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Bladder Health

Published on 19th August 2015

The bladder is a hollow, balloon-shaped organ that allows the body to store urine until we feel the urge to urinate. Bladder infections are caused by bacteria that enter the body from the outside and travel up into the bladder. Normally, the body is able to remove the bacteria by clearing it out during urination. However, sometimes the bacteria attach to the walls of the bladder and multiply quickly, resulting in a bladder infection.

Cystitis is the medical term for inflammation of the bladder. A bladder infection can be painful and annoying, and it can become a serious health problem if the infection spreads to the kidneys. According to the Mayo Clinic, a urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system: the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract — the bladder and the urethra.

The urinary tract is the body’s drainage system for removing urine. It consists of:

• Two kidneys: bean-shaped organs that filter the blood to produce urine.

• Two ureters: thin tubes of muscle that carry urine from each of the kidneys to the bladder.

• The bladder: a muscular sac that expands as it fills with urine. The bladder stores urine until urination.

• The urethra: a tube located at the bottom of the bladder. During urination, the bladder empties through the urethra.

The culprit in most UTIs is a type of bacteria called Escherichia coli (E. coli). These bacteria normally live in the colon and around the anus. If these bacteria reach the urethra and bladder, they can cause a UTI.

Why are women more susceptible to UTIs than men?

In women, the opening to the urethra is located close to the anus, and because of this, women are far more likely to experience UTIs. Wiping properly – from front to back – can help to reduce the likelihood of UTIs. Sexual intercourse also increases the risk for UTIs in women.

Urethral length is another factor in developing UTIs. The male urethra passes through the penis and has an average length of around 22cm, while the female urethra is only around 4cm long. This means that, in women, bacteria have a much shorter distance to travel before reaching the bladder.

Some women could also experience an increase in UTIs after menopause, when a decline in circulating oestrogen could cause changes in the urinary tract that render it more vulnerable to infection. Certain types of birth control, including diaphragms and spermicidal agents, also increase the risk for UTIs.

Other (non gender-related) risk factors for UTIs include catheter use, blockages in the urinary tract like kidney stones or an enlarged prostate, urinary surgery or medical examinations, and a suppressed immune system.

What is the science behind taking cranberries for UTI’s?

According to Web.MD.com, scientists used to believe that cranberries protected against UTIs by making the urine more acidic, and therefore inhospitable to bacteria like E. coli. However, this thinking has since shifted, and research now indicates that cranberries can help prevent and treat UTIs due to their ability to prevent pathogens from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. These pathogens can then be flushed out in the urine, and urinary health is maintained.

The specific phytonutrient in cranberries that performs this role is proanthocyanidin (PACs) compounds. PACs are chains of flavonoids, which are phytonutrients that have an array of health benefits. While other fruits carry these same compounds, only the PACs in cranberries and blueberries have been shown to have the stick-free effect on urinary bacteria.

Anthocyanins are believed to be part of the flavonoids that make up the chain of proanthocyanidins. Anthocyanins are the water soluble portion of the plant cell that transmits pigments that appear red, purple, or blue. A recent study has shown that the amount of cranberry extract in one capsule of AIM’s CranVerry+ has the equivalent anthocyanin content of seven eight-ounce glasses of cranberry juice cocktail. CranVerry+ also contains Resveratrol, Mangosteen and Beta-glucanase, which have all been shown to minimize the risk of candida infections.

What other things can women do to prevent UTIs?

1. After using the toilet, wipe from front to back, never the other way around.

2. Take showers instead of baths, and wash the genital area from front to back.

3. Avoid highly scented feminine hygiene products like sprays, powders or washes. Use water and a mild, pH balanced soap only.

4. Never “hold it in” but try and empty your bladder every 4hrs, even if you don’t feel the urge to do so.

5. Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight-fitting pants.

6. Drink plenty of water, especially after sexual intercourse and exercise.

7. Empty your bladder after sexual intercourse and exercise, and wash the area thoroughly afterward.

8. Avoid spermicidal jelly, as this kills normal vaginal flora along with sperm.