Even the firmest believers in mainstream medicine cant argue with cranberries ability to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs). But I recently learned of a lesser-known benefit of these little red berries – their ability to help treat stomach ulcers.
UTIs are caused by bacteria. This also applies to ulcers. But since cranberries dont actually kill bacteria, scientists wondered for years why they were effective in treating these infections. Recent research has answered that question. It turns out that cranberries are so effective because they prevent the bacteria from sticking to tissues and allowing the infection to set in.
E. coli meets its match
The bacteria that causes UTIs is E. coli. It originates in the gut and passes up the urethra to the bladder. We have all heard for years the old wives tale that drinking cranberry juice helps a UTI. But now research is supporting this common theory.
One particular study published in the journal Age and Ageing in 2005 found that older people who drank cranberry juice (as opposed to taking a placebo) had a lower rate of E. coli.
The researchers found that patients receiving 300ml of cranberry juice had half the rate of UTIs as the ones receiving the matching placebo. These results, however, werent considered statistically significant because of the unexpectedly low rate of infections in both groups.
Plus, the participants were probably drinking a cranberry cocktail-type juice, like the kind found in most grocery stores. Theres a good chance that the added sugar in these types of drinks would negate some of the positive effects from the natural cranberry. If the participants had been drinking straight cranberry juice, the results may have been even better.
A few years earlier, in 2002, a research study tested the effect of cranberry juice on the antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli. The researchers tested the urine of healthy female volunteers after they had consumed cranberry juice. The results showed that the juice prevented the adhesion of 31 of the 39 E. coli strains (80 percent). This effect was evident in as little as two hours and persisted for up to 10 hours after participants drank the cranberry juice.
3 glasses a day keep ulcers at bay
Recently, though, cranberries have expanded their repertoire. New research shows that they may also work against the bacterium that causes peptic ulcersHelicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
In a clinical trial, participants who tested positive for H. pylori took either 250ml of cranberry juice (the kind youd find at the grocery store) or a placebo every day. After 90 days, at the end of the trial, around 14 percent of the people who took cranberry tested negative for H. pylori as compared with about 5 percent of those who took the placebo. Thats a significant difference.
Although the absolute number of patients going into remission wasnt especially large, the trial did show that cranberries would be a useful addition to other treatments for H. pylori.