Cranberry has a positive effect on the condition of the urinary tract and reduces the risk of urinary tract infections. UTI (cystitis) is much more common in women than in men. Men are eight times less likely to suffer from this condition.
Research shows that almost 30 percent women in their life go through cystitis. The risk of developing the disease increases in the elderly, catheterized, using immunosuppressive drugs and diabetics. Additionally, cystitis tends to recur. Cranberry protects the body against re-infection.
Prophylactic use of cranberries in the daily diet protects against recurrent urinary tract infections, while enduring an ongoing infection, the use of cranberry as an adjunctive therapy may shorten its duration.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria
Urinary tract infections are caused mostly by Escherichia coli (E. coli). They deposit in the urinary tract where they cause inflammation. Cranberry has antibacterial properties, especially against E. Coli bacteria.
The E. coli bacteria that are normally found in the gut can travel to the bladder and, with their hair-like protrusions, attach themselves to the lining of the mucosa and cause infection. The substances contained in cranberries damage these protrusions and, as a result, bacteria cannot “stick” to the urinary tract, are easily flushed out through the urine and cannot cause infection.
The active substances helping to fight the infection are mainly tannins and type A proanthocyanidins – they protect the urinary system against the attachment of bacteria to the walls lining of the bladder and urinary tract. They also inhibit the multiplication of pathogenic bacteria.
Thanks to its flushing properties of E.coli, cranberries may reduce the susceptibility to urinary tract inflammation – making cranberries a preventative measure against urinary tract infections.
Cranberry can also help men who have difficulty emptying their bladder completely – this happens often in men with an enlarged prostate.
Moreover, cranberries help to prevent bladder infections in people with a catheter or with neurological disorders (e.g. after a stroke or spine injury), i.e. in cases where the risk of infection is very high.
Research – Cranberry and Cystitis
Since the turn of the century, cranberry has been used as a folk remedy to treat bacterial urinary tract infections (UTIs), which cause frequent and painful urination. The first recorded use of cranberries by conventional medical practitioners was in 1923. Historically, cranberry was thought to kill UTI-causing bacteria by acidifying the urine.
Later studies discovered that the phytonutrients contained in cranberries (tannins, proanthocyanidins) prevent Escherichia coli (E. coli) from attaching to the urinary tract cells. In this way, the bacteria is flushed out of the body, rather than sticking, growing and leading to infection.
A 2016 study found that regular cranberry consumption reduces symptomatic UTIs by nearly 40% in women with recurrent UTIs, suggesting a reduction in the need for antibiotics.
Normal urine is slightly acidic. In the case of bacterial infections (usually Escherichia coli infection occurs), the urine pH increases, which promotes the growth of bacteria.
Cranberries are acidic, so when used in the treatment of bladder infections, they will lower the pH, reducing the multiplication of bacteria. Thus, cranberries help to reduce the amount of bacteria in the urine. Additionally, it impairs the adhesion of E. coli bacteria to the walls of the bladder epithelium.