Alt-Med or Alt-Menace? Rachel Corradetti on Urinary Tract Infections

 

Practitioner

Rachel Corradetti (Toronto, Ontario)

Qualifications

Naturopathic Doctor (ND). Degree obtained from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). Currently an intern at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic (run by CCNM).

Claims That…

One can naturally cure a urinary tract infection by alternately dipping the “pelvic region” into cold lake water and hot boiled water.

16 Responses to “Alt-Med or Alt-Menace? Rachel Corradetti on Urinary Tract Infections”

  1. Daniel Pike says:

    Well, at least it seems harmless…

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      Daniel,

      This would depend on just how hot the water is. What’s the point of boiling it if you’re using untreated cold lake water as well? The implication is that the water is supposed to be very, very hot.

      In addition, she offers no information as to when a person should seek medical treatment for a UTI. I would say it’s before you dip your cooter into scalding hot water.

    • Janey says:

      But, UTIs *can* be very harmful! There will be no dipping of the nether regions here :)

  2. Brianna says:

    Do cranberries or cranberry juice work to reduce UTIs? I had a kidney infection awhile back, and the doctor gave me pills and told me to avoid iron while on the pills. We picked up some cranberry juice too, having heard it’s supposed to help, then noticed the cranberry juice was high in iron, and thought maybe the pills were very high in iron, and taking more iron would be harmful. Is it the iron that actually helps?

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      Brianna,

      The Cochrane Collaboration recently published a review, “Cranberries for preventing Urinary Tract Infections”. It found:

      “Cranberry juice does not appear to have a significant benefit in preventing UTIs and may be unacceptable to consume in the long term. Cranberry products (such as tablets or capsules) were also ineffective (although had the same effect as taking antibiotics), possibly due to lack of potency of the ‘active ingredient’.”

  3. Travis says:

    Is the Cochrane Collaboration trying to say antibiotics are ineffective at preventing UTIs or at treating UTIs? If they’re saying antibiotics are ineffective at preventing UTIs, I would think that’s pretty irrelevant since what kind of doctor would be prescribing antibiotics to prevent something you don’t already have?

    If they’re saying that antibiotics are ineffective at treating UTIs, it would seem to me that the real menace here is a doctor who would prescribe antibiotics for a UTI when there’s no evidence to suggest it helps.

  4. Nellie says:

    @Travis where did you see the Collaboration mention antibiotics the study appears to be on the effectiveness of cranberry Juice in preventing ( not curing) UTIs

  5. Dave Bailey says:

    Well, who can possibly argue with such a well documented anecdotal story? (rolls eyes, gags, bangs head on wall)

  6. Travis says:

    @Nellie : Read the comment right above mine to see where antibiotics are mentioned. It seems to imply that antibiotics are just as ineffective as cranberry products.

    If the Cochrane review was truly about preventing UTIs and not curing them, then it doesn’t seem relevant in this post, which is about healing an existing UTI.

    But if the study was truly showing that antibiotics are ineffective at treating UTIs, and yet doctors continue to prescribe them, that would seem to be a much bigger potential menace than whatever Rachel Corradetti might be recommending.

    I was asking the author of the post to comment on that question.

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      Travis,

      I provided the link to the Cochrane Review in response to Brianna’s question. The review is relevant to her question, not necessarily the post. Had you followed the link and read what was there, you would have seen that the review was for the use of cranberry products in preventing UTI’s. It did not address the question of whether cranberry products or antibiotics are effective of treating active UTI’s.

      I declined to initially respond to your question, because it was clear you failed to follow the link. I read your comment as a rather lazy attempt to deflect attention away from Ms. Corradetti’s bad advice and towards a concern that simply does not exist.

      Finally, I’d like to point out that the possible existence of a “much bigger potential menace” is irrelevant to whether Ms. Corradetti can be considered a menace as well. By analogy, the fact that one person is a murderer does not lessen the guilt of a pickpocket. Both are criminals.

  7. Travis says:

    Well, if you want to get technical, I interpreted Brianna’s comment to be asking about whether cranberries would be an effective method for eliminating an existing UTI. I had heard that myself many times. I had never heard of the idea of consuming cranberry juice as a preventative measure. So from where I stand, you didn’t actually address Brianna’s question. If you look at the post itself, which is about eliminating an existing infection, and then re-read Brianna’s comments, it would seem she’s asking about cranberries as a method of treatment, and not as a method of prevention. Specifically, she’s asking if iron is helpful. But I won’t call you lazy for not seeing it that way yourself, nor will I call Nellie lazy for not seeing where antibiotics are mentioned in your post.

    Regarding the study, if taking antibiotics does nothing to prevent a UTI from occurring, it’s not such a leap to wonder if they actually do anything to heal one that already exists. As far as I know, antibiotics are commonly prescribed for UTIs. In general, I don’t get the concept of antibiotics as a preventative measure for anything, but I’m hardly an expert.

    As for your comment: “I read your comment as a rather lazy attempt to deflect attention away from Ms. Corradetti’s bad advice and towards a concern that simply does not exist.” : The ‘concern’ here is the overuse of antibiotics. This post may not be the place to discuss it (and I only commented because antibiotics were mentioned in your response to Brianna), but that’s quite a statement for you to make that the concern does not exist.

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      Travis,

      “I interpreted Brianna’s comment to be asking about whether cranberries would be an effective method for eliminating an existing UTI.”

      This would be a fair interpretation had you not ignored the first sentence of her comment: “Do cranberries or cranberry juice work to reduce UTIs?” That’s the question I was addressing. I didn’t intend the link to address anything else. In the future I’ll be more explicit.

      At the risk of pushing this thread further into the land of non-productivity, the Cochrane review was not designed to answer any question regarding the use of antibiotics for UTI’s, either for prevention or acute treatment. In other words, this review isn’t trying to say anything at all about antibiotics. If you’re interested in what they think about it, or what the research says generally, look it up yourself.

      If you’d like to make the argument that antibiotics are not effective at treating UTI’s and this is a concern because it would represent the overuse of these drugs, which is bad, fine. Make the argument and present your evidence. Again, for clarity, the concern that doesn’t exist is the ineffectiveness of antibiotics for active UTI’s.

      I don’t know if you’re really not picking up what I’m putting down or if you’re just being disingenuous so that you can talk about something that’s important to you. Either way, dipping your vagina into extremely hot water is a bad idea. That’s why Ms. Corradetti is featured here.

      • travis says:

        And yours would be a fair interpretation had you not ignored the post itself and the remainder of Brianne’s comment. ‘Reducing’ is somewhat ambiguous. The words ‘preventing’ or ‘treating’ would be much less ambiguous. The question of ‘are cranberries an effective treatment for a UTI?’ is a very reasonable question considering the content of your post, and is ultimately what I think Brianne was trying to ask you. But yes, Dianne, I can certainly look that up myself if I’m curious.

        As for the Cochrane review, I would argue that using antibiotics as one of the placebo treatments does in fact mean that the use of antibiotics as a preventative measure is being addressed by the review. And the review does in fact show that antibiotics will not prevent the occurrence of UTIs. Just because the Cochrane review was not designed to study the effect of antibiotics does not mean the review doesn’t say anything about the effect of antibiotics.

        As for the ‘menace’ that Rachel Corradetti presents, there are two potential concerns here: One is that women will end up with severe burns because they don’t realize that they need to let the water cool down a bit before immersing themselves. Personally, that seems like a bit of a ridiculous thing to be concerning yourself with, but to each their own I guess.

        The other potential concern is that women who believe Rachel Corradetti will avoid seeking the help of a MD for their UTI. That’s a more reasonable concern, but only if their doctor would be recommending a treatment that is necessary and effective.

        The overuse of antibiotics is a real problem. Do you not agree? (In fact, on my way home from work yesterday, I was behind a city bus that had a giant ‘Can you imagine a world where antibiotics don’t work?’ sign on it, sponsored by my province’s health authority. Clearly, the provincial health authority considers it to be a problem). Considering that antibiotics are routinely prescribed for UTIs, this post is a perfectly reasonable place to address the topic of antibiotics.

        But in the end, you’re saying that antibiotics are an effective treatment for UTIs, and that UTIs are not one of the conditions where antibiotics are overprescribed. (Or at least you’re putting the onus on me to prove otherwise). The Cochrane review was interesting because it shows that antibiotics will not prevent UTIs. I’m not a doctor, but it seemed reasonable to me that if antibiotics will not prevent a UTI from occurring, that they might not be as useful as we think when it comes to getting rid of an existing UTI. That line of reasoning might be flawed, but it’s not unreasonable, and it certainly is no reason to be getting defensive. But yes, Dianne, if I’m curious about that I can certainly look for the information myself.

      • Scott Gavura says:

        Do antibiotics treat UTIs more effectively than placebo? Yes. Does cranberry juice? No.
        Can antibiotics prevent UTIs? Yes, absolutely. Can cranberry products? No. Antibiotics have side effects and are only appropriate in cases where urinary tract infections are recurrent (usually defined as 2+ in 6 months or 3+ in 12 months). Even then, treating infection when they occur is still a perfectly acceptable treatment option. Cranberry, while free of efficacy, is also relatively free of side-effects, unless you count the many grams of sugar consumed when it’s taken in juice form.

        Dipping your pelvis in hot and cold water to treat an infection, however, is pure magical thinking.

  8. Kelly says:

    I don’t think the (future) doctor was suggesting that the water be hot so it would be sterilized.
    I think it was about the contrast between hot and cold to produce blood flow to the area.
    And I got the same thing from Dianne’s post as Travis did.
    Why does everyone sound so angry?
    Would you be so rude if you were speaking in person?

  9. travis says:

    Thanks Scott. I’ll take your word that the studies you point to are from reputable journals and do not suffer from poor design or any type of bias. So what am I missing then when it comes to the Cochrane review? It seems to indicate that antibiotics are ineffective at preventing UTIs, yet you are pointing to another individual study that seems to be showing antibiotics are a useful method of prevention.

    As for dipping your pelvis in hot water to cure a UTI, perhaps it is a ridiculous concept. No more ridiculous though than calling her out as a menace on the premise that her advice will lead to women immersing themselves in boiling water.

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  • Dianne Sousa

    Dianne holds a degree from the University of Guelph in criminal justice, public policy and social psychology. She became involved in the skeptical movement after becoming disillusioned with the addictions counselling field. Skeptical topics of interest include alternative medicine and it's regulation in Canada, pseudoscience and the law and skeptical activism. She also crochets extensively and enjoys bad film, usually at the same time. Follow me on twitter: @DianneSousa. All views expressed by Dianne are her personal views alone, and do not represent the opinions of any current, former or future employers, or any organizations or associations that she may be affiliated with.