What is D-Mannose?
There is a good chance that you already know about the proven link between urinary tract infections and cranberry juice but what makes the fruit so valuable to the health? The answer is a substance called D-mannose which is the major active ingredient of cranberries. It can also be found in several other fruits including blueberries, apples, pineapples and pears.
D-mannose is a type of sugar but unlike many other types of sugar, it is actually good for you. It is actually a kind of glyconutrient which is a type of therapeutic sugar that is rarely discussed. Glyconutrients are found as a component part of a coating surrounding every single cell in the body.
They are effectively building blocks in the production of molecules known as glycoconjugates which cover the cell’s surface with a sugary type of coating. This coating is essential to your health as it helps to ensure the cells are effectively interacting with each other. Since the miscommunication between cells is a major reason for many serious diseases, this coating is clearly a vital aspect of good health.
All glyconutrients have value for your health but D-mannose is especially important since it works on so many of the body’s systems.
D-mannose has numerous medicinal properties including antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial actions. It also plays an important role when it comes to the production of cytokines. Cytokines help to stimulate your immune system response to fight off foreign invaders.
How D-mannose works
Although related to other sugars like fructose and sucrose, D-mannose works on the body in a very different way. Unlike sucrose or fructose, it does not interfere with blood sugar regulation or metabolism since only tiny amounts get metabolized.
D-mannose actually acts in a similar way to glucose which is the cells use by design. However when compared to glucose, it is absorbed far more slowly and does not serve to reserve energy for bodily functions. Unlike glucose, D-mannose is not burned to provide energy or fuel.
The unique way in which D-mannose is metabolized means that it does not break down before being excreted in the urine. It also does not stick about in the body for long periods. The bulk of the D-mannose ingested gets filtered thorough the kidneys then transported to your badder to be excreted quickly.
When your blood circulates around the kidneys, the D-mannose molecules combine with your urine continuing to your bladder and the urethra. Along this journey, D-mannose continues to support the health of your urinary system.
These processes are why D-mannose effectively does its tasks while leaving other functions unaffected.
The Health Benefits of D-Mannose
The major health benefits of this sugar are to treat urinary tract infection, improve bladder health and boost digestive health.
1) Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Cranberry juice is famous for its ability to help treat a nasty infection of the urinary tract. This ability is derived from its active compound – D-mannose. There is plenty of research that shows D-mannose can help treat a UTI.
In a study published in 2014, 308 women suffering from frequent UTIs were divided into 3 groups. The first group was treated with a 2 gram dose of D-mannose each day for 6 months. The other groups were either given a prescription drug (nitrofurantoin) used for UTIs or given no treatment at all.
After the 6 month trial had finished, the researchers found that only 14% of the women given D-mannose had suffered a recurrence of her UTI compared with 20% in the prescription drug group. 60% of those who received no treatment suffered over experienced a recurrence of her infection. (1)
The researchers concluded that D-mannose had a significant effect in reducing the risk of a recurrent UTI similar to that of the prescription medication. In addition they found that the risk of side effects was significantly reduced compared with the group who took nitrofurantoin.
2) Bladder Health
As well as its proven ability to treat urinary tract infections, research has also revealed that D-mannose can help treat other bladder conditions and improve bladder health overall.
Several studies have looked at the effects of D-mannose on the ability of the E. Coli bacteria to adhere to the human urinary tract cell. In one study, researchers found that when levels of D-mannose decreased, so the ability of the E.coli bacteria to adhere onto the cells was increased. (2)
Another similar study was done around the same time to analyze its effects on rats producing excessive urine related to E. coli. The research found that the levels of E. coli bacteria were considerably lower when rats were treated with supplementary D-mannose. (3)
3) Digestive Health
Studies have also revealed that D-mannose has the potential to improve digestive health and protect against various digestive complaints including duodenal ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome and potentially even cancer.
One recent study which was published in 2014 set out to analyze the relationship between glyconutrients and illnesses of patients suffering duodenal ulcers and gastric cancer. What the researchers found was very interesting.
Those patients suffering with gastric cancer were also likely to have reduced levels of mannose glycans. The researchers found similar results in people suffering from duodenal ulcers. (4)
There is also plenty of evidence from in vitro and animal studies demonstrating that D-mannose may help protect the body against the adverse effect of lectins. These are a type of protein found commonly in certain legumes, seeds, grains and beans. Lectins are also present in some vegetables and fruits.
Lectins are a big part of the Western diet and do not degrade in your stomach acid. This makes them extremely resistant and difficult to digest. Lectins are carried by microbes which use them to attach to host cells.
Studies done in vitro and on animals have revealed that D-mannose functions as a type of decoy molecule. It is able to bind to various irritants and allergenic compounds which would ordinarily bind to the mannose sugar on the cells. This protects the body from reactions related to lectin such as irritable bowel syndrome, other inflammatory bowel complaints and possibly colon cancer. (5) (6)
How to Use D-mannose
While certain foods do contain D-mannose, the levels that you have to eat in order to benefit from its true health potential is enormous and frankly unrealistic. That is not to say eating fresh fruits like berries or drinking cranberry juice is not useful however to get the best health benefits from D-mannose, you will need to take a supplement.
Dosage recommendations depend very much on the condition you are trying to treat and your ultimate goals for taking the supplement.
Research done up to this point suggests that a daily dose of 1500 mg is the optimum dose for a urinary tract infection and general urinary and bladder health. For your general digestive health a lower dose is recommended – 100 mg either taken once or twice a day.
Other Tips to Support Urinary Tract Health
Because women tend to be affected more than men, there are certain steps you can take to reduce the risk of developing an infection.
- Drink plenty of filtered water at regular intervals through the day.
- Do not resist the urge to urinate.
- Take plenty of hot baths and showers.
- Wipe carefully after urination from the front to the back.
- Use a bidet instead of toilet paper.
- Cleanse your genitals prior to intercourse.
- Avoid applying chemical hygiene products that could irritate the genitals.
(4) Ozcn S, et al. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2014 Jan 20.