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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, October 26, 2002

Best to see doctor about urinary troubles

By Amy Tousman

Cranberry juice is an age-old folk remedy for treating urinary-tract infections, otherwise known as bladder infections.

These infections usually are caused by bacteria which travel from colon to the urethra and to the bladder. Symptoms include pain in the pelvis, frequent urination,and a burning sensation upon urination.

A study of elderly women at Harvard medical School, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1994, found that cranberry juice could be used to prevent urinary-tract infections in those who have never had one. It can also help stop infections in those who have had an infection.

Doctors often recommend that patients with a urinary-tract infection drink plenty of fluids to help flush bacteria from the system. In the past, it was assumed that cranberry juice worked by making urine more acidic. But that never explained why cranberry juice seemed to work better than other acidic juices such as orange juice.

In 1998, scientists discovered that substances in cranberries called tannins (a fancy name for the red pigments) are the reason. Tannins prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering to the bladder and kidneys. E. coli is the most common cause of urinary-tract infections. If E. coli can't stick to the bladder wall, it gets washed away.

A study reported in the June 19 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that when subjects consumed cranberry juice cocktail, their urine was capable of preventing 80 percent of the bacterial strains from adhering to the bladder. This includes antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Ten ounces daily of a product containing at least 27 percent cranberry juice works best for prevention. If a bladder infection is diagnosed, you will be given antibiotics to cure the condition. Cranberry juice should not replace antibiotic treatment.

You should always be evaluated by your physician if you suspect a bladder infection. Left untreated, the bacteria can travel to your kidneys. A kidney infection can cause, life-threatening consequences.

If you don't like the taste of cranberry juice, you can try cranberry tablets. This helps you avoid the extra sugar found in the juice, which may be helpful to diabetics.

Amy Tousman is a registered dietitian at Straub Clinic & Hospital Inc. and a member of the Hawai'i Dietetic Association.