Cranberry power revealed
Cranberry has a long history of use in herbal medicine as a treatment for urinary tract infections. There has been no shortage of research into cranberry to support its action but now a new study has gone a step further in expanding our understanding of how this food works to ease urinary infections.
The primary cause of urinary tract infections is a strain of the bacteria E. coli. The way that E. coli manages to infect cells is via hair-like projections that cover it. These hair-like projections are known as fimbriae and they act like hooks to latch onto cells that line the urinary tract. When enough of the E. coli are hooked on then an infection arises.
To measure how cranberry impacts this process some researchers attached a single E. coli to a probe mounted on an atomic force microscope. The probe was then dipped into a solution containing cells from the human urinary tract. The fimbriae attached to the cells by sinking their hooks into structures on the human cells. The probe was then pulled away and the atomic force microscope measured how much force was needed to pull the E. coli bacteria away from the cell.
The experiment was then repeated many times with solutions of human urinary cells and various concentrations of cranberry juice. It was found that the force required to remove the E. coli reduced as the concentration of cranberry increased. Additionally, the researchers found that in the absence of cranberry the typical force of urine flowing through the urinary tract could not remove E. coli. In the presence of cranberry however, the hold of the E. coli was weakened to the point where flowing urine could strip them away. Without an ability to hold onto cells, bacteria cannot cause an infection.
So what herbalists have known for a long while science is proving to be true; you can use your cranberry to reduce your chance of urinary infection.