Cystitis and hot flushes – is there a link?



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


03 September 2019

Cystitis and hot flushes, are the two connected?

If you suffer from hot flushes as well as frequent cystitis infections, you might wonder how the two are connected. Here we explore some common contributing factors including:

  1. The menopause
  2. Dehydration
  3. Stress
  4. Heightened immune response

Throughout this blog I explore these themes in more detail and outline some tips to help manage them.

1. The menopause

If you suffer at the hands of regular hot flushes, chances are this could be a side effect of the menopause. During the menopause fluctuating levels of hormones, namely the female sex hormone oestrogen, are responsible for giving rise to a number of symptoms including hot flushes. However, as well as some of the more well recognised symptoms we often associate with the menopause, other less common symptoms can also crop up, including the symptoms of cystitis.

Fluctuating levels of oestrogen can unfortunately affect both the structure and function of the organs within our urinary tract. Firstly, structural changes can give rise to prolapses and/or uro-genital atrophy which can affect the efficient emptying of our bladder. If emptying of the bladder becomes less efficient, stagnant urine is more likely to pool and can risk giving rise to infection.

Oestrogen is also responsible for maintaining the pH and acidity within the bladder and urinary tract, as well as keeping the mucus membranes that line our urinary tract sufficiently moist. Changes to pH levels and/or dryness can both make infections much more likely to set in, and this may be when the symptoms of cystitis or urinary tract infections (UTIs) can become more apparent.

What can be done to help?

  • Try Menopause Support - As the underlying driving factor during menopause tends to be fluctuating oestrogen, supporting your hormones during this time can be a useful first step. This is where our Menopause Support, which contains a source of soy isoflavones, comes in.

My Top Tip:


Take Menopause Support twice a day. I recommend taking one tablet with your breakfast and one with your evening meal to help gently balance your hormones.

"Menopause Support tablets have eased my problems and have helped me sleep better at night. I would recommend them to any one suffering the effects of the menopause."

 

Read what other women are saying about Menopause Support.

  • Practice pelvic floor exercises - To help overcome some of the structural issues that can contribute to symptoms down below during this time, practicing pelvic floor exercises such as Kegel exercise could help. These movements can help to strengthen the muscles in and around the urinary tract and reproductive organs, thereby helping to improve the efficiency of bladder emptying and, with any luck, helping to improve symptoms.
  • Don't be afraid to go to the doctor - If your symptoms of cystitis are thought to be related to menopause and yet don't seem to be improving, it could be time to go to the doctor. Research suggests that, unlike some of the other symptoms associated with menopause, uro-genital symptoms can risk becoming worse as a woman ages, and may not always improve post-menopause. Therefore, some medical intervention may be required, in some cases.1

2. Dehydration

One other possible contributing factor with both hot flushes and cystitis is dehydration. Dehydration can affect your body's ability to control its temperature and, unfortunately, this can also have something to do with what brings on those uncontrollable flushes.

In terms of cystitis, dehydration can make for more concentrated urine which is the perfect breeding ground for bad bacteria. Plus, if you're dehydrated, so are the cells that line your urinary tract. As these dry out, they can become more easily damaged and make infection more likely to set in. 

What can be done to help?

  • Drink more water – the obvious first step to help counter dehydration is to drink sufficient water. This means at least 1.5l daily, but even up to 2l if you're losing extra liquids through regular flushes. Also, don't be tempted to assume that warm drinks count towards your water content as, particularly if they are caffeine laden, they won't be doing the trick and could be dehydrating you further. Not to mention, caffeine is also an irritant if you struggle with symptoms of cystitis so, again, not ideal.
  • Introduce sage – If hot flushes are one of the main menopausal symptoms you struggle with, an extract of sage may help. Menoforce Sage is thought to help us better regulate our internal temperature and therefore, suffer less at the hands of hot flushes.

3. Stress

Stress is another factor which could be contributing to both hot flushes and the symptoms of cystitis. A stressed nervous system can easily make flushes more frequent and, as backed by research, stress and anxiety are thought to be a direct trigger for feeling a little hot under the collar.2

Unfortunately, stress also has its links when it comes to cystitis, particularly in cases of interstitial cystitis. Unlike conventional bouts of cystitis, interstitial cystitis isn't thought to be infectious in nature, but instead, although not well understood, a number of underlying factors are potentially thought to contribute including constipation, inflammation and stress.

What can be done to help?

  • Introduce relaxation techniques – Especially during the menopause when you're body is undergoing a number of changes, employing stress management techniques can often prove really useful.

Learning to relax with the help of simple breathing techniques, talking therapies or using physical movements to your advantage could all mean you can work towards keeping a number of symptoms under control, from flushes to niggling symptoms of cystitis – regain some control once more!

  • Ditch caffeine – Did you know that caffeine directly triggers your stress response? Ever noticed that palpitations, jittery spells or symptoms of anxiety suddenly take hold after a coffee or a similar source of caffeine? This is exactly why! Caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline in your system which creates a number of these physical reactions.

So, why not try to limit your intake by switching to some tasty caffeine-free alternatives such as Bambu, or some herbal teas options such as Rooibos if you're open to trying some new tastes?

4. Heightened immune response

The vast majority of cases of cystitis are caused by an underlying infection, meaning that some bacteria have infected the lining of your urinary tract or bladder. As a result, your immune system has to spur into action in a bid to fight this infection and with it this can bring its own set of side effects. This can include feeling a little under the weather or feeling warmer than usual, as your body uses heat as one of its in-built defence mechanisms. Therefore, unsurprisingly, if you're already struggling with flushes this could contribute to a few extra attacks. 

What can be done to help?

 

Please note if your symptoms of cystitis are accompanied by a fever you should always seek medical advice.

 

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26421474
2.https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/2005/12030/The_role_of_anxiety_and_hormonal_changes_in.6.aspx

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Here’s what I recommend

Emma our women's health advisor recommends Uva-ursi complex to help ease symptoms of cystitis and cranberry to maintain bladder health.

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Did you know?

Cystitis is sometimes known as ‘honeymoon cystitis’. Why? Well, during sex, bacteria can spread from the perineum to the urethral opening. The risk of developing cystitis is therefore increased depending on the frequency you have intercourse (sorry honeymooners!).

7 reasons you keep getting cystitis

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