The red fruits of Vaccinium macrocarpon Aiton, called cranberry, are well known to most of us. They produce a healthy, refreshing fruit drink, but many people don't realize that it is also quite healthy.
Used for centuries to treat urinary tract infections, its benefit in those areas is already well known.
The best cranberry products should be 100% cranberry with no preservatives, artificial colors or artificial flavors. Many brands of cranberry juice are only a fraction (such as 30%) real juice, and should correctly be labeled "juice drink", not "juice" because they are mostly water and sweeteners.
Cranberries have been used in jams, fruit juices, and as a coloring for many other food products. The juice (and powdered concentrate) has been known for sometime to help prevent urinary tract infections. Cranberry extract is also available in powder form.
The fruits contain a variety of compounds including anthocyanins, flavonol glycosides, catechin, various organic acids, and small amounts of alkaloids. While some of these components have bacteriostatic activity, it seems that an uncharacterized polymer in these fruits acts as a potent anti-adhesive. This compound seems to prevent E. coli (the primary cause of chronic UTIs) from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract; thus preventing an infection. The cranberry fructose may assist in this function. Cranberry is quite acidic and is not recommended to be taken with arbutin containing products (Uva Ursi, etc) as they will only work in a basic pH.
Besides its high mix of natural vitamins and minerals, cranberry juice is also highly effective in the treatment of urinary tract, bladder and kidney infections. Additionally, a healthy dose of dietary fiber, antioxidants and phytochemical nutrients help to protect you against heart disease and cancer.
A lesser known fact is that cranberry juice also contains components that help prevent the formation of oral bacteria that lead to gum disease and plaque.
Cranberry juice is effective in inhibiting the growth of peptic ulcers – something that affects some 50% of the population aged over 60.
100% pure cranberry juice can be bitter or tart, in which case try mixing it with some apple juice. A glass or two a day is another positive step towards a healthy lifestyle.
Although it is not a cure for IBS, the antioxidants and flavonoids found in cranberry juice can help calm inflammation in the stomach and digestive tract due to IBS. Cranberry juice is also rich in vitamin C, which aids digestion by helping the liver to break down fat more efficiently and move fatty foods through the system more quickly.
There is evidence to suggest that drinking cranberry juice in addition to water can help fight a bladder infection. Since the mid-1800s, cranberry juice has been associated with urinary antibiotic properties. The juice does not appear to work by acidifying the urine, but rather contains compounds that have a mild antibacterial quality or help prevent E. coli from adhering to tissues. There is evidence that if you consume a glass of cranberry juice each day, it could reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections (UTI).
It has been reported that cranberries contain more mannose than any other food. This sugar, D-mannose, blocks E. coli attachment. Since the mannose content in cranberries is relatively low, many natural doctors now use supplemental D-mannose to deal with the most common form of cystitis, an E. coli infection. D-mannose can be used for preventive purposes also.
A study was conducted at the Finnish Student Health Services at Oulu University with 150 women with persistent UTIs. Fifty drank 50ml (just under 2oz) of cranberry juice concentrate per day for six months. Another 50 drank a preparation of Lactobacillus, while the final 50 women were given no treatment. After six months, only eight women taking cranberry juice had experienced a UTI, compared with 19 of those taking Lactobacillus, and 18 not taking anything.
For prevention, a widely-accepted dose is 3 ounces (90ml) of 33% pure cranberry juice daily to prevent an infection and 12-32 ounces (350-950ml) per day for treatment. 50ml of cranberry juice concentrate is well-tolerated and is also effective in preventing bladder infections. Larger quantities should be considered when an infection is present. Note that supermarket cranberry cocktail or juice may be very diluted and may produce no benefit if not taken in sufficient quantities to approximate a 50ml dose of concentrate. Check labels to ensure a high proportion of actual cranberry juice in whatever preparation you choose, or use only concentrate or powder forms.
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