Cranberry Juice & D-Mannose for Bladder Infections

by Mia Lundin on February 7, 2012

Did you know that bladder infections, aka, UTIs (urinary tract infections) are such a common and frequent health problem for women that they account for over 6 million doctor visits per year?

If you are one of those 6 million women, then you are likely all too familiar with the symptoms of bladder infections:  frequent and painful urination, urgency, burning during urination, cloudy or bloody urine, and pain in the lower abdomen.  If the infection spreads into the kidneys, it can also produce intense back pain, nausea, diarrhea, fever, and chills.

Why Do Women Get So Many Bladder Infections?

Most bladder infections – more than 90% – are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacteria present in both the digestive tract and anal area.

One of the reasons women contract so many bladder infections is due to anatomy.  Not only is a woman’s urethra close to the anal area, making it easy to come in contact with bacteria, but it is also close to her bladder, making it easy for the bacteria to gain entrance.

With our anatomy working against us, most women have had at least one or two bladder infections in their lifetime, even with the most meticulous hygiene.

Antibiotics for Bladder Infections Are Not Always a Good Idea

Antibiotics are the conventional treatment for bladder infections.  While the occasional use of antibiotics can be quite effective, if you suffer with chronic bladder infections, antibiotics can create more problems than they actually solve.

Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics over time, which means you may need to take stronger doses, and maybe for longer periods, to treat the infection; or you may need to switch to an entirely different antibiotic altogether.

If used too frequently, antibiotics are known to interfere with the natural, healthy, bacterial flora present in your digestive tract and vagina, which can make you more susceptible to secondary infections, such as yeast infections.

Fortunately, there are more natural and healthier alternatives which work with your body and not against it, and it just might be in your refrigerator!

Cranberry Juice for Bladder Infections

Growing up, many of us heard we should drink cranberry juice for bladder infections.  Our mothers and grandmothers, and their mothers too, passed down this wisdom because it actually works!

But, long before our mothers and grandmothers, and even modern medicine knew about the healing properties of cranberry juice, Native American Indians used it to treat their bladder and kidney infections.

When the Pilgrims arrived in the 1600s, the local tribes passed the wisdom on to them as well.  Soon after, physicians adopted it for use in treating bladder infections and to remove blood toxins.

For a long time, it was thought that the reason cranberry juice worked so well against bladder infections was due to its acidic properties, which, when present in urine, kill off bacteria such as E. coli, which cannot survive in an acid environment.  But current research now focuses on a substance found in cranberries called D-Mannose.

What is D-Mannose and How Does It Help With Bladder Infections?

D-Mannose is a simple sugar that is chemically related to glucose.  In addition to being found in cranberries, it is also found in vegetables and fruits such as green beans and cabbage, tomatoes, peaches, apples, oranges, and blueberries.  Some D-Mannose is also produced in your body.

When bacteria invade the bladder, they attach themselves to the mannose lining of the urinary tract where they colonize, developing into an infection.  What researchers have learned, however, is that the chemical structure of D-Mannose allows it to stick to the E. coli, wrapping it with a coating which makes the bacteria  unable to attach itself to the bladder wall.  If the bacteria are unable to attach, then they are able to be washed out of the body by the urine.

Although physicians have known for a very long time that cranberry juice is helpful not only in healing urinary tract infections, but also in preventing them as well, D-Mannose is still relatively unknown in the medical community and has not been tested in human trials. But, those physicians who do prescribe D-Mannose for bladder infections have had excellent results!

What is the Best Way to Take D-Mannose?

Though D-Mannose is found in cranberry juice, there does not seem to be enough to be effective, so it is recommended to take it as a supplement in either a pill or tablet form, or in powder form dissolved in water or liquid.

Precautionary Measures

Menopausal and post-menopausal women are more susceptible to UTIs due to low estrogen levels and vaginal dryness.  If you suffer from vaginal dryness and frequently contract urinary tract infections, you may need to seek help to balance your hormones.  In addition, take extra care to do the following:

  • Drink plenty of fluids and do not hold your urine!  Go to the bathroom often.
  • Do not use scented feminine hygiene sprays, powders or douches as they can strip your vaginal area of healthy moisture making you more susceptible to infection
  • Do not wear tight fitting clothing
  • Use good hygiene before and after sex
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy food – all of which can irritate the bladder.

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