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Cranberry juice for urinary-tract infections

Q: I get frequent urinary-tract infections and always keep Cipro around because the symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable. Having read about Cipro side effects, I am more concerned than ever about repeatedly taking this antibiotic.

Are there natural remedies to treat urinary-tract infections effectively or, better yet, prevent them? Lately the infections have been coming more and more frequently.

A: You may want to consider drinking cranberry juice for prevention. This has been controversial, particularly in the medical community. A new randomized controlled trial shows, however, that a daily cup of cranberry juice reduces the likelihood of a recurrent urinary-tract infection (UTI) by about 40 percent (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2016).

Cranberry juice isn’t perfect, so you might want to consider adding a supplement of D-mannose. German physicians looking for nonantibiotic strategies to prevent UTI recurrence recommend this because it keeps bacteria from sticking to the ureter lining (Aktuelle Urologie, May 2016). Skeptical health professionals may want to read about the molecular basis for this activity (IUCrJ online, Feb. 26, 2016).

Q: When I first started experiencing the burning and shooting pains of neuropathy, I thought they were going to drive me to suicide. I read somewhere, perhaps on your website, that benfotiamine and alpha-lipoic acid might be helpful.

It’s been several years since I started taking these dietary supplements, and the pains have almost completely disappeared. This has been an absolute blessing for me.

A: Health professionals often treat peripheral neuropathy with prescription medications such as the anti-seizure drugs gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica). Antidepressants such as amitriptyline and doxepin also have been prescribed off-label for nerve pain. Such drugs do have side effects, however.

There is some data to support the use of both alpha-lipoic acid and benfotiamine (a derivative of the B vitamin thiamine) for neuropathy (Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease, January 2015). We’re glad you get such relief from these supplements.

Q: Four ounces of tart cherry juice in the morning has alleviated the arthritis pain that I used to have in my hands. I’ve been doing this for the past two years.

I’ve recommended it to many people. Some don’t experience relief from it, but many do.

One friend uses cherry juice at bedtime to help her fall asleep.

A: There is growing evidence that ingredients in tart cherries may ease both inflammation and insomnia. The latest research involved a placebo-controlled trial of powdered Montmorency cherries (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition online, May 26, 2016). Athletes who consumed the powder outperformed the group on placebo. They also experienced less muscle soreness and had lower levels of inflammatory markers in their bloodstream.

Anyone who would like to learn more about nondrug approaches for controlling inflammation and easing joint pain may find our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis of interest. It can be downloaded for $2 from peoplespharmacy.com.

Because Montmorency cherries also are rich in melatonin, they may help overcome jet lag and insomnia (European Journal of Nutrition, December 2012).

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