Why are bladder complaints more common in the menopause?
Falling oestrogen, unfortunately, affects all the mucus membranes in the body. It can thin them, making them more prone to infection and irritation, and this is especially so for the vagina and bladder. As the bladder lining thins, this can also affect the bladder valve, and as we get older we all know how laughing, running or jumping up and down can cause a little leak.
The bladder and vagina are often linked in these infections – as the oestrogen falls, it can impact on the friendly bacteria in the vagina meaning more ‘baddies’ can be present. As the urethra (the tube from the bladder) is right next door, these ‘baddies’ can travel to the bladder causing an infection. As the bladder is weaker, the infection is more likely to take hold and can often cause repeat infections, which are hard to clear.
I also have to talk about sex in this regard. We have all heard of ‘Honeymoon Cystitis’ but because the vaginal tissue is thinner and weaker in the menopause, sexual activity could also be a contributory factor for cystitis.
So what can we do?
Firstly, strengthening the pelvic girdle can be helpful for keeping the bladder and vagina toned. For this you can do the Kegel Exercises – just Google for instructions. I would also suggest a Sea Buckthorn Oil Capsule, as this is known to help restore the mucus lining in the vagina. This is also good for vagina dryness and irritation and dry eyes and mouth. Gently raising and balancing oestrogen can be a good idea too, so fermented soya supplements such as Menopause Support can be helpful (although it can take a few weeks to kick in, so be patient).
Keeping your friendly bacteria happy is really important, so you could take a daily dose of Molkosan Fruit or a probiotic. Any minor bladder infection often responds well to the herb Uva ursi. However, if you are in a lot of pain, see blood in your urine or have a temperature, then you must see your doctor.
Something worth thinking about: most shower gels, soaps etc contain lots of nasty chemicals that can irritate this delicate area, so it would be worth changing over to organic products. Your local healthshop should have a range that are not too expensive. Cotton underwear may also help, allowing air to circulate and therefore keep the bacterial balance healthy.
And last but definitely not least, water, water, water. This is so important in the menopause for so many things including bladder health, so make sure that you are drinking plenty every day – tea, coffee and fizzy/sugary drinks don’t count and can actually make symptoms worse so are best avoided!