Diet May Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Women who frequently consume berry juices or fermented milk products may reduce their risk of developing urinary tract infection (UTIs), according to a new study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2003;77:600–4). The findings of the new study suggest that women prone to recurrent UTIs can make relatively minor dietary changes to prevent future bladder infections.
More than half of all American women will experience at least one UTI during the course of their lives. UTIs are due to contamination of the urinary tract by bacteria from the stool and can cause frequent urination, excessive urgency to urinate, painful urination, blood in the urine, fever, or low back pain. The bacterium most often responsible for causing UTIs is Escherichia coli, but other bacteria may also be involved. Physicians usually treat UTIs with antibiotics such as ampicillin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim®, Septra®), ciprofloxacin (Cipro®), or levofloxacin (Levaquin®). However, antibiotics can cause diarrhea or yeast infections in some individuals and may become ineffective if taken for long periods of time or if repeated courses of antibiotics are used.
In the new study, dietary and lifestyle habits of 139 women with newly diagnosed UTIs were compared with those of 185 women who had not had a UTI in the previous five years. Questionnaires were given to all participants regarding dietary and lifestyle habits during the past month, with special emphasis on intake of berries, berry juices, milk, and fermented milk products (yogurt, sour cream, and cheese). Intake of nutritional supplements and other medications was also recorded.
Consumption of berry juices—particularly raspberry, cranberry, strawberry, and currant juices—one to three times per week was associated with a lower risk of UTI recurrence, compared with consumption of berry juice less than once a week. Intake of fermented dairy products more than three times per week was also associated with a decreased risk of developing a UTI. The amount or frequency of consumption of fresh milk, coffee, tea, and soft drinks had no significant effect on UTI risk. Greater intercourse frequency was associated with an increased risk of UTI.
As an alternative to antibiotics, certain herbs may be effective in treating UTIs, including uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), nettles (Urtica dioica), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), horsetail (Equisetum arvense), and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Because a bladder infection can lead to a more serious kidney infection if not adequately treated, herbal treatments for UTIs should be supervised by a physician.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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