Women throughout their lives need hormone balance, where their oestrogen and progesterone levels work exactly as they are supposed to in supporting each other.
When out of balance, many conditions can arise but it’s not really widely known that your hormones too can affect inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
What is inflammation?
Literally it means ‘set afire’ from the Latin and in some conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, you feel heat, pain, redness, and swelling.
But in other cases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes it’s not so obvious.
Is it good or bad?
Inflammation actually is good in the short run. It’s part of your immune system’s natural response to heal an injury or fight an infection but it’s supposed to stop after that.
But if it becomes a long-lasting habit in your body, that can be bad for you. Long-term, or ‘chronic,’ inflammation is seen in many diseases and conditions.
Could it increase your risk for heart disease?
Inflamed arteries are common among people with heart disease. Some researchers think that when fats build up in the walls of the heart’s coronary arteries, the body fires back with inflammatory chemicals, since it sees this as an ‘injury’ to the heart.
That could trigger a blood clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
Diabetes and inflammation
Inflammation and type 2 diabetes are linked. Doctors don’t know yet if it causes the disease.
Some experts say obesity triggers the inflammation, which makes it harder for the body to use insulin.
That may be one reason why losing extra pounds and keeping them off is a key step to lower your chance of getting type 2 diabetes.
Chronic brain inflammation is often seen in people with this type of dementia. Scientists don’t yet understand exactly how that works, but inflammation may play an active role in the disease.
Experts are studying whether anti-inflammatory medicine will curb Alzheimer’s. So far, the results are mixed.
It affects your gut
Chronic inflammation is tied to ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which are types of inflammatory bowel disease.
It happens when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy bacteria in your gut, and causes inflammation that sticks around. You could have symptoms such as belly pain, cramping, and diarrhoea.
Rheumatoid arthritis damage
What many people think of as ‘arthritis’ is osteoarthritis, in which the tissue that cushions joints, cartilage, breaks down, particularly as people age.
Rheumatoid arthritis is different. Here, the immune system attacks your body’s joints, causing inflammation that can harm them , and even the heart.
Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and red, warm, swollen joints.
Is it linked to Fibromyalgia?
This condition can cause pain, tenderness, and fatigue. Unlike in RA, inflammation in fibromyalgiadoesn’t attack the joints.
Recent research suggests, however, that brain inflammation may be associated with fibromyalgia. More research is needed to prove this connection.
When inflammation happens suddenly
Sometimes inflammation strikes suddenly when your body is fighting an infection. Maybe it’s cellulitis, a skin infection, or appendicitis.
You’ll need to see your doctor to get the right treatment quickly.
How to help yourself
There are many ways you can reduce inflammation in your body and your diet is the first step.
There is an excellent explanation and helpful dietary guidelines on Naturopathic Doctor Andrew Weil’s site here: https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/anti-inflammatory-diet-pyramid/dr-weils-anti-inflammatory-diet/
Generally the types of food you eat affect how much inflammation you have. Get plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins (like beans and nuts), fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon, tuna, and sardines), and healthier oils, like olive oil.
The omega-3s in fish such as salmon and tuna can reduce inflammation. Fish oil can help, too and people who are low on vitamin D also tend to have more inflammation than others.
Also eat foods with probiotics, like plain live yogurt and limit saturated fats, found in meats, whole-fat dairy products, and processed foods.
Herbs and spices also can have anti-inflammation properties. The best are ginger, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, and turmeric
A healthy diet also helps you keep your weight in check as that can also affect inflammation.
How to make it worse
You may not be doing it deliberately, but if you shun exercise that won’t help so talk to your doctor about what gentle forms you can do.
If you are having sleep problems you need to tackle them as research shows that when healthy people are sleep-deprived, they have more inflammation. Exactly how that works isn’t clear, but it may be related to metabolism.
Not so many people smoke now, but if you do then that definitely raises inflammation levels.
Painkillers do help relive the distress, whether prescription or over the counter drugs, but although they can work well it is best not to take them regularly without consulting your doctor.
Used continually they can cause stomach problems, like ulcers or bleeding and some types of NSAIDS may increase the risk for heart attack or stroke
Like most menopausal symptoms, joint pain is typically caused by hormonal imbalance.
Inflammation is a leading cause of joint pain and progesterone acts as an anti-inflammatory so unless you are very oestrogen dominant, a combined cream such as 20-1 is more effective in these cases.
Dietary Help For Inflammation