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What is cranberry?

Cranberry is the fruit of the species vaccinium macrocarpon aiton, which belongs to the genus Vaccinium L. of the Ericaceae family.

The plant from which the berries are extracted is a small perennial shrub, with slow growth and a height of around 10 to 20 cm. The plant is native to the Eastern United States. Native Americans used cranberries as food, as a natural remedy for various diseases and as a dye, due to its intense red colour.

Cranberries are subesfericas berries of whitish colour that turn red as they mature, eventually becoming a bright pink or Crimson colour. They measure approximately 9-14 mm and have a smooth appearance.

They are edible and have a very bitter taste. They can be eaten fresh, dried, concentrated or powdered. They are often used for the production of juices, drinks, sauces, jellies and jams. They are also used in the food and pharmaceutical industry such as for colouring and preservatives. These berries can be taken as a food supplement in powder or capsules given their beneficial properties for the body.

Cranberries are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, β – carotene, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and are especially rich in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are the substances responsible for providing the characteristic red colour of the berries. Another of the bioactive compounds in Cranberries are Proanthocyanidins (PAC), another type of flavonoid.

Proanthocyanidins are beneficial for inhibiting adherence to the cell surfaces of the urinary tract by bacteria such as Escherichia coli. This is why in recent years cranberry or cranberry supplements are used to promote urinary tract health since it is a great natural remedy for urine infections.

It is also a supplement used for prevention of various conditions, such as ulcers, diarrhea, diabetes, stomach ailments and liver problems.

Benefits of cranberry

  • It prevents bacterial adherence to the bladder and urethra, especially by E. coli bacteria
  • It has antioxidant properties.
  • It supports the health of the cardiovascular and immune systems.
  • It blocks the pathogens that cause tooth decay, thereby promoting oral health.

Cranberry and urinary system infections

Urinary tract infection (UTI) takes place when there is a certain critical number of bacteria in the urine. It may also appear in the form of through cystitis (bacteria in the bladder), urethral syndrome and pyelonephritis (kidney infection).

Urinary tract infections are usually treated with antibiotics. However, because of the high resistance of bacteria to antibiotics and the adverse effects thereof, cranberry supplements are becoming a popular remedy for this problem.

The main cause of the development of urinary tract infection is the adherence of bacteria to uroepithelial cells and catheters. The bacterium escherichia coli is responsible for 80% of urinary tract infections and the cause of 90 % of acute pyelonephritis.

Today it is known that the consumption of cranberries or cranberry supplements, prevents the spread of pathogenic bacteria that may be attached to the urinary tract, thus preventing infections. The cranberry is beneficial for preventing urinary tract infections, but also fights the bacteria involved in the formation of stomach ulcers, such as helicobacter pylori. It is also effective in preventing the development of dental plaque.

Tips for preventing urinary infections or cystitis

It is always better to prevent than to cure and that's why certain tips should be followed in order to prevent urinary infections, for example:

  • Wash the hands well with soap before any contact with the vagina and all intimate parts. 
  • Wash the genital area several times a day with a soap suitable for this purpose. Change underwear after each visit to the toilet. 
  • After urinating or bowel movements one should always wipe from front to back. This will prevent the bacteria from the anal area being introduced into the urethra.
  • It is important to drink 2 to 3 litres of water a day for frequent urination and thereby expel the possible presence of bacteria from the bladder.
  • Urinating immediately after sexual intercourse.
  • Not holding in urination for a long time.
  • Taking a cranberry-based supplement since it is very beneficial in cleansing the bladder and in preventing infections.

Who should take Cranberry supplements?

  • Anyone looking for a natural remedy to prevent urinary infections.
  • These products are especially recommended for high risk groups such as the elderly, pregnant women or menopausal women.

Taking supplements based on cranberry concentrate extract has no contraindications or side effects. Therefore it is perfect as a prolonged treatment for those who are prone to suffering from urinary tract infections.

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