Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common in women. They can be painful and uncomfortable, but they usually pass within a few days and are usually treated with a course of antibiotics.
Why do we get them?
A UTI develops when part of the urinary tract becomes infected, usually by bacteria. Bacteria can enter the urinary tract through the urethra or, more rarely, through the bloodstream. Unfortunately, there is usually no obvious reason why the urinary tract gets infected, although some women find they develop a UTI after having sex.
It is the drop in hormones at menopause that is associated with these infections and particularly as oestrogen levels fall. Like the vaginal wall, the urethra (the tube that drains the bladder and is used for urination) undergoes changes this can lead to different kinds of urinary symptoms, including an increased susceptibility to urinary tract infections.
What are the symptoms?
Specific symptoms that can be associated with menopause include:
- the urge to urinate often, or when the bladder is not full (termed urinary urgency)
- discomfort or burning with urination
- leakage of urine with coughing, laughing, sneezing, or lifting heavy objects (termed stress incontinence)
- the need to urinate more frequently, including at night.
If you develop a UTI, you’re likely to feel the following:
- pain or a burning sensation when urinating (doctors refer to this as dysuria)
- a need to urinate often
- pain in the lower abdomen
How to help yourself
If you are experiencing urinary symptoms, simple preventive measures include drinking plenty of fluids, and it is important to urinate as much as you need. Don’t wait, as holding on when you need to go to the toilet can cause bacteria to build up in the urinary tract, making you more prone to infection.
If you are suffering from an infection, this is particularly important, as this will encourage the bacteria to leave the system. Also, emptying the bladder before and after sexual intercourse can also help prevent urinary tract infections from occurring.
Another simple preventive measure is to treat constipation promptly as it can increase your chances of developing a UTI
Cut caffeine and alcohol from your diet during an infection, as these irritate the bladder and will worsen symptoms of pain and burning. They may also cause your recovery from infection to slow down.
The herb Uva-ursi, also known as bearberry, is a small plant found in Europe, and is used to relieve the symptoms of a bladder infection. It is thought to have antiseptic properties and promotes excretion of bacteria in the urine. A homoeopathic remedy helpful for stress incontinence is Causticum in a 30x potency tablet taken three time a day.
If you are prescribed antibiotics, then they can result in low moods or depression and if you are vulnerable to this then always accompany such medication with a high dosage vitamin C and B complex supplements.
Progesterone also plays several roles in preventing vaginal and urinary tract infections. When progesterone is restored to normal physiological levels and hormones come back into balance, then vaginal lubrication returns and this reduces the impact of urinary tract infections.
Also progesterone is part of our immune defense system that prevents such infections. It does this by aiding in the formation of secretory IgA, an immune globulin that traps germs before they enter mucosal tissues such as those found in the vagina and thus again helping prevent urinary tract infections.