E. coli

  1. Probiotics work as well as drugs at warding off UTIs

    Probiotics match drugs for UTI prevention

    With all the attention given to antibiotic overuse, you'd think docs would have gotten the message by now and started to cut back.

    Wrong.

    They're still giving these meds out left and right -- and women prone to urinary infections are often given a never-ending supply of the drugs as a "preventive" measure.

    But as the unmistakable burning sensation that marks the start of yet another infection shows, these "preventive" drugs don't actually prevent the infections.

    They can reduce the number of UTIs, but there are much safer ways to get the same results, starting with natural probiotics.

    In one new study, the probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14 cut the average number of annual infections in half -- from 7 at the start of the study down to 3.3 after a year of supplements.

    Women in the same study given a daily dose of the antibiotic co-trimoxazole every day for that year brought their infections down from seven to 2.9. But in return for that tiny benefit -- just 0.4 fewer infections a year -- the women were quietly breeding their own microscopic army of superbugs.

    Tests on the women taken at the start of the study found that between 20 percent and 40 percent of E. coli samples were resistant to meds. After a year of antibiotics, that number shot up to as much as 95 percent.

    Among those on probiotics, on the other hand, the number of resistant samples actually fell slightly.

    In addition, antibiotics can cause stomach pain and diarrhea, and women who take them can even develop yeast infections. That's like trading one infection for another -- and that's never a very good tradeoff in my book.

    To me, it's no contest -- probiotics are the clear winner here. The urinary tract contains these friendly bacteria-fighting bugs, which increase your resistance to infection. And if you're prone to UTIs yourself, be sure to combine these natural gut-friendly bacteria with plenty of cranberry.

    I know cranberry is often dismissed as folk medicine, but science shows that this stuff is all "medicine" and no "folk" -- because cranberry can actually prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract.

    If they can't stick, you don't get sick. One study even found that 500 mg of cranberry extract in capsule form worked as well as the antibiotic trimethoprim in women with a history of UTIs.

    Bear in mind that most cranberry drinks -- I hesitate to even call them "juice" --contain a lot sugar and precious little cranberry. If you can't handle the unsweetened juice, get your cranberry in supplement form.

  2. Garlic 100 times more effective than drugs at killing food-borne bacteria

    Take two cloves of garlic and call me in the morning

    You know what garlic does to vampires, but that's nothing compared to what it can do to bacteria.

    Garlic is one of nature's most powerful antibiotics -- so powerful it can cure MRSA and staph infections. And now, researchers say it can even wipe out the most common cause of food poisoning 100 times better than two powerful antibiotics.

    That's a claim as bold as the unmistakably pungent taste of garlic -- but it's backed by a new study in which a garlic-derived compound, diallyl sulfide, was put to the test against campylobacter bacteria.

    That's a fecal bug that often finds a way into food -- try not to think about it! --where it can cause days of misery in the form of diarrhea, stomach pain, cramps, fever and more.

    It's one of the bacteria often blamed for Montezuma's Revenge. And in extreme scenarios, it can even trigger Guillain-Barre syndrome, a nervous-system disorder that could lead to paralysis.

    But garlic wiped it out -- and wiped it out even when the bacteria was using the main trick that helps it beat antibiotics.

    Campylobacter likes to camp out behind biofilm. That's essentially a layer of slime -- but to antibiotics such as erythromycin and ciprofloxacin, it may as well be a brick wall.

    When campylobacter is behind biofilm, it's 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than in its free form.

    To the diallyl sulfide, however, that biofilm has all the strength of tissue paper, according to the study in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

    If that's not enough of a reason to start adding garlic to all your dishes, the same researchers found in earlier experiments that garlic can wipe out other disease-causing bugs often found in food -- including Listeria and E. coli O157:H7.

    Garlic is also a powerful antifungal agent, and I've given my patients garlic extract -- allium sativum -- for athlete's foot as well as the candidiasis responsible for both thrush and yeast infections, just to name two.

    It can also help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol, fight inflammation, thin the blood, fight the flu, and lower blood pressure.

    All that, and it tastes great too.

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