Tag Archive | "urinary tract infection"

Vitamin D: The Super Vitamin

One of the most underappreciated, yet most crucial, vitamins is the sunshine vitamin:  vitamin D.  Besides protecting our bodies from cancer, obesity, autoimmune diseases, and cardiovascular problems, vitamin D helps build strong bones.  And now scientists have found that this remarkable vitamin has a significant impact on the immune system.  It turns out that vitamin D is necessary for the production of anti-microbial peptides, which are substances that fight off infection-causing bacteria, fungi, and viruses when these pathogens try to move into organs and through mucous membranes.

Previous research has indicated that with adequate amounts of vitamin D, the flu, colds, and serious lung infections, including tuberculosis, may be kept at bay.  Now Swedish researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm have evidence that higher vitamin D levels offer especially strong protection against another common health problem—urinary tract infections (UTIs).

The new study was published in the journal PLoS One.  “In the light of the rapidly growing problem of resistance to common urinary tract antibiotics, we suggest that vitamin D may be a potential complement in the prevention of UTI.  Determining the vitamin D status of individuals with a history of UTI may be of importance to evaluate their ability to fend off intruding bacteria,” stated scientists in PLoS One.

The urinary tract is frequently exposed to infection-causing agents and has a built-in, rapid defense system.  When pathogens threaten, cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide, is expressed.  However, the immune system must be healthy in order to do so.  The peptide is actually secreted by bladder epithelial cells and protects the urinary tract from an infection.

Vitamin D plays a very important role in this process.  According to the Swedish study, vitamin D actually induces cathelicidin in the urinary bladder.  This process occurs when a boost in the antimicrobial peptide is needed during an infection.

These findings mean that vitamin D has a huge advantage over many of the antibiotics prescribed today for urinary tract infections.  When antibiotics are used to treat UTIs, the drugs are harmful for the beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to other problems.  But vitamin D only produces germ-killing peptides at the site of an infection when needed, leaving “friendly bacteria” totally unharmed.

“By inducing and activating cathelicidin with vitamin D, a local rather than a systemic effect can be achieved.  This could offer selective and site-specific treatment of pathogens without perturbing commensal [friendly] microbes elsewhere in the body,” state the scientists.

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Urinary Tract Infection Vaccine

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) affects more than 8 million people each year.  The cost for treatment is estimated at $3.5 billion each year and it accounts for more than 3 million prescriptions.  If this is not enough to cause concern on UTI, a number of infections are resistant to common antibiotic treatments.

Roughly 80% of UTIs is caused by E. coli.  Studies from the University of Michigan showed that more than half of the E. coli samples they collected were resistant to an antibiotic commonly used to treat UTIs.  In some cases, E. Coli is resistant up to 15% to a class of antibiotics that includes Ciprofloxacin (“cipro”), a second line treatment for UTI.

Last year, the university published a study that showed a vaccine they had developed prevented UTI which are caused by E. coli bacteria and produced key types of immunity in mice. Though developing and testing this vaccine in humans will take several years, this study is a breakthrough in medicine. This will lead to developments that would save billions in health care costs and millions of doctors’ visits and hospitalizations from UTI each year.

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How Cranberry Juice prevents Urinary Tract Infections

It is common knowledge that cranberry juice can help ward off urinary tract infections, but until now, the exact mechanism has remained a mystery. However, a new study by scientists at Worcester Polytechnic Institute has shed light on this mechanism, showing that cranberry juice changes the thermodynamic properties of harmful urinary tract bacteria. This creates an energy barrier that prevents the bacteria from initiating an infection.

Terri Camesano, associate professor of chemical engineering at WPI, elaborated on the findings. “Our results show that, at least for urinary tract infections, cranberry juice targets the right bacteria–those that cause disease–but has no effect on non-pathogenic organisms, suggesting that cranberry juice will not disrupt bacteria that are part of the normal flora in the gut,” Camesano said. “We have also shown that this effect occurs at concentrations of cranberry juice that are comparable to levels we would expect to find in the urinary tract.”

Fortunately for people concerned about their weight, the study has also shown the effects of regular cranberry juice and diet (sugar-free) cranberry juice to be identical.

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Tips for Preventing Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

-          Good personal hygiene is key to urinary tract infection, bladder infection, and kidney infection prevention. Wash the skin between the rectum and vagina daily, and always wipe from front to back after urination or a bowel movement.

-          Thoroughly wash the pelvic area before and after sexual intercourse

-          Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help flush bacteria from the urinary system.

-          Promptly empty the bladder when the urge to urinate occurs. Don’t “hold it in.”

-          Consume adequate Vitamin C to make the urine acidic and less conducive to bacteria growth.

-          Avoid thongs and wear panties with a cotton crotch to allow moisture to escape.

-          Drink cranberry juice, or take over-the-counter cranberry supplements to help reduce bladder infection frequency.

-          Urinate before and after sexual intercourse to flush the bladder of bacteria.

-          Try changing sexual positions with your partner to cause less friction on the urethra.

-          The use of diaphragms or spermicidal gels for pregnancy prevention can increase your risk of developing a urinary tract infection. If you experience frequent UTI symptoms, try looking into other forms of birth control.

-          Don’t use douches or other feminine sprays in your pubic region.

-          Take showers instead of baths.

-          If you’re prone to urinary tract infections, talk to your doctor. He or she may do special tests to determine if daily medication may be beneficial.

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Bladder Infection

What is it?

Also known as inflammation of the bladder, cystitis, or urinary tract infection (UTI), 20% of women will have a bladder infection once in their lifetimes. This disorder is rarely found in men, but the probability increases for older men due in part to an increased prostate size.

Although they aren’t serious if treated promptly, urinary tract infections can be recurrent in some patients. If not treated promptly, a kidney infection may result, which could lead to permanent kidney damage.

What are the symptoms?

-A strong urge to urinate

-Burning or sharp pain when urinating

-Blood-tinged urine

- Soreness in the lower back, sides, or abdomen.

How is it treated?

If you think you have a urinary tract infection, see your doctor for a diagnosis. He or she may prescribe you antibiotics. It is important to take the medication as prescribed and continue the full course of treatment to prevent the infection from recurring. Your doctor may order a urinary test one week after the treatment is complete to be certain the infection is cured.

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