Had a painful urinary tract infection before? Chances are, you probably have. According to Jennifer Berman, MD, urologist and co-host of Emmy Award-winning show The Doctors, sixty percent of women experience a urinary tract infection. Twenty-five percent of women will have a recurring urinary tract infection. With the prevalence of UTIs, many people don’t often take them as seriously as they should. However, UTIs are just as serious as any other infection (the second most common type to be treated with antibiotics in fact), and when not handled properly, can lead to some serious issues. And to make matters worse, antibiotic resistance is a major public health problem these days. With a 50 percent resistance rate for one of the most widely used antibiotics to treat UTIs, we need to take proper precautions to prevent them. And that’s where something as easy to get and delicious to consume as cranberry juice comes in.
We spoke to Berman about a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that states that cranberries can aid in reducing symptomatic UTIs, not just be used as a treatment option. We also discussed what causes women to have recurring UTIs, why being menopausal makes you more susceptible to them, and the reality of antibiotic resistance these days. Check out what she had to say about women needing to take charge of their urinary tract health by drinking cranberry juice daily.
MadameNoire: Why do many women end up dealing with urinary tract infections so much?
Jennifer Berman, MD: Sixty percent of women experience a urinary tract infection. It’s very common. Twenty-five percent will have a recurring urinary tract infraction within six months. Recurring urinary tract infections are very common in reproductive, sexually active women. And the reason for that is because the urethra, the urine tube that extends from the bladder to the outside of the body, is very short in women, which allows bacteria to easily ascend and infect the body. So that’s what makes women more susceptible to urinary tract infections and in some women, more susceptible to experiencing recurring urinary tract infections.
MN: What’s the worst thing that could happen if a UTI does become resistant to antibiotics?
Dr. Berman: Antibiotic resistance is a major public healthcare concern. What that means is the bacteria are mutating, therefore the usual antibiotics are no longer working. There’s a 50 percent antibiotic resistance rate for the antibiotics commonly used to prevent UTIs. Why that’s a problem is that we’re having to give bigger antibiotics that have more side effects and risks. Some of them aren’t even available orally, and some of them aren’t even available in other parts of the world. UTIs that exist chronically can ascend up to the kidneys leading to kidney infections and kidney failure. They can end up in your bloodstream and cause multi-organ system failure. So it’s not something we take lightly. UTIs are real infections, and if not treated or addressed, can lead to real problems.
MN: So tell me more about this study and what experts have learned about the need for women to drink cranberry juice to help prevent instead of just treat UTIs.
Dr. Berman: The thing about this landmark study that’s important is that it shows that there is a nutritional alternative in cranberry juice. Other than antibiotics, it can help prevent urinary tract infections. Women who have to take chronic antibiotics can have a nutritional alternative other than that. It’s the overuse of antibiotics that leads to the resistance from the organism. We’re overusing antibiotics, and that’s what causing this huge pandemic of resistance.
Cranberry juice is not a treatment for UTIs. It prevents urinary tract infections. What I want to highlight is that I want women to talk to their healthcare provider, incorporate this into their daily practice for optimizing urinary tract health. Once you have a systematic UTI, you have to take antibiotics. But from the standpoint of prevention and decreasing the recurrent rate, studies show that there is a benefit to drinking cranberry juice.
MN: For women who are menopausal, why are they more susceptible to UTIs? Will cranberry juice still be as effective for them as it can be for other women?
Menopausal women are at risk for urinary tract infections. With the changes in the hormones in the vagina, the pH in the vagina changes and it becomes more alkaline. That predisposes them to UTIs. The thing about cranberry that is so interesting is that it has several components called proanthocyanidins that help to prevent bacteria from sticking to the urethra and bladder wall and ascending up into the bladder. Menopausal women should also drink cranberry juice, consuming one eight-ounce glass a day for prevention.
For more information on how to integrate cranberry juice into your daily diet and why it’s so important to do so for urinary tract health, check out cranberryhealth.com.