Q: I have recurrent cystitis for which the GP prescribes antibiotics. I am confused about whether or not cranberry juice would help.
A: It depends on the type of cystitis. I am guessing that it is bacterial cystitis (BC), the most common type.
BC is an inflammation of the bladder caused by bacteria. Possible causes include sexual activity, weight gain, wearing thongs, changes to the vaginal flora (eg, after menopause), diabetes (the increased sugar in diabetic urine encourages bacteria to grow), poor bladder emptying or hygiene and pregnancy.
Symptoms of BC include burning or stinging pain when urinating, frequent need to pass small amounts, feeling of urgency even when the bladder is empty, cloudy urine which may have a strong odour.
Between 20 and 40 per cent of women suffer BC at some point in their lifetime, according to The Cystitis & Overactive Bladder Foundation (cobfoundation.org, tel: 0121 702 0820). But men and children can sometimes be affected, and should be treated immediately by a doctor.
Cranberry juice or capsules/tablets are useful for preventing BC, but not for other types of cystitis, including interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome (which is not caused by bacteria). Compounds in cranberry called proanthocyanidins inhibit bacterial growth and can be useful in preventing the onset of bladder infection. During an outbreak, however, cranberry has little effect, and the acidity may further inflame the bladder, according to the COB Foundation.
Sugar encourages bacterial growth so the advice is to choose low-sugar cranberry juice, or take a supplement such as Cysticlean (£24.99 for 30 tablets, from Victoria Health), which has a high concentration of active compounds as well as being sugar-free.
Cranberry extract does not replace antibiotics but it may help promote long-term urinary health and reduce the number of episodes of BC, as well as the number of long-term antibiotics prescribed between bouts. Research is ongoing but GP Dr Rob Hicks says he recommends cranberry to his patients ‘for reducing the likelihood of recurrent cystitis’.
THE B-VITAMIN BRAIN GAIN
Raised levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, are strongly associated with stroke, depression and declining memory. Research confirms that taking high doses of B vitamins can reduce elevated homocysteine. North Wales GP Dr Andrew McCaddon has formulated Betrinac, a dietary supplement that contains vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid, plus the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine, which is thought to be important for brain health.
Betrinac claims it ‘will help maintain brain performance and memory as you get older’. £16.95 for 28 tablets (one a day). NB There are no known contraindications but if you are taking medication, do discuss this with your doctor.
ALL HAIL THESE SPEEDY HEALERS
A reader whose two children are recovering from chickenpox asks for advice on helping the scabs to heal without leaving scars. Pharmacist Shabir Daya says, ‘The best remedy to encourage quick healing is a warm bath twice daily, with two tablespoonfuls of sodium bicarbonate. This encourages the scabs to drop more quickly, and being alkaline, calms the skin and eases itching.’
Once the scabs have fallen off, he suggests applying rosehip oil twice daily: ‘It’s rich in essential fatty acids and helps scar tissue to heal.’ As an extra measure, it may help to add one spray of colloidal silver to the oil, as silver is a well-known skin-healing agent and has antimicrobial properties. Plasters incorporating silver are wonderful for speeding wound healing. (Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil, £16.50; Hydrosol Silver Spray, £19.95; both from Victoria Health.)
SAVE THE BEES, PLEASE
Bees are vital to our lives. As pollinators they are responsible for many of the food crops we depend on, as well as many flowers, plants and trees. But in the past decade, bee populations have declined dramatically worldwide, with 80 per cent of colonies in the UK lost already. Experts believe one of the main causes is neo-nicotinoid pesticides, which penetrate plants and pose a deadly threat to insects feeding off them. ‘Neo-nics’ are some 7,000 times more toxic than DDT, which was banned in 1984 because of its chronic effects on the nervous system, liver, kidneys and immune system. Now the Bee Lovely Petition is lobbying Environment Minister Caroline Spelman to ban the use of neo-nicotinoids. Join Livia Firth and other green goddesses who have signed up at nealsyardremedies.com/bee-lovely-petition.