By: Jean Johnson for Uterus1
OK, we know that females through puberty are rightfully called women not girls. Still we couldn’t resist even if when the talk drops to matters below the waist, girls and women alike all of a sudden remember something else that needs doing. Anything to avoid talking about those things. But when the number of females who consult physicians about urinary tract infections each year numbers close to 10 million, the subject clearly needs addressing.
| A well-stocked kitchen has cranberries in all forms: |
Fresh cranberries for folding into quick breads, dark greens and garlic, or saucepans of mashed winter squash. Fresh cranberries freeze well and can be used a handful at a time all year round.
Unsweetened cranberry juice to add into everything from herb tea to vegetable and fruit soups to compotes and chutneys. If using the juice for a UTI, take one-third cup twice a day.
Cranberry drinks, both bottled and frozen concentrate. The concentrate’s great for spooning out a tablespoon at a time to sweeten dishes that need an acidic lift. One cup twice a day is recommended for both preventing and ameliorating urinary infections.
Canned cranberries both jellied and whole make for good eating in their own right, the centerpiece in dishes like Cranberry Ice, or as partial bases for all manner of stews, soups, and anything else in a creative cook’s repertoire.
Craisins, even if the little burgundy nuggets you buy in bulk at most stores have sugar added to sweeten them up.
**Also, an addendum on cranberry pills. These critters were all the rage for those interested in using a cranberry’s strength to ward off urinary infections. After researchers at the University of Alabama released thumbs down study results in 2003, however, cranberry pills have gone by the wayside.
It’s an uncomfortable subject, for sure, but we thought that given the approach of the holidays, a discussion of urinary tract infections might go down a little easier if we brought in the tart, red cranberry. The berries are festive even if urinary tract infections – or UTIs as they are usually clinically termed – are not.
So join us if you like. We’ll draw on the latest science surrounding the cranberry’s ability to ward off UTIs, and we even include a recipe for the very delectable Cranberry Ice. But before we get to whipping up the cream and squeezing lemons for the ice, let’s talk some serious turkey about females and their plumbing problems.
Female Anatomy and Urinary Tract Infections
While the internal apparatus that accompanies a female’s reproductive system can certainly be a blessing when it comes time to consider becoming a mother, it can also present health complications. Take, for example, the close proximity of the urethra to the anus in the anatomy of females. Enough said?
If not, ladies, may we be blunt? Teach your daughters to wipe from front to back. Indeed, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “most infections arise from one type of bacteria, Escherichia coli, which normally live in the colon.” Thus, taking precautions to keep feces away from contaminating opening of the urethra is what’s required to avoid joining the throngs of women who suffer from UTIs.
Keeping things clean down there is not as easy as we might think even though females that suffer from bladder and bowel incontinence are known to have higher rates of infections than normal populations. Also, once a female contracts an infection in the urinary tract, it is relatively common to get another one. “One woman in five develops a UTI during her lifetime; UTIs in men are not so common,” states the NIH. “Nearly 20 percent of women who have a UTI will have another, and 30 percent of those will have yet another. Pregnant women seem no more prone to UTIs than other women.”
There we have it. The down and dirty on urinary tract infections. Now let’s get to the cranberries. Although their efficacy or benefits have been debated by those in the know throughout the 20th century, current inclinations within the NIH’s Center for Complementary Alternative Medicine (CCAM) give the berries a nod of approval.
Cranberries and UTIs
The way it works, according to various researchers’ hypotheses, is that the tannin in cranberries increases acidity in the urine. That high acidity in turn keeps any wayward E. coli bacteria from adhering to cells lining the sterile urethra. So instead of remaining in the urinary tract and festering, the E. coli is flushed on out of the body before it can do any harm.
If you’re sold and want to enjoy cranberries to either prevent urinary infections or ward off chronic ones, the question is how to consume your berries. Fresh cranberries stirred into orange bread, simmered into sauces, or ground with apples and oranges into a relish? Unsweetened juice for the purists in the crowd? The “cranberry drinks” that contain around 33 percent real juice? Canned cranberry jelly?
Far be it from us to dictate your choice, although we did learn that a daily dose is considered prudent. Also wise, say those who think of sugar as a legal drug, is to try and get your cranberries straight without the heavy lace of fructose and sugar that processors stir into their batches. While we’d be the first to acknowledge that sugar probably is way too sweet to be trusted very far, we just couldn’t get around the idea of leaving out the method for mixing up a batch of Cranberry Ice. So, if you’re game, here goes – a very fun way to get your cranberries, stave off UTIs, and even impress Aunt Martha come the holiday gathering.
The late Jeanne McLoughlin was a second-generation restaurateur, and everyone always said both mother and daughter had a love affair with food. Clearly Jeanne’s clever way with berries in Cranberry Ice give some idea of why the Washington coast restaurant she ran for years, My Mom’s Pie, was featured in both Best Places and Sunset Magazine.
Open two standard-sized cans (one-pound) of jellied cranberry sauce and plop the contents into the blender. Then add four tablespoons of lemon juice and set the mix to whirring until smooth and satiny. Pour the works into an eight inch square Pyrex (glass) pan, and the foundation for Cranberry Ice is ready!
For the snowy topping, whip some cream and measure out a fluffy cup. Fold the whipped cream together with a quarter cup of mayonnaise and the same amount of sifted powdered sugar. Then, voila, spread the works atop the berry blend and freeze.
When McLoughlin served Cranberry Ice, she cut the pan into nine servings and decorated each one with a pecan half or dainty sprig of thyme or frozen boysenberry. More, she was always careful to plop the Cran Ice, as she always called it, on the plate next to the Chicken Pot Pie or the Winter Salad at the last minute. That way it stayed nice and frozen all the way through the meal.
So enjoy. Cranberry Ice or the unsweetened juice straight up or fresh cranberries brewed into something divine. Anyway you fix this lovely shiny berry, it’s sure to be a winner both at the table and, ahem, down there as well.