I ended up in the hospital emergency ward twice, not because of a urinary tract infection but because I was trying to prevent one.
An unfortunate byproduct of menopause is an increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs). I had never experienced a UTI until I hit menopause and, as my age increased, so did the UTIs.
In menopause, vaginal acidity and estrogen levels decline, paving the way for more frequent urinary tract infections. Whether the changes in a woman’s urinary tract are due to menopause and the lack of estrogen or just to the aging process has been debated. However, the bladder is loaded with estrogen receptors so the reduction of estrogen that occurs during menopause probably plays an important role. Age does cause the weakening of the vaginal walls (vaginal atrophy) and the urethra may thin, which allows bacteria easier access to the bladder.
A friend recommended cranberry supplements as a way to prevent UTIs. So, without any hesitation or research, I ordered some.
Within a day of taking just half of the recommended dosage as prescribed on the bottle of supplements, I started experiencing dizziness, nausea and extreme headaches. It didn’t occur to me that the supplements were adversely affecting my health so I continued to use them, hence the two trips to the emergency room where I was given a CT scan of my brain, a chest x-ray, pills to combat the nausea, an IV, and a series of other ministrations. Only after my second round of emergency treatments did I contemplate the changes I had recently made to my diet and medications. And I had an “aha” moment.
I discontinued the cranberry supplements and started researching side effects, which took much deep diving into the few available published articles. I discovered that the concentration of cranberry in each pill was extremely high (like drinking eight, 8 oz. glasses) and such concentration was responsible for my reactions.
The moral of the story: over-the-counter supplements can produce life-threatening effects. Since they do not go through the rigorous testing as prescribed medications, the public is not aware of the adverse reactions.
I have since combated my menopausal UTIs with prescribed estrogen vaginal suppositories and a daily pro-biotic.
However, I still have some trepidation when eating cranberries with my turkey dinner!