urinary tract infection (UTI)
Research has validated the historic knowledge that cranberry is effective for UTI and may prevent them as well.10 In a double-blind study, senior women drinking 10oz cranberry juice daily had a signicant reduction of bacteria in the urine. In another study, nursing home residents given 4oz/daily cranberry juice or 6 capsules/daily of concentrated cranberry pills for thirteen months had 25% fewer bladder infections.12 another trial demonstrated that supplemented with cranberry in capsule form, 400mg/twice daily for 3 months, markedly lowered bladder infection re-occurence in younger women (18-45) who had recurrent bladder infections.13 Similar results arose with children consuming cranberry juice concentrates.14
Research demonstrates that cranberry is probably beneficial to fight bladder infections because it restricts the ability of the bacteria causing most UTI's, E.coli, to attach to bladder wall tissue.15 But it is not an antibiotic substitute for severe infections. However, children who have bladder infections caused by the birth defect myelomeningocele (in which the backbone and spinal canal don't completely close before they are born) or caused by injury to the spinal cord, supplementing with cranberry juice is not effective.16
Most medical professionals recommend drinking 10-16 ounces/daily of lightly sweetened or unsweetened juice for prevention and for treatment of very mild cases. as a concentrated extract, the normal dose is 400mg/twice a day.
The proteolytic enzymes (those that convert proteins into amino acids), such as bromelain (from pineapple) and trypsin (produced in the pancreas) may make antibiotics more effective if you have a urinary tract infection. In double-blind research, patients with UTIs were given both antibiotics along with combined bromelain and trypsin at the rate of 400mg/daily for 2 days, or a placebo. All of the patients who were given the additional enzymes cured their infections compared to less than half of those with the placebo.9 The study employed enteric-coated tablets which prevent stomach acid from degrading bromelain. Most bromelain that is available is not enteric-coated and it may not be as effective.
Additionally, many health professionals suggest at least 5,000mg/daily for serious bladder infections and supplementing on a regular basis for patients who tend to frequent and repeating bladder infections. Research has demonstrated that vitamin C does restrict E. coli growth.17 Futhermore, supplementing with at least 4,000mg/daily makes for slightly acidic urine, an "unfriendly" habitat for some bacteria that cause infection. additionally, pregnant women have been found to have 56% fewer UTI's when they supplement with 100mg/daily vitamin C.19
The risk of infectious disease increases where there is a vitamin A deficiency. Most research has examined resistance to measles, but vitamin A may well be helpful for other infections such as bladder infections. Some medical professionals recommend vitamin A at 10,000-25,000UI/daily for bladder infections. that people with urinary tract infections take vitamin A. A typical amount recommended to correct a deficiency is 10,000 to 25,000 IU per day. Note that toxic levels of vitamin A can accumulate in the body at high doses/body weight over time.
Many people take daily multivitamins and/or minerals on general principals since a healthy immune system requires many nutrients. Elderly people are often deficient in one or more vitamins or minerals. One double-blind study demonstrated that supposedly healthy seniors taking multivitamins/minerals for at least a year had better immune functioning with a marked reduction in infections of both the urinary system and the body as a whole.
Other Herbs & Foods
There is less research on these herbs and foods, but they are potentially helpful.
- Blueberry, like cranberry, also contains proanthocyanidins (and fructose) which inhibit the ability of E.coli to attach to bladder lining22 so it may be helpful although research is inclusive.
- A number of foods and herbs are permitted in Germany for bladder infection treatment. They all operate by enhancing urine production so that bacgteria is flushed from the system more quickly.23 Generally consumed as teas, they are asparagus, birch, horsetail, couch grass, goldenrod, Java tea, lovage, parsley, spiny restharrow, and nettle.
- Buchu leaf has a history of use for UTI,24-25 but there is insufficient evidence of its effectivness in treating or preventing UTIs.
- Some studies demonstratethat horseradish oil can kill bacteria causing bladder infections32-33 but more research are necessary to validate the effectiveness and safety of this treatment.
- Goldenseal contains berberine which is an alkaloid that, like cranberry, prevents bacteria from sticking to the lining of the bladder.40 There are other plants like Oregon grape that also contain berberine. Berberine has been shown to kill many germs in test-tubes but hasn't been human-tested as a UTI therapy.
- Plaintain reduces inflammation and may therefore be helpful for some people with bladder infections. However, research is insufficient to validate this result.41
- Bearberry, uva ursi, is employed as an extract in Europe and in North american native herbal medicine as a treatment for bladder infections.43 Bearberry contains arbutin, which in urine, converts to hydroquinone, which, in turn kills or inhibits bacteria. The recommended tincture dosage is 3-5ml/three times daily or 100-250mg/three times daily as herbal extract tablets. However, since research may be inconclusive, you should follow your medical professional's advice.