I’m 63 and get frequent vaginal yeast infections. Now I seem to be having bladder issues as well. I have to pee a lot—and sometimes I don’t make it in time. Could the two be related? I hate to think I’m becoming incontinent!A
Those chronic yeast infections you have could definitely be causing your bladder troubles.
After menopause, both vaginal yeast infections and bladder issues become more common. The two conditions aren’t always connected—a weak pelvic floor can lead, all by itself, to overactive bladder (the urgent need to pee) and incontinence (leaking)—even if you rarely or never get vaginal yeast infections.
But what many women (and even some doctors) don’t appreciate is that the two problems are often connected—chronic yeast infections can lead to bladder problems. Here’s how: Yeast can be a normal part of a person’s internal flora—around 70% of people host yeast. Most people aren’t bothered by it—but for others it can be a big deal, causing infections in a variety of areas of the body.
When yeast manages to invade the muscular wall of the bladder, it “niggles” at the tissue there to produce the sugar it needs to eat to survive. The inflammation and irritation that result will cause the bladder to become extra sensitive. The condition is called interstitial cystitis. And the result is exactly what you’re describing—a need to pee more and an inability to hold as much urine.
The first step? Have your urine checked by your doctor to rule out a bacterial vaginal infection. If you do have chronic yeast infections contributing to urinary problems, the best way to get your bladder back to normal is to oust the yeast—think of it as getting squatters in a house you own to move on.
A BETTER WAY TO FIGHT YEAST
The idea is to change the environment of the bladder so that it’s not as pleasant for the yeast to hang out there. One conventional way to do that is with a prescription antifungal medication such as or ketoconazole (Nizoral). But often drugs simply knock back the yeast without getting rid of it altogether. The yeast population starts to reproduce again and a few weeks later, bam…another urinary tract infection.
A longer-lasting solution is to use a combination of antioxidant vitamins, minerals and supplements to make your body a less comfy home for yeast. You’ll need to work with a doctor to create a protocol that will be most effective for you—in other words, this isn’t DIY advice. But it can be a successful way to deal with interstitial cystitis caused by yeast in the bladder. Your doctor should guide you to some combination of…
1. Vitamins A, C, and E—especially C, which makes urine somewhat acidic. Yeast does not like an acidic environment.
2. Zinc. This mineral helps to enhance the junction strength between cells that line the bladder, making incursion by yeast more difficult.
3. Selenium, a trace mineral that helps improve immune function, which in turn helps the body identify yeast infections and fight them.
4. Goldenseal, a botanical remedy that has strong antimicrobial properties. When the extract from goldenseal is taken internally, it becomes highly concentrated in the urine, making it even more effective at fighting virtually all types of microbes, including yeast.
5. Cranberry extract. If you’ve ever been advised to chug cranberry juice to help treat a urinary tract infection, here’s why. Yeast latches onto the lining of the urethra to climb up it, but cranberry contains substances called proanthocyanidins (PACs) that makes the walls of the urinary tract slippery, and the yeast simply fall off. Although not all studies show that cranberry juice extract prevents UTIs by itself, cranberry juice extract—especially the freeze-dried form—contains concentrated PACs that have been shown to make incursions by microbes such as yeast more difficult.