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The American cranberry or Vaccinium macrocarpon is a plant belonging to the Ericaceae family and is typical of North America, where it has a tradition of use. Compared with the blueberry that grows in Europe, the cranberry has a much sourer taste, so it is often combined with sweet-tasting fruits such as, for example, apples. The cranberry has been defined as a disinfectant and protector fruit par excellence of the urinary tract, which owes its fame to its precious bioactive elements such as proanthocyanidins, together with bioflavonoids, tannins, ascorbic, citric, malic and glucuronic acid, beta-carotene, glutathione and Vitamin E. Thanks to these elements, cranberry has long been an effective food supplement for protecting people against urinary tract infections; in particular it is used for the prevention of recurrent cystitis thanks to an antibacterial and “anti-adhesive” activity due to irreversible inhibition of bacterial adhesion to the bladder wall, and is an element capable of regulating the pH of urine. When our immune system lowers it guard for example, especially in particularly predisposed individuals (but it can happen to everyone!), this could lead to the appearance of cystitis, a very frequent unpleasant and annoying disorder that can affect all fertile women. To prevent or help deal with cystitis, cranberry has become an instrumental tool, demonstrated by several clinical studies on patients suffering from cystitis which have confirmed the anti-inflammatory, antiphlogistic properties of cranberry berries. Cystitis can be caused by different bacteria, but the best known is Escherichia coli which adheres to the bladder walls, causing a series of problems that can become really debilitating: from frequent urination with burning or painful sensation when expelling urinary flow, to the potential presence of red blood cells, with possible fever and sensation of particular fatigue.
As previously mentioned, cranberry contains A-type proanthocyanidins, or polyphenols, that are able to hinder the adhesion of bacteria such as those of Escherichia Coli to the bladder mucosa, thus avoiding their proliferation and the consequent development of infection. In fact, Escherichia Coli, the cystitis bacterium, is one of the main threats to the urinary tract: thanks to its tentacles it manages to adhere easily to the epithelial walls of the bladder and proliferate. It is specifically due to the molecular structure of these proanthocyanidins that the cranberry is a true defender of our inner walls; proanthocyanidins intervene between the walls and the bacterium, counteracting the settling of bacteria and then favouring their expulsion with urine.
It is recommended as an excellent element of prevention and as an adjunct to antibiotic therapy (it is not a substitute) in the case of an acute phase already under way, to be prolonged in the next phase thanks to its anti-adhesive disinfectant action and its action on the ph of urine.