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Viagra & Cranberry Juice
Doctors at Newton General Hospital in Covington, Georgia, noted an unusual occurrence after prescribing Viagra to their male patients. Many of these men's wives, aged 55 to 75, were contracting urinary tract infections (UTIs). The report underlines the heightened risk of UTIs, or cystitis, following regular sexual intercourse, particularly in postmenopausal women.

Scientific thumbs up
Prevalent among women under 30 as well as older women, UTIs most commonly result from E. coli or other bacteria entering the urinary tract. Antibiotics are generally the most appropriate treatment. For years, though, cranberry juice has been used to treat as well as prevent such infections. In fact, a major 1994 study by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that older women who drank 10 ounces of cranberry juice daily were 58% less likely to have UTIs. More recently, scientists reported the apparent reason for the berry's effectiveness: Certain compounds in cranberries prevent bacteria from sticking to cells lining the urinary tract. Blueberries appear to have the same effect.

Jerry L. Avorn, M.D., an investigator in the 1994 study, stresses that the earlier research focused on older women and injects a note of caution: "There is not yet enough evidence to recommend in a wholesale way that younger women prone to symptomatic UTIs drink cranberry juice." His group recently conducted a follow-up study in younger women, and he thinks that when these data are out, "we'll have a clearer answer one way or the other" to the question of whether cranberry juice can prevent most UTIs. Still, used judiciously, the remedy is very safe, and many doctors and patients swear by it.

Home testing caution
New products like Uristat pain relief tablets and UTI home screening test kits make it easy for women to diagnose and allegedly treat themselves without having to visit a doctor. Indeed, the new test kits do detect nitrite (produced by most UTI-causing bacteria) and white blood cells in urine, both of which are key to a proper diagnosis. And some women who have recurrent UTIs can diagnose themselves, then call their doctors for a prescription. But taking matters into your own hands may cause complications. Serious illnesses that can trigger UTIs--such as chlamydial infection, which can result in infertility--may go undiagnosed. And untreated UTIs can potentially result in kidney failure. Hence, cranberry juice is not a substitute for antibiotics. Call your doctor if you don't feel better after 24 to 36 hours of using cranberry for a suspected UTI. And see your doctor right away if symptoms include fever, chills, back pain, or blood in the urine, which could be signs of a kidney infection.

Suggested dose: To help treat UTIs, drink at least 16 oz. (2 cups) of juice a day. It won't interfere with any antibiotics you may also need. Use unsweetened juice (sold at health-food stores). It's tart, but the juice cocktails sold at grocery stores are diluted and full of sugars. You can also take 800 mg a day of cranberry extract in capsule form. To prevent UTIs, halve the dose to 8 oz. of juice, or 400 mg, a day.

Author: the WholeHealthMD Advisor
Date Published: 01/14/2000
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