Urinary tract (bladder) infections (UTI) can be very uncomfortable and if you've ever had one, you don't want another.  Most UTIs are easily treated with antibiotics but if infection progresses beyond the bladder, it can affect the kidneys (a much more serious infection).  What causes urinary tract infections and how can you prevent them?

Common Causes of UTIs

Approximately 20-30% of women will experience a urinary tract infection in her lifetime and about 4% will get them recurrently. Most are caused by the E. coli bacteria found in "poop." Women get more UTIs than men because their urethra (the tube leading from the bladder to outside the body) is shorter and closer to the rectum. Failure to empty the bladder frequently, drink enough water or urinate after intercourse can bump up the odds that bacteria will grow in the bladder and cause infection.

Common Symptoms:

Accrording to the National Institues of Health (NIH), common symptoms include:

  • Cloudy urine
  • Foul or strong urine odor
  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Low fever
  • Need to urinate at night
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Pressure in the lower pelvis

The Cranberry Connection

As one of North America's true native plants, cranberries been used for centuries as a home remedy to treat and prevent urinary tract infections. But modern medicine was skeptical about its curative powers.  That is until recent studies supported the simple cranberry's ability to prevent, and even cure urinary tract infections. 

According to studiesreported by Medical News Today, drinking a daily glass of cranberry juice combats E.Coli's ability to infect the bladder. "A specific type of tannin found only in cranberries and blueberries interacts with the little projections on the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria (the most common cause of UTI), preventing them from sticking to the walls of the bladder and causing infection."  Furthermore, researchers who performed the study at the University of Washington say, "Theoretically, blueberries may prevent UTIs as well, but they need to be further tested."

Another study published in Science Daily by researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) suggests that " the juice changes the thermodynamic properties of bacteria in the urinary tract, creating an energy barrier that prevents the microorganisms from getting close enough to latch onto cells and initiate an infection." 

Their study shows that cranberry juice is smart enough to target only bacteria that cause disease and has no effect on bacteria that are normal and healthy in the gut." 

How much do you need?  A glass a day seems to do the trick for preventing and maybe even treating mild UTIs.  While many mild UTIs go away within a few days with no treatment, you should always contact your doctor whenever you suspect a UTI in case antibiotics are necessary.