Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cranberries: A Vision that Combines Science and Wisdom


"In order to effectively treat a urinary tract infection with cranberry juice,
you would need to drink 10 gallons of juice in a day.
Therefore the use of cranberry juice has no role in the treatment of urinary tract infections. " 
from lecture to medical students

So my medical school class was informed. The rationale behind the statement was that it would take a tremendous amount of cranberry juice to acidify urine enought to inhibit bacterial growth.

Four years after I listened to that lecture, I read a paragraph in Women's Day magazine. The author summarized a study that showed that cranberries and blueberries have a chemical that keeps bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

Hmmm... so maybe if someone had a raging urinary tract infection it wouldn't kill the bacteria...yet here was an explanation of why cranberry juice would prevent an infection... or if someone had a mild infection and a good immune system how cranberry juice would help a person fight an infection.

Science had caught up with Grandma's wisdom.

Since reading that paragraph in Women's day magazine,  I have learned some other things about how cranberry juice helps bladder health. Personally I found four ounces of cranberry juice cocktail - yes that stuff with a bit of cranberry juice mixed with corn syrup and water - very useful at preventing bladder infections when I was working those 40 hour days. (The day - night - day on call "day.") Cranberry juice cocktail,  has also been shown to prevent urinary tract infections in nursing home residents. 

I have also learned that people who know about botanical medicine combine cranberry extract with other plants like uva-ursi or goldenseal, that have anti-infection properties. I learned to respect and collaborate with naturopathic physicians and other health care providers who had more experience in areas that I had not studied. While I was spending days and nights in intensive care units and the emergency rooms learning to care for very ill patients, my naturopathic colleagues were learning which formulations of nutritional and botanical supplements could most effectively be used to promote health.

The story of cranberry juice, has influenced my perspective about health care for the last 20 years.  A scientific explanation proposed for  why something doesn't work, followed later by a change in perspective - measuring something different.  Ah Hah! Science and traditional wisdom agree. Sometimes that agreement requires time and stepping back from assumptions to gain a bigger vision.

Sometimes I think life is also like that...

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