Healthy Q & A: Urinary Tract Infections

Q: It seems like I’ve been plagued with urinary tract infections for years.  I’ve been prescribed antibiotics many times for them, but I’m wondering if there is anything more natural I can do to treat them.

A: One out of every five women will develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) at one point in their lives, and physicians write close to two and a half million prescriptions every year to treat them.  

Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t address the underlying causes of bladder and urinary tract infections.  Because the bladder remains vulnerable to bacteria that can survive in the urine even after antibiotic therapy, up to 20% of UTI patients develop new bladder infections within a year of conventional medical treatment.

Thankfully, there are natural products that are very effective in treating and preventing UTIs.  The most well known is cranberry (in either unsweetened juice or capsules). Though cranberries have no inherent antibacterial or disinfectant properties, natural tannins found in cranberries prevent E. coli (the bacteria that causes UTIs) from adhering to the urinary tract (as reported in the New England Medical Journal).

Another choice, suggested by Dr. Mercola, is the supplement D-mannose, the active ingredient in cranberry juice.  D-mannose is a naturally occurring simple sugar that clings to and coats E. coli bacteria, preventing them from adhering to the inside walls of the bladder and urinary tract. 

Another benefit of D-mannose is that unlike antibiotics, it does not disrupt beneficial bacteria, and works quickly, often eliminating symptoms in a day or two.

Other recommendations would be to avoid foods known to irritate the bladder, including coffee, tea, artificial sweeteners, carbonated beverages, and tomato products.  Also, because harmful bacteria thrive on sugar and refined carbohydrates, avoid sweets and highly processed foods as well.