According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies suggest that eating acidic foods, such as cranberry, may help prevent UTIs -- particularly infections of the bladder and urethra in the lower urinary tract. Research shows that rather than killing the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections, making the urine acidic prevents bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract.
Urinary tract infections happen when bacteria enter the bladder through the urethra and then begin to multiply. Women are more prone to this type of infection because the urethra is located so close to the anus – a breeding ground for bacteria. Menopause increases a woman’s risk for urinary tract infections as the lack of estrogen makes the urinary tract more susceptible to infection. Blockages such as kidney stones also raise the risk, as do chronic diseases that weaken the body’s immune system.
Women who experience frequent urinary tract infections may benefit from drinking cranberry juice every day. As long as you suffer no side effects, cranberry juice may help prevent UTIs from recurring. Cranberry acidifies the urine, making the urinary tract less of an inviting environment for bacteria to grow. Merck suggests that women who suffer three or more bladder infections a year take cranberry pills or drink 10 ounces of cranberry juice each day to help prevent future infections.
Use Cranberry With Caution
Drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements typically produces no serious side effects and is considered safe for most adults. However, because cranberry may interact with other dietary supplements or medications you are taking, use cranberry to prevent UTIs only under the supervision of your health care provider. If you are currently suffering a UTI, do not substitute cranberry for antibiotics your doctor has prescribed to treat the condition. Cranberry contains high levels of a chemical known as oxalate, which can increase your risk of developing kidney stones. Do not consume cranberry if you are taking the drug warfarin, a medication doctors prescribe to thin the blood. Cranberry consumed in combination with warfarin can cause bleeding.
Other Healthy Food Options
Like cranberries, blueberries contain tannins – phytochemicals that stop bacteria from attaching to bladder tissue – lowering the risk of UTIs. Although cranberry juice for UTIs has received the most attention, the tannins in blueberries may also help prevent E. coli bacteria from sticking to cells in the urinary tract. Blueberries are also an antioxidant food. Acidic foods such as berries, oranges, grapefruit and tomatoes that are rich in antioxidants offer a number of healthful benefits, which include protecting the body against viral and bacterial infections.
Taking preventive measures can decrease the risk of urinary tract infection. While acidic foods may help reduce the recurrence of UTIs in some women, there are additional steps you can take. Drink plenty of water every day so that you urinate more frequently. Water dilutes urine and helps to flush bacteria out of the bladder before infection can set in. Wipe from front to back after urinating or having a bowel movement to prevent the spread of bacteria from the anus to the urethra.