Bladder or urinary tract infection (UTI) is a problem that most women have experienced at some point in life. For some women, UTIs recur on a regular basis. Cranberry is an effective natural remedy at treating UTIs, and decreasing recurrence rates. A recent Dutch study found that daily antibiotics for a year were more effective than cranberry at preventing UTIs — sounds great, right? Yes, until you get to the part about 85% of the bacteria becoming resistant in the group treated with antibiotics. In other words, overuse of antibiotics produces superbugs that will just require more and stronger antibiotics down the line.
Also, as I often tell my patients, antibiotics don’t just target the “bad” bugs that you don’t want — they also wipe out the beneficial bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tract (normal flora, or probiotics). These probiotics help to regulate our entire immune system, and they also contribute to the normal digestion of food, normal bowel movements, and the production of vitamin K.
Cranberry does not cause resistant superbugs, and it does not kill your beneficial intestinal flora. It works by preventing the adherence of bacteria to the wall of the bladder. So which is the better option — daily cranberry, or daily antibiotics? I hope that from the point of view of your total health, the choice should be obvious. After all, if you do end up with an acute bladder infection, you can always treat it with higher dose cranberry (combined with other herbs, such as uva ursi), or even use a short-term antibiotic — followed, of course, by 2-3 months of probiotic supplementation.