Menopause and UTI - NL-038
Women, in general, are at a higher risk of developing Urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men because of their anatomy. The bacteria that cause UTI enters the urinary tract through the urethra, and in women these thin tubes are shorter, closer to the bladder and exits very close to rectum, making it easier for the infection causing bacteria to enter the urethra and grow. In addition, the risk of urinary tract infections increases significantly when a woman enters menopause.
Menopause is a challenging phase in a woman's life, marked by reduced production of reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. This causes noticeable symptoms in most women such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, mood swings, reduced energy levels, weight gain, insomnia and reduced sex drive. These hormonal changes also cause urinary symptoms such as painful and frequent urination.
Older adults, including post-menopausal women, are more prone to developing chronic urinary tract infections. As we age, muscles that support the bladder and pelvic floor become weaker, resulting in urinary incontinence and difficulty emptying the bladder, which leads to urine retention and increased risk of infection. Health conditions such as diabetes and kidney disorders also increase the UTI risk in the elderly. Elevated risk in postmenopausal women is mostly tied to reduced estrogen levels that causes imbalance in the bacterial flora and promotes the growth and multiplication of bad bacteria in the vagina. Menopause brings other changes, such as dropping pelvic organs (especially after a hysterectomy), vaginal dryness and thinning of vaginal tissue, that also increase their risk of UTIs and UTI-like symptoms.
Can herbs be helpful?
Escherichia coli is one of the most common bacteria responsible for causing UTIs. It is also highly resistant to antibiotics, making it extremely difficult to treat and also increasing the risk of recurrence. Can you take herbs to reduce the risk of UTIs and manage the painful and discomforting symptoms? It appears that herbs like gokshura (Tribulus terrestris) protect and nourish the genitourinary system and can be extremely useful in managing symptoms such as painful urination. Certain bioactive compounds present in gokshura are anti-bacterial and block the growth of bacteria in the bladder. Studies show that it also reduces other symptoms in menopausal women [1-2] such as vaginal dryness, poor mood and night sweats. It may also help improve sexual wellness and libido in post-menopausal women.
Shatavari is another interesting herb that is particularly helpful for women of all ages. Also known as a female tonic, shatavari supports women's reproductive health from the time they hit puberty to their transition into menopause. In addition to help maintain hormonal balance, it improves energy and reduces symptoms associated with menopause (as well as PMS).
1. Postigo, S. et al. “Assessment of the Effects of Tribulus Terrestris on Sexual Function of Menopausal Women,” Revista Brasileira de Ginecologia e Obstetrícia (2016) 38:140.
2. Fatima and Sultana. Efficacy of Tribulus terrestris L. (fruits) in menopausal transition symptoms: A randomized placebo controlled study. Advances in Integrative Medicine. 2017.