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The Power of Cranberries

How this amazing fruit can help fight Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) and the science behind it.

If you’ve ever had one, you know the signs and symptoms… the urgency, the burning, the discomfort and pain of a UTI, cystitis or bladder infection. And it’s women that are most commonly affected or rather infected. About half of sexually active women, young and old will experience a UTI at least once and some will suffer them frequently and severely. But why do women suffer more than men?

Put simply, it’s anatomy that makes women predisposed. The urethra (duct from bladder to the outside) is much shorter in women’s bodies and where it ends is close to the vaginal opening and anus. It’s through this close proximity that the urethra of women is exposed to higher levels of bacteria which increases the likelihood of infections. A woman’s chances of having a UTI increases with a sexual activity and age.

UTIs typically happen one of two ways, when outside bacteria get pushed into the urethra, or when bacteria already in the bladder multiply to unhealthy levels. Outside bacteria like E.coli from the digestive tract can cause UTIs by clinging to the opening of the urethra and multiply. Once bacteria start to multiple and without intervention the immune system responds increasing white blood cell levels, inflammation occurs as do the signs and the symptoms of a UTI. As bacteria multiple they can ascend up the urethra towards the kidneys where they can cause further infection (pyelonephritis) which can lead to further health implications and even kidney damage.

In good health the urine secreted by the kidneys is sterile (no bacteria), usually has an acidic pH that inhibits most bacterial growth and as the urine travels from the bladder down the urethra most bacteria are washed away. In certain individuals and health states UTIs are more prevalent, common risk factors include diabetes or insulin resistance, pregnancy, constipation, kidney stones, incomplete bladder emptying, oral contraceptives and sexual activity (nuns have 1 in ten incidence!).

Key prevention tips for UTIs are mostly hygiene based, like wipe front to back after going to the toilet, don’t use vaginal perfumes, always wear clean underwear, avoid tight fighting non-breathing material clothing and underwear, use tampons or a moon cup when menstruating instead of pads, take a shower instead of a bath, urinate soon after sex, avoid spermicidal lubricants, never “hold on” when needing to urinate, drink more water and dandelion tea, avoid refined food, avoid citrus fruits and chocolate and take a high strength cranberry supplement.

These basic tips can help prevent the likelihood of bacterial growth that can cause a UTI.

Conventional medical treatment for UTIs are antibiotics. Prescribed by your GP these are sometimes target (bacteria) specific but mostly broad-spectrum antibiotics and although effective they leave us baron of the friend flora needed to maintain oral, gastro-intestinal and vaginal health. Many women report vaginal thrush following a UTI due to broad-spectrum anti-biotic treatment, this is because it’s the vaginal flora that maintains the necessary acidic environment which inhibits fungal growth.

Nutritionally minded medical professionals will often recommend cranberry juice but most shop bought juices are packed full of sugar which helps feed the growth of the bacteria your trying to get rid of. Taking a high strength supplement of Cranberry extract is a more effective way to ingest the bio-active compounds that cranberries are famous for that prevent and treat UTIs. Multiple clinical studies have shown that cranberry extracts are the most effective way to treat UTIs without side effects. Scientists have identified many of the compounds in cranberries that provide powerful antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities in the body.

The “power of cranberries” is the rich source of phenolic compounds, including flavanols, A-type Proanthocyanidins (PACs), anthocyanins, benzoic acid, hippuric acid and ursolic acid and a unique profile of all 6 members of the anthocyanidin family. PACs are what provide cranberries with their intense colour and are a class of flavonoids that are pretty unique to cranberries. PACs exert powerful antioxidant activity and provide anti-bacterial and anti-adhesive properties that help promote urinary tract, gastrointestinal and oral health. Studies highlight that cranberries can be useful in treating kidney stones and helicobacter pylori infections too. Further clinical and animal studies suggest that supplementation with cranberry extract reduces oxidative stress markers and help normalize triglycerides levels. Cranberries are the only fruit in the world to receive a government sanctioned health claim (AFSSA 2004) due to this anti-adhesion ability and its benefit in treating UTIs.

O2B Cranberry is a high strength formula containing 30,000mg of standardised cranberry fruit extract.

Written by O2B Healthy Nutritional Therapist, Ali Maskell B.Sc. (Hons)

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