How dysregulation in your glucose (blood sugar) metabolism increases your risk of developing a UTI

Disrupted glucose metabolism (& insulin resistance) increases your risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs)

After a pretty consistent nearly 20 year relationship with "the pill", I stopped hormonal birth control cold turkey.

Within about a week, my urine was cloudy, smelled like fermented fruit (what I interpreted as acetone pee or ketoacidosis urine), and suddenly, I had symptoms consistent with a UTI.

I spent the next 12+ months chasing the UTI rabbit until I had a menstrual cycle consistent with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). 

That cycle resulted in me researching PCOS and discovering (pretty quickly) that most women with PCOS have dysregulated sugar metabolism (insulin resistance).

And, that's how I finally connected the dots.

Hormonal birth control, both synthetic estrogen (ethinyl estradiol) and progestin (all 4 generations of synthetic progesterones) disrupt glucose metabolism and when I'd stopped birth control cold turkey, my body, which had become used to the effects of those synthetic hormones for sugar metabolism, suddenly was left in a lurch, and I effectively was in a state of insulin resistance and this was causing cloudy urine & foul smelling urine likely due to excess glucose in my urine... which was also providing food for bacteria to grow in that part of my body.

Insulin resistance and UTIs

We talked a few episodes back in more detail about how birth control alters glucose metabolism and contributes to insulin resistance (& is contraindicated for diabetics).  We also talked a little more in detail about how insulin resistance makes you more susceptible to urinary tract infections.

Check out that episode for more details and stay tuned to future episodes for even more on this topic.

When UTIs are misdiagnosed as interstitial cystitis (IC)

In the rest of this episode, I wanted to round out the conversation around misdiagnosed UTIs.

And, this begins and ends with Ruth Kriz.  Ruth's a retired nurse practitioner who was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis (autoimmune condition where your body attacks your bladder resulting in scar tissue and symptoms consistent with a UTI) in her 30s.  After a few years, she decided she couldn't live with the symptoms and started researching how to cure herself.

What she found was that standard urine cultures (SUC) actually suck at detecting UTIs quite often.  This is because standard urine cultures preferentially allow the growth of aerobic bacteria that grow best at 35 degrees Celsius.  Slow growing bacteria are often drowned out (or completely undetected) when the plate's read at 24 hours.

Ruth discovered a few labs that conduct PCR (polymerase chain reaction) amplification of the DNA present in urine and then do genome sequencing to compare sections of the DNA with a variety of bacteria strains.

These labs are so good they're even able to determine whether some strains of bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics.  MicrogenDx is one such lab and it sends a report to participating practitioners listing what was found and even recommending the antibiotics to prescribe for treatment!

Why treating recurrent UTIs is an exercise in futility

Disclaimer:  I'm not a healthcare practitioner and a UTI can kill you, so take this section with a word of caution and consult with your own healthcare practitioner.

After 2 rounds of MicrogenDx testing (& maybe the 4th or 5th round of antibiotics in total including the ones prescribed from standard urine cultures), when the MicrogenDx results came back again as positive for the same organism I'd already taken multiple rounds of antibiotics for, I put my foot down and resolved to figure out the underlying cause of why I was suddenly battling so often with UTIs when this had never ever been a problem for me before.

The last round of antibiotics I completed left me with bacterial vaginosis in addition to another UTI a few weeks later because it killed off much of the healthy flora in my vagina.

By this time, I'd sought help from standard Western medicine and two holistic healthcare practitioners.  I resorted to probiotics for treating the bacterial vaginosis and limped along as best I could while still suffering from symptoms consistent with a UTI (despite the MicrogenDx PCR analysis, a standard urine culture still wasn't showing any organisms, so I felt pretty safe not resorting to yet another round of antibiotics during this time... see disclaimer above, because a UTI can kill you).

Then, I had a cycle consistent with PCOS.

Detecting PCOS with fertility awareness

How did I know it was a cycle consistent with PCOS?  I track my cycles using an at home fertility monitor that quantitates levels of estrogen and luteinizing hormone (LH) in urine.  When LH surged multiple times in the same cycle (even though I hadn't ovulated yet), the cycle matched profiles consistent with PCOS charts.

And, so what hormonal birth control caused, fertility awareness ultimately helped me resolve.

Supporting insulin sensitivity (decreasing insulin resistance)

Once I figured out that I'm likely insulin resistant, I made a few small modifications to my diet.  Most notably swapping yogurt with added sugar for plain yogurt (no sugar added) at breakfast and being sure that yogurt was grass-fed.

We'll talk about insulin-like growth factor (ILGF) and insulin resistance in more detail in a future episode.  For me, I'd already gone dairy free for 30 days during the year+ of dealing with this and it made no difference.  And, dairy is my favorite food group, so I reintroduced it after that trial period.

I added in the following supplements:

  • Ovasitol:  a blend of myo and D-inositol purported to help improve insulin sensitivity
  • Akkermansia:  a type of probiotic with research demonstrating that it supports improved blood sugar regulation among diabetics

Within about a week of adding both of these into my diet, I saw dramatic improvement (and eventually resolution) of symptoms (disclaimer:  you may not see the same results, and these statements have not been reviewed by the FDA and do not diagnose or treat any illness or disease).

In case you're curious about how to track your own cycle, Rain Organica's launching a course Fertility Awareness for Natural Contraception that includes 12+ hours of video that dishes on:

    • how your cycle works

    • how many days of your cycle you're actually able to get pregnant

    • what are the 4 biomarkers to use for identifying your fertile window

    • an overview of the fertility awareness methods available (like Creighton, Justisse, FEMM, Marquette Method, Boston Cross Check, and more)

    • which one(s) of these work best for your body & your lifestyle

    • a comparison of the standard protocol for Marquette, Billings Ovulation Method, 2 day method, TCOYF (a symptothermal method)

    • how to adapt FAMs when you're postpartum, in perimenopause, or have PCOS

    • how your cycle reveals what's going on with your hormones

Join the waitlist here.


Brandy Searcy founder Rain Organica

About the Author

Brandy's a formulation scientist and self-proclaimed health geek who loves hiking, gardening, bird-watching, and body boarding. 

Her struggle with acne during her teens and 20s led to a holistic and healthy approach to skincare, embracing skin as an organ to be loved and cared for rather than a canvas to wage war on. 

Since 2008, she's been developing all-in-one products for a simple routine at home, & Rain Organica started when her backpacking friends asked for a portable skincare routine to keep their skin healthy & happy on and off the trails.

You can try Rain Organica for yourself with The Essentials Kit, a complete skincare routine in just 3 steps.

Brandy's LinkedIn Bio

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