Cranberries and kidneys
Urinary tract, kidneys and cranberries
Your urinary tract is a complex system that includes your kidneys, the ureters, (narrow tubes through which urine flows from the kidneys into the bladder) the bladder where urine is stored, two sphincter muscles that keep urine from leaking out of the bladder and the urethra through which urine is discharged from the body. Together, they work to remove waste from your body in the form of urine. The hardest-working part of the system is your kidneys.
Many people have problems with their urinary systems, most often from infections. Have you ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI)? If so, you are one of the millions of people who visit the doctor each year with this complaint.
Perhaps your doctor explained to you that urinary tract infections generally start with bacteria (germs). E. coli, a bacteria often found in the bowel, can make its way into the urinary system and cause infection. So can Chlamydia, a form of bacteria that can be sexually transmitted.
If you experience recurring urinary tract infections, you'll want to do everything you can to protect yourself against another round of infection. Taking the simple step of drinking cranberry juice every day may help you avoid the discomfort of another urinary tract infection.
Cranberries and kidney health
Although cranberries may make you think of holiday dinners, many people have long believed that cranberry juice can help keep your urinary system healthy. Today there is medical research that backs up the link between cranberries and kidney health.
The idea of using cranberries to fight illness and infection goes back hundreds of years. Native Americans used cranberries for medicinal remedies, including those for bladder and kidney problems.
In the 1600s, American settlers found many uses for the fruit. Cranberries, along with leaves from the cranberry plant, were used for treatment of fever, mumps, swollen glands, digestive tract ailments and liver conditions. They were also made into a dressing and applied to wounds to help them heal.
In the early days of the United States, folks used cranberries to help prevent scurvy, a condition caused by lack of vitamin C. Ships' captains were sure to bring along plenty of cranberries to keep their sailors healthy while they were out at sea.
How cranberries help kidneys and prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
How can a little berry pack such a big health punch? Modern-day researchers set out to find out. After studying the effect that cranberries can have on the body, they found that people who drink cranberry juice have fewer urinary tract infections than people who don't drink it. Frequent and untreated urinary tract infections may lead to infection in the kidneys. Chronic kidney infection is a risk factor for chronic kidney disease.
One way that cranberry juice helps prevent urinary tract infections is by making urine more acidic. Because bacteria grow best in alkaline environments, the acid helps keep bacteria from thriving. But after studying the effects of cranberry on the body for more than 20 years, researchers at the Weizman Institute of Science and Tel Aviv University found another way that cranberries can be good for kidneys and urinary health: they prevent bacteria from attaching to the wall of the bladder. This means that infection cannot stick around inside your body.
In addition to preventing urinary tract infections, researchers point out that cranberry juice has properties that can help you fight other ailments as well. These include flu, gastric ulcers and even cavities in your teeth. Who knew that drinking this tasty juice could do your body so much good!
Quick facts about cranberries
- The cranberry is one of only a few fruits native to North America
- Its name came from the Pilgrims, who called it a craneberry, because the fruit’s blossom reminded them of the shape of the head and neck of a crane.
- The Iroquois and Cherokee tribes believed the cranberry to be a symbol of peace and friendship.
- Cranberries are too tart to be eaten raw.
- Raw cranberries are low in calories and potassium (about 47 calories and 80 mg potassium per cup).
- Cranberries have no fat and no sodium, but plenty of fiber and vitamin C.
Modern research has shown what many people have long suspected: cranberry juice can help support your kidney health, especially when it comes to the urinary system. With plenty of vitamin C and being low in potassium, cranberries are also a recommended fruit in the kidney diet.
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