Cranberry. Cranberry juice and powders made from cranberry extract have been used for decades to prevent and/or treat UTIs. Evidence suggests that substances known as proanthocyanidins, which are found in cranberries, may interfere with the adhesion of bacteria (particularly E. coli) to the walls of the urinary tract. When is can be prevented that E. coli binds to the urinary tract cells, proanthocyanidins can keep bacteria from fully colonizing and invading the urinary tract. One of the advantages of using cranberry juice or related products is that cranberries are relatively inexpensive, natural, and should not contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
Another study found that consuming natural cranberry juice three times per day produced a trend towards reducing the incidence of UTIs during pregnancy. However, avoid sugar-laden cranberry juice cocktails as they have limited benefits because of the high sugar content and the fact that many of these beverages are blends of different juices. This blending and high sugar content reduces the proanthocyanidin content and may also obscure the benefits of cranberries in their natural form.
D-mannose. D-mannose is a sugar that can be found in, among other things, cranberries. One of the interesting aspects of D-mannose is that it is able to bind to the cells that line the urinary tract and to prevent bacteria, such as E. coli, from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract.
Blueberry: Much like cranberries, blueberries also contain compounds that can inhibit the adhesion of E. coli to the cells that line the urinary tract. In addition, both blueberries and cranberries contain compounds that are able to help prevent large aggregates of bacteria from forming. The clinical effect of blueberries on UTIs has yet to be thoroughly investigated.
Probiotics: They are very beneficial bacteria that reside in the gut and positively impact the health of their host. Probiotics are a promising natural treatment for UTIs. There are many possible ways that probiotics may prevent UTIs:
- They may compete with other bacteria for resources, secrete natural antibacterial chemicals and prevent pathogenic bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
- Bacteria in the Lactobacillus family, normally found in the female vagina, are thought to prevent UTI. Taking antibiotics or using spermicidal agents can kill off these Lactobacilli, which can then increase the risk of UTI. In addition, recurrent UTIs are often associated with decreased levels of Lactobacillus bacteria and increased colonization with E. coli.
- As a result, supplementing the vaginal flora with probiotic Lactobacilli may represent a viable technique for preventing UTIs. In particular, there is evidence that the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuterii RC-14 strains are clinically effective.
- Probiotics appear to be more effective than trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (an antibiotic combination) in complicated cases, which is likely due to the presence of baseline antibiotic resistance rates in these cases.
- Probiotics appear to have the advantage of not increasing the risk of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms. Berberine: This chemical is known as a plant alkaloid, and has historically been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Berberine can be found in many plants, including goldenseal, Orgeon grape, coptis, barberry, and turmeric. This chemical has natural antibacterial properties and is effective at inhibiting the growth of many opportunistic pathogens, including E. coli. Some studies have found that Berberine prevents E. coli from adhering to cells that line the urinary tract, thus providing a possible mechanism of action for its UTI-preventative properties. One study suggested that Berberine may represent a new target for the development of pharmaceuticals. Berberine may not be safe for pregnant women, however, because it can induce uterine contractions and may cause jaundice in newborns.
Hibiscus: The Hibiscus is a part of a family of plants that has traditionally been used to treat many different infections, including UTIs. This plant contains many compounds that have antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties. There is one compound in particular, gossypetin, has been shown to have antibacterial activity against common UTI-causing bacteria, including E. coli and Pseudomonoas aeurginosa.
Vitamin C:, which is also known as ascorbic acid, is one of the most commonly used vitamin supplements and it has a variety of effects on the human body. One potential benefit is that it may acidify the urine, which has the potential to help inhibit the growth of infectious bacteria in the urinary tract. This acidification of the urine may also convert bacterial nitrites into nitric oxide, which is toxic to bacteria, and can lead to their death. In addition, vitamin C is important for the function of the immune system. Studies have found that taking 100 mg of vitamin C daily during pregnancy can reduce the incidence of UTIs.
Pumpkin seed extract. Urinary urgency and/or frequency are often associated with UTI. Although not studied specifically in the context of UTI, pumpkin seed extract has been shown to support bladder function and combat the symptoms associated with an overactive bladder.