One of oestrogen’s many important roles is to protect joints and reduce inflammation (as well as playing a key role in keeping our bones strong) so when estrogen levels drop during peri-menopause, inflammation may increase and painful joints can become a key sign that you are heading for menopause.
What researchers can’t say is what the actual mechanism is yet (1).
This is an important time to take care of ourselves to ensure that this joint inflammation doesn’t lead to osteoarthritis which is common in women who are post menopausal and yes there are lots of things you can do.
1. Maintain a healthy weight for you
Being overweight not only puts pressure on your joints but fat drives inflammation. By keeping to a health weight means that you decrease the inflammation, pain and future damage to the joints.
2. Keep moving your body
Keep up the low-impact exercises such as yoga, Pilates, cycling and swimming etc. This is important to ensure movement, maintain weight and keep stress at bay (chronic stress will also drive inflammation).
Strength training is clearly important to keep your bones strong and healthy but be careful if you have severe joint pain and get advice from a trained fitness professional to make sure that you train safely.
3. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Eat a diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods. This means a diet that contains LOTS of vegetables (5-7x/day) and fruit (2x/day).
Remember to eat a rainbow – red, yellow, green, blue/purple, white, orange – each of those colours represent substances that are anti-inflammatory as well as other health boosting actions.
Eat fish several times a week or consider a fish oil supplement as these are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are potent anti-inflammatories too.
Reduce food that is highly processed, high in refined carbs and refined fats and oils. Reduce alcohol and increase green tea and water consumption. Consider eliminating gluten for 1 month to see if this improves pain and inflammation. For many people gluten can drive gut inflammation which may exacerbate inflammation in the joints. You can then try eating gluten containing foods after the month to see if you react or notice an increase in pain or discomfort.
One of the best anti inflammatory diets is the Mediterranean diet – rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, olive oil, small amounts of chicken, fish and red meat and fermented dairy.
4. Incorporate phyto-oestrogens into your diet
Try foods that are rich in plant oestrogens such as soy, flaxseeds and legumes. These help to rebalance oestrogen whether it is high or low by tricking cells into thinking that they are oestrogen.
5. Try a needle
Acupuncture may encourage the body to release natural pain killers. Whilst the research may not be very strong at the moment, the American College of Rheumatology have approved acupuncture as a treatment for hand, hip and especially knee pain.
6. Keep cortisol levels down
Stress management is important as increased stress hormone (cortisol) can create more hormone imbalance as the body will prioritise the production of cortisol at the expense of oestrogen. Try meditation, deep belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing), yoga, journaling, exercise, dancing or anything else that makes you rested and happy. Chronic cortisol can also drive inflammation.
Herbs and Supplements can also help:
Turmeric has been shown that it reduced pain more than placebo and as well as ibuprofen.
Glucosamine sulphate (not hydrochloride) reduced joint pain and was shown to slow the progression of osteoarthritis when 500mg (three times a day) were taken (2).
Chondroitin sulphate was shown in one study to reduce knee pain by over 50% (3).
Boswellia (also known as Frankincense) has been shown to have anti -inflammatory actions and has been traditionally used to treat joint pain and arthritis.
MSM (methylsulphonylmethane) has also been studied for its reduction of joint pain (particularly knees) (4).
Devil’s Claw is a wonderful herb that has also been traditionally used for arthritic pain as it contains constituents that have strong anti-inflammatory actions. One study of 122 people concluded that this herb was as effective as the usual medicine prescribed for joint pain and arthritis and actually led to the decrease in typical pain medication such as ibuprofen (5).
SAMe (S-adenosyl-L methionine) is a type of amino acid that studies have shown reduces pain, stiffness and can help with the discomfort of arthritis (6).
So whilst, joint pain may be a common symptom as we enter into the transition of menopause there is so much we can do to prevent and treat the inflammation and discomfort through diet and lifestyle.
Come and join our free Facebook Group Hormone Health Tips for Women 40+ and be part of an amazing group of perimenopausal women
Why the belly fat?! Seriously, after 40 the belly fat can pile on. The next 30 minutes could change your life. Drop your email address below and we’ll send you our free webinar. Find out why our jeans get tighter as we head towards menopause, and what you can do to stop it!
Menopause doesn’t need to stop your life. Don’t settle for life as it is. Get your mojo back and learn everything you need to navigate menopause successfully in a 12-week online course brought to you by Sarah Brenchley and Andrea Riggans, New Zealand menopause experts.