption of fermented milk products containing probiotics. No association was found from fresh milk products, leading researchers to suggest that the probiotics, rather than the milk itself, may be responsible for the protective effects.
Intakes of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements, including daily calcium intake, did not have any effect on UTI risk, nor did total daily drinking volume.
Aside from diet, other risk factors for UTIs include sexual activity and contraception methods, genetic circumstances, such as belonging to blood groups AB or B, and age. Women between the ages of 25 and 29 years, and those older than 55 years, are most likely to be affected.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition March 2003;77(3):600-4
Here is further evidence of the power of food in normalizing disease. What the authors are unaware of though is the profound influence that sugar has on UTIs. If you eat sugars and grains, which rapidly break down to sugars, they will serve as fuel for pathogenic disease-causing bacteria in the intestine that are more likely to infect the bladder.
This is one of the reasons why you need to be especially cautious when using cranberry juice to treat UTIs as most of the juices are loaded with extra sugars that will have some highly counterproductive effects on a woman's health.
As I said two years ago:
Although the cranberry juice likely works, I would not advise using it. The juice has far too much sugar in it; like all fruit juices, it is high in fructose.
The fructose, like nearly all simple sugars, is metabolized quickly and disrupts insulin levels, which contributes to most chronic illness.
However, cranberry juice has another carbohydrate that this study, and most all studies on this subject, tends to ignore. The active ingredient in cranberry juice is a carbohydrate called mannose.
In the past, mannose has been difficult to obtain due to costs and manufacturing capabilities. The pure, high-quality form has just recently become commercially available as a natural supplement, and now I can finally offer it to you!
D-Mannose is not a drug. This nutritional supplement occurs naturally in peaches, apples, and berries. D-Mannose is a rare saccharide found in some plant and food substances -- and we even produce it in our own bodies. Non-toxic and safe, ClearTract D-Mannose:
Supports a healthy urinary tract
Is 10- 50 times stronger than cranberry!
Produces rapid action in as little as 24-48 hours
Does not kill friendly bacteria
Is safe for long term use -- neutral pH
Is 100% all natural D-Mannose and nothing else
Is the strongest natural urinary tract product available
The mannose actually adheres to the receptors on the lining of the bladder that attach to the bacteria. This forces the bacteria to slide right off and into the toilet. It is amazingly effective, but you must remember it is only a Band-Aid, though a far safer one than prophylactic antibiotic use or cranberry juice.
D-Mannose may work for mild UTIs, but it is important to note that if it is not working you will want to consider the use of an antibiotic, as the infection can spread into your kidneys and cause some very serious damage if left untreated.
If you do use an antibiotic it is important to take a high-quality, high-potency probiotic to replace the beneficial bacteria that the antibiotic kills.
It is also important to recognize that prevention of urinary tract infections is also an essential principle.
In the 20 years I have been practicing clinical medicine, it has been my observation that one of the most frequent causes of these infections are less than careful hygiene after one develops loose stools or diarrhea.
It is very easy to contaminate your fingers when wiping yourself with toilet paper, and if those contaminated fingers come anywhere close to the opening of the urethra, there is a high likelihood of infection in predisposed individuals.
Another pearl is for women to ONLY use white unscented toilet paper as many women react to the dyes and chemicals in other toilet papers.
Unbleached toilet paper is even better as it reduces any possible chlorine exposure and helps reduce the environmental contamination that comes from the bleaching process.