How to move through a better menopause by taming inflammation

Joint pain, headaches, brain fog and fatigue are symptoms I often see in my clients and are typically linked to inflammation. However, these can also be symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause. So, how do you know whether your symptoms are hormonally-based, and why does it matter? 


Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a female's reproductive years. It typically occurs in the late 40s or early 50s and is characterised by a series of hormonal changes, leading to the cessation of menstrual cycles. 

While menopause is a normal part of a woman's life, it can bring about various physical and emotional symptoms, including hot flushes, mood swings, and weight gain. However, one factor that has gained significant attention in recent years is the link between inflammation and menopause. In this article, we will delve into this intriguing connection and understand how inflammation can impact the menopausal experience.

What happens in menopause?

Before we explore the role of inflammation, it's essential to have a basic understanding of the menopausal process. Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop producing eggs, and the levels of oestrogen and progesterone – two key hormones – decline significantly. These hormonal changes can lead to various symptoms and health concerns.

Inflammation: The good and the bad

Inflammation is a natural and necessary process that helps the body fight infection and heal injuries. When the body perceives a threat, such as bacteria or a physical injury, it releases chemicals that cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues, leading to swelling. White blood cells then move to the affected area to eliminate the threat.

However, chronic inflammation, which persists over an extended period, can harm the body. It has been associated with numerous health conditions, including autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

The link between inflammation and menopause

Change in hormones

One of the critical links between inflammation and menopause is the hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause and how this can influence the body's inflammatory response. 

Oestrogen, in particular, has anti-inflammatory properties. Oestrogen receptors on cells play a crucial role in modulating the body's inflammatory response, with the presence of oestrogen generally exerting an anti-inflammatory effect by regulating the expression of pro-inflammatory genes. As oestrogen levels decline, the body may become more susceptible to inflammation.

Several autoimmune diseases have been associated with low oestrogen levels, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjögren's syndrome, which is why it's vital to keep inflammation in balance during the menopause transition.  

Increase in insulin resistance

As oestrogen levels fall, your body can become less responsive to insulin, known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body's cells do not respond efficiently to insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and potentially increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

These hormonal changes can lead to an alteration in fat distribution and increased visceral fat, which are known factors contributing to insulin resistance. This fat tissue is metabolically active and produces inflammatory substances called cytokines. Higher levels of visceral fat can contribute to chronic inflammation.

During perimenopause and menopause, many of my clients benefit from adopting a more fat-based diet and incorporating a fasting regime by decreasing their eating window, as this can help to increase insulin sensitivity at the cellular level. 

Sleep disturbances

Hot flushes, a common symptom of menopause, may also play a role in inflammation. These sudden, intense waves of heat can lead to increased stress and sleep disturbances, which, in turn, can trigger inflammation.

In addition, during menopause, hormonal changes can lead to increased cortisol levels, which can contribute to sleep disturbances and insomnia, making a good night's rest more challenging for many women in this stage of life. Poor sleep can lead to inflammation as it disrupts the body's natural circadian rhythms, causing an imbalance in inflammatory markers and potentially increasing the risk of various health issues.

Adopting good sleep practices such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, managing stress through relaxation techniques, and avoiding caffeine and heavy meals before bedtime may help to improve sleep. 

Bone health 

Menopause-related oestrogen loss can also affect bone health. As bone density decreases, the risk of osteoporosis and fractures rises. Inflammation can exacerbate bone loss and hinder the body's ability to repair and rebuild tissue. By addressing both these factors, you can ensure bone density is retained as a woman progresses through life. 

Understanding the root causes of your symptoms

During a hormonal transition for both men and women, it is vital to understand your hormonal baseline. All sex hormones have different characteristics, and some people may have varying levels at different stages of their life. 

One of the hormone tests I use in my clinic is the DUTCH Plus, as it not only checks for the balance of sex hormones but stress hormones as well. The stress hormone, cortisol, is intrinsically linked to both menopause and inflammation, so it gives you a much broader sense of what is going on in your body. 

For those clients who are just starting to experience symptoms of peri-menopause, I will run the 'DUTCH cycle mapping', as this gives a full analysis of hormonal fluctuations over a month-long period, which can be beneficial for those with irregular cycles, PMS, mood swings, fertility issues and inflammatory symptoms. 

By gaining this insight, it is then much easier to address the underlying cause of my client's symptoms, such as addressing the hormonal imbalances with diet and lifestyle interventions, which improve their inflammatory symptoms. And many of my clients feel relieved to finally have some proof to support why they feel this way. 

Managing inflammation 

As inflammation can be both a cause and an effect during menopause, managing inflammation becomes crucial for those going through this transition. 

Eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fatty fish can help reduce inflammation. Eating a low glycemic load diet to ensure insulin sensitivity is retained at the cellular level may help manage weight and keep visceral fat in check. 

Physical activity can help control weight gain and reduce inflammation. It also promotes better sleep and overall well-being. However, overexerting yourself can have the opposite effect, so finding the right balance is crucial to ensure you don’t overstress your body and cause fatigue. Practising stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can alleviate inflammation triggered by stress.

In some cases, hormone replacement therapy may be prescribed to help balance hormonal levels, potentially reducing inflammation. You should discuss this with your doctor to decide whether this would be beneficial for you. 

The connection between inflammation and menopause is a complex and evolving area of research. While it's clear that hormonal changes during menopause can influence the body's inflammatory response, more studies are needed to understand the mechanisms at playfully. In the meantime, adopting a healthy lifestyle, managing stress, and seeking nutrition and medical advice when necessary can all contribute to a smoother menopausal experience and reduced inflammation.

If you are experiencing hormonal or inflammatory symptoms and would like to explore how nutritional therapy and functional testing could benefit your health, then please book a free initial consultation with me. I look forward to hearing from you.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London W1G & Harrogate HG1
Written by V. J. Hamilton, Autoimmune Disease Expert | BSc (Immunology), DipION, mBANT
London W1G & Harrogate HG1

VJ Hamilton is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and member of BANT, focusing on autoimmunity including inflammatory skin disorders, fatigue and neurological issues as well as gut health.

VJ has a BSc in Biochemistry and Immunology which she uses in her practice, using only evidence-based nutritional therapies to support chronic conditions.

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