Can your diet prevent urinary tract infections?—The Family Health Guide

Can your diet prevent urinary tract infections?

Why is it some women suffer from recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) while others are spared this painful condition? The answer may lie in differences in their diets. For almost a decade we've known cranberry and cranberry–lingonberry juices are helpful in preventing recurring urinary infections. Now research from Finland reveals that a diet including fruit juices and fermented milk products may be the key to prevention.

Through a questionnaire, researchers gathered information about the dietary habits of 139 women who were recently diagnosed with UTIs, and 185 women who had not had one in the past five years. Women who drank at least one glass of juice daily were 34% less likely to develop a UTI than women who did not. Berry juice was more protective than other juices. However, the total volume of liquid a woman drank daily did not have an effect on the risk of developing an infection, contrary to a common belief.

In addition, women who ate yogurt and cheese or other fermented milk products more than three times a week were nearly 80% less likely to experience a urinary infection than women who ate such foods less than once a week.

Bacteria from the digestive tract can cause UTIs and since dietary factors affect these bacteria, changes in diet are a logical solution. Berries are rich in flavonols, a chemical plants produce in response to bacterial infection. The researchers believe flavonols may kill microorganisms or suppress their growth in humans as well. Fermented milk products contain lactobacilli, beneficial bacteria that can inhabit the digestive tract and replace the coliform bacteria responsible for UTIs.

If you are prone to urinary tract infections, incorporating berry juice and fermented milk products into your diet may be a simple way to help reduce your risk of infection.

June 2003 Update

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