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Network : Fresh Tastes
: July 2000
my phone rang early. A distraught elderly lady was desperately looking
for help with the bladder pain and urgency that she said was increasing
daily. She had experienced repeated bladder infections for months
but now it appeared that her bladder was being ravaged by something
non-bacterial-- her doctor suspected interstitial cystitis (IC).
He wanted to look inside her bladder and check for IC, but she was
in so much pain she couldn't bear the thought of such a procedure.
Despite the bladder-calming drugs he prescribed, her symptoms just
seemed to worsen. Was there anything, she asked, that she could
do to ease her pain other than drink cranberry juice, which she
was already doing? "Well," I said with a sigh, "I know doctors advise
people to drink cranberry juice for bladder infections... but if
in fact you have IC rather than an infection, the quickest way to
reduce your symptoms will be to stop drinking cranberry juice."
IC patients, and even some doctors, are unaware of the painful effects
of cranberries on an IC bladder. Dubbed "the acid bomb" by one more
than one IC patient, cranberries contain hippuric acid and several
other potential bladder-irritants. Despite the cranberry's nasty
personality however, it does have some redeeming qualities. One
of its most famous attributes is the ability to fight bacterial
bladder infections. Fortunately for those of us with IC, cranberries
share some healthful qualities with other less acid and more bladder-friendly
and blueberries are, in botanical terms, cousins. They are both
members of the genus Vaccinium, a group of plants native to North
America. This family includes bilberries, highbush and lowbush blueberries,
bog bilberries, and cranberries. For centuries, fruits from these
plants have been used medicinally as well as for food by Native
In recent years
though, the fruit of this family of plants has attracted the attention
of scientists. The berries are high in powerful antioxidants and
they may possess anti-aging and anti-cancer properties. Urologists
have also been interested in some of these species because the berries
appear to contain anti-infective substances useful in controlling
bacterial bladder infections. Here is a quick overview of the attributes
of several of these cranberry "cousins":
and unattractive common bilberry (V. myrtillus) fruit has for many
years been a popular folk medicine used to ease complaints of mild
diarrhea and sore throats. Another similar species, the bog bilberry
(V. uliginosum), has been traditionally used for bladder irritation
as well as diarrhea . Both of these berries can be found in dietary
supplements aimed at consumers with bladder complaints.
of berries are very high in tannins (12% to 20%) however, one of
the irritating constituents of coffee. Bilberries also contain citric
acid, benzoic acid, and salicylic acid-- all substances well
known to trigger bladder symptoms for IC patients. Teas made with
these berries may also upset the stomach if consumed in large quantities.
IC patients should probably approach these two with caution.
acidic berries were called "i-bimi" or "bitter fruit" by the Pequot
Indians of Cape Cod in the 1700's. Since then, cranberries have
become a folk remedy for women's bladder infections. But it wasn't
until 1994 that scientific evidence emerged that drinking cranberry
juice could really prevent bladder infections. With that finding,
many doctors naturally assumed that it was the acidity of cranberry
juice that fought bacteria. But research indicates that the cranberry's
infection fighting mechanism is much more complex than that. It
seems that other substances in cranberries help disinfect urine
, and at least one substance actually prevents bacteria from
clinging to the bladder surface, making the organisms easier to
flush out [3,4].
cranberry (V. vitis-idaea), is dried and sold in health food stores
as a dietary supplement. It has a urine-disinfecting effect that
appears to be based on the hydroquinones which are released in the
urinary tract. A few people with relatively mild cases of IC
have reported some luck in reducing their bladder symptoms by taking
dried cranberries. Dried cranberries may be less acidic than fresh
ones. Nonetheless, many IC sufferers still find them intolerable.
If you want to experiment with dried cranberries though, here's
a tip that might help:
will only work in an alkaline environment . That means avoid
taking dried cranberries with food that increases the acid content
of the urine (meats and fish for instance). Milk or baking soda
may help alkalinize the urine. You can buy litmus paper and test
the acid/base balance of your urine.
and Lowbush Blueberries
The wild lowbush
blueberry plant, (V. augustifolium) produces small, sweet, blue
berries that are often marketed as "wild blueberries". More
common in stores are highbush blueberries (V. corybosum). These
are the cultivated blueberry and are planted and maintained much
as an orchard would be. Most blueberries in North American grocery
stores are highbush blueberries.
some, both kinds of blueberries are a real bonanza of health benefits.
And no wonder. Dr. Ronald Prior, who studies antioxidants in food
at the Tufts University Human Nutrition Research Center states,
"In general, blueberries are one of the richest sources of antioxidant
phytonutrients of the fresh fruits and vegetables we have studied."
One study found that blueberries had more than twice the antioxidant
content of strawberries or raspberries and more importantly, their
antioxidant content did not diminish with storage. Antioxidants
in foods are thought to be important for many reasons: they may
delay effects of aging, help prevent some cancers and combat heart
disease among other things.
blueberries especially valuable to IC patients though, is that they
are tasty and sweet and have none of the cranberry's awesome acidity.
Half a cup is only 41 calories but has 2 grams of fiber and 9 mg.
of vitamin C (about 16% of the RDA). At last! A health promoting
food we can eat! Blueberries are well tolerated by many people with
IC. Their only apparent drawback is their oxalate content. (Oxalates
in food may exacerbate some cases of vulvodynia, an IC-associated
condition involving pain in the vulvar area. Only about 15% of IC
patients have vulvodynia).
Here are some
other possible health benefits of blueberries which are currently
In an animal
study funded by the National Institute of Aging and the U.S. Dept.
of Agriculture, dietary supplementation with blueberries apparently
reversed the lack of balance, lack of coordination and failing memory
associated with aging. A second study with animals confirmed
the results and also demonstrated measurable improvements in the
status and functioning of the central nervous system . More studies,
including trials with humans are planned. In one small placebo controlled,
crossover trial with humans, blueberry extracts had a positive effect
on tired eyes and appeared to prevent weak eyesight .
J, Monane M., et al; Reduction of bacteriuria and pyuria after ingestion
of cranberry juice; Journal of the American Medical Assn.; 1994;
Vol. 271; pp. 751-754.
2. PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) for Herbal Medicines; Gruenwald
J.,Brendler T., Jaenicke C., eds.; Medical Economics Co., Montvale
NJ; 1998; pp 1201-1204.
3. Ofek I, Goldhar
J, et al.; Anti-Escherichia coli adhesin activity of cranberry and
blueberry juices; New England Journal of Medicine; 1991; Vol. 324;
4. Howell A,
Der Marderosian A, Foo LY; Inhibition of the adherence of P-fimbriated
Escherichia coli to uroepithelial-cell surfaces by proanthocyanidin
extracts from cranberries; New England Journal of Medicine; 1994;
Vol. 339, No. 15; letter.
5. Prior R; Antioxidant
capacity as influenced by total phenolic and anthocyanin content,
maturity and variety of vaccinium species; Journal of Agricultural
and Food Chemistry; 1998; Vol. 46, No. 7; pg. 2686.
6. Joseph J,
Shukitt-Hale B., Denisova N.A., et al.; Reversal of age-related
declines in neuronal signal transduction, cognitive, and motor behavioral
deficits with blueberry, spinach, or strawberry dietary supplementation;
Journal of Neuroscience; 1999; Vol. 19, No. 18; pp. 8114- 8121.
7. Bickford P.C.,
Shukitt-Hale B., Gould T.J., et al.; Reversal of age-related declines
in CNS neuro-transmission with diets supplemented with fruit or
vegetable extracts; Society of Neuroscience Abstracts; 1999; Vol.
24, pg 2157.
8. Osami Kajimoto;
Blueberries and eyesight; Food Style 21; Vol. 3, no. 3; March 1999
(In Japanese, translation courtesy North American Blueberry Council).
of the Month
try fresh blueberries in pancakes or waffles, on home-made granola
cereal, or top toasted bagels with cottage cheese and berries. For
desserts, nothing beats blueberry pie or a blueberry buckle. Here
are some other blueberry treats.
1/2 cup blueberries
-- fresh, washed and chilled
cups vanilla ice cream
Place all ingredients
in a blender and process until smooth and frothy, about 45 seconds.
Pour into chilled glasses and serve. Makes about 2-1/4 cups. Frozen
blueberries work fine too.
219 Calories, 11g Total Fat; 7g Protein
I've tried substituting cottage cheese curds for about 1/4 cup of
the ice cream (just curds, not whey, rinsed under running water).
On occasion I've also made this more of a "meal" by adding 2 Tbsp.
of pure high-protein egg white powder.
adapted from Massachusetts Maple Producers Assn.
6 egg yolks
heavy whipping cream
maple syrup -- heated
in the top of a double boiler until thick. Beat in hot syrup. Put
over simmering water and cook, beating constantly until slightly
thickened. Cool slightly, then refrigerate 2 hours.
cream until it forms stiff peaks and fold into the cool yolk mixture.
Fold in half of the berries. Pour into 1-1/2 qt. dish or mold, or
pour into individual cups or glasses. Freeze overnight. Before serving,
garnish with remainder of berries.
556 Calories; 208g Total Fat; 28g Protein
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, Jul-Aug 1995
1/4 cup stick
nonfat cream cheese
tsp. baking powder
ground cinnamon or 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
and cheese together. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating at medium
speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add egg; beat well. Combine
flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Stir
in vanilla; fold in berries. Pour
into a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray. Combine
2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over batter.
Bake at 350
degrees for 1 hour; let cool.
313 Calories (kcal); 11g Total Fat; 5g Protein
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