Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Are Cranberry Juice or Supplements a Useful Alternative in Urinary Tract Infections?

Yes, although a new study suggests low doses of antibiotics are better.
Women have long relied on cranberry juice or supplements to prevent painful urinary tract infections.

But a new study from Europe suggests this widely used natural remedy is considerably less effective than low-dose antibiotics, another common preventive measure for recurrent UTIs.

Women with a history of recurring UTIs who took cranberry supplements for one year had an average of four infections during that time, compared with 1.8 infections in a similar group of women who took a daily low-dose antibiotic, the study found.

Using antibiotics rather than cranberry products isn't a clear-cut decision for women, however. Doctors and patients need to balance the comfort of the patient against the growing problem of drug-resistant bacteria, the authors say.

"In terms of ability to prevent recurrent infections, the antibiotic was about twice as effective as cranberry, but it results in more antibiotic resistance," says Lianne Marks, M.D., an internal medicine physician at Scott & White Healthcare, in Round Rock, Texas, who was not involved in the study.

Antibiotic resistance is a major public health concern, one that appears to be getting worse. If microorganisms such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) -- the most common cause of UTIs -- develop a resistance to antibiotics, it can make infections more dangerous and difficult to treat for everyone.

"Most patients do not like to take antibiotics for a long period," says the senior author of the study, Suzanne E. Geerlings, M.D., an infectious disease specialist with the Academic Medical Center, in Amsterdam. "I think that cranberries are still a good alternative."
Antibiotic resistance is not an issue that can be easily ignored. And, the doses in the cranberry capsules/supplements can be increased, as noted in the study.

For now, I would reach for the cranberry juice or supplements, before reaching for the antibiotics. But, consultation with your physician is always the most prudent course.

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