Urinary tract infections are the most common type of infection in the elderly. Between one and three percent of all GP visits are because of UTIs, and half the female population will have a UTI at least once in their lifetime. Which is why researchers have been assessing the data on cranberry juice to see if it can be used to prevent the infection.
The majority of UTIs are caused by E.coli bacteria, which is found around the anus, for example, and so can relatively easily find its way into the urinary tract. Once there, the bacteria binds to the cells lining the urinary tract causing inflammation. This in turn produces symptoms including a burning sensation when urinating, and a feeling of a need to urinate.
While some infections may clear up on their own, many UTIs need to be treated with antibiotics. This is a less-than-ideal situation both for the patient and the rest of the world, what with antibiotic resistance building towards fluoroquinolones, one of the most commonly used medications as treatment for UTIs.
The new research published in Nutrition Bulletin assessed available data and confirmed that drinking 240ml of the juice each day could reduce risk of bacteria binding to cells in the urinary tract for at least eight hours afterwards. Also that recurrences of UTI a year after an infection were reduced by 35% in women who drank cranberry juice on a daily basis.
These findings are particularly important for older adults who experience different symptoms with UTIs – often they don’t have the pain during urination that younger people do – resulting in delayed treatment.
Signs to look out for in older adults include sudden changes in behaviour, ie not being able to do simple tasks that they could do the day before, confusion, as well as urinary incontinence.
Drinking plenty of water regularly is the best way to prevent UTIs, as well as good hygiene. The use of catheters also puts a person at greater risk.