CRANBERRY COMPOUNDS: Most women with urinary tract infections have tried cranberry juice or cranberry extract. Although some small studies have found cranberry compounds helpful, large, well-designed studies haven't been positive. A University of Michigan study published last month in Clinical Infectious Diseases, and supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found that among otherwise healthy college-age women recovering from bladder infections, those who drank cranberry juice twice a day were no less prone to new infections than those drinking a look-alike placebo. Lab research presented at the Infectious Diseases Society of America meeting in 2004 found that cranberry compounds may inhibit the ability of E. coli to stick to the cells lining the bladder, but that hasn't translated into the treatment arena. Most doctors don't object to women trying cranberry. As Stapleton said: "We don't have any evidence that it's a bad thing to do."
ACUPUNCTURE: Smith at the University of Pennsylvania said a small pilot study of seven patients, in which participants had weekly acupuncture treatments for 12 weeks, found some evidence that it alleviated pain associated with interstitial cystitis, a painful bladder condition with discomfort but no clear evidence of infection. "Acupuncture is used a lot for stress reduction. A huge part of interstitial cystitis is exacerbations at the time of stress. When you think of it that way…a side effect of treating their stress would be less exacerbations of their cystitis," Smith said. However, she said, "this is really early. I don't think anyone is prescribing this for interstitial cystitis."