The Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Chronic Pain in Menopause
If you are a woman in menopause and suffer with generalized achy muscles, bones and joints, unless you’ve been diagnosed with some sort of arthritis, or perhaps even Lupus or MS, chances are the likely culprit is chronic inflammation in the body.
Yes, it is true that arthritis, Lupus, and MS cause inflammation. But, there are other issues which can cause chronic inflammation which are not related to any of those conditions.
A diet too high in refined carbohydrates (i.e. white things) and sugars, and too low in omega-3 essential fatty acids for example, can cause inflammation in the body. Low estrogen levels, very common for women in menopause, and which usually correspond with low serotonin levels (an important neurotransmitter which regulates mood and pain receptors), can also contribute to generalized aches and pains.
Long-term stress can contribute to chronic inflammation due to high cortisol levels, a hormone released by the adrenal gland in response to stress. Women going through perimenopause often suffer with adrenal fatigue, and consequently, also have very high levels of cortisol in their bodies.
No matter the cause, chronic pain is debilitating. And if you are like me, and not comfortable with taking narcotics to treat the pain, it can be especially difficult. Earlier this year, I blogged about a book which I think has some excellent points and tips on dealing with chronic pain, The Mind-Body Mood Solution: The Breakthrough Drug Free Program for Lasting Relief from Depression, by Dr. Jeffrey Rossman, PhD.
Yes, it is a book on depression. But chronic pain and depression are closely linked, and depression among women in menopause is common as well. The book has excellent information on light exposure, exercise, and food choices to treat depression, which in turn helps treat chronic pain. I’m also a strong proponent of yoga to help deal with aches and pains, and to reduce stress. I’ve blogged about Viniyoga techniques here as well. I cannot recommend it enough for women in menopause.
And I recently ran across the anti-inflammatory food pyramid designed by one of my personal heroes, Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. I love it because it is reasonable and measured. I’m not a fan of extreme diets or health crazes which are heavy on one type of food, and negligent in others. I just cannot see how they work for any length of time. In my opinion, balance and moderation is the real key to health.
You can read here about the anti-inflammatory diet, why it works, and why we should all strive to eat that way. However, if like me, you have suffered with chronic pain for any length of time, I suspect you won’t need much convincing. Especially if you’re not interested in taking drugs.
I definitely plan to incorporate it into my own life along with the Viniyoga I currently do, and the practices and tips I’ve learned from Dr. Rossman’s book this year as well. If you’ve heard of the anti-inflammatory food pyramid, or if you currently use it, I would love to hear your thoughts. Has it worked for you? Was it difficult to follow? Has it helped your chronic pain issues? Let me know!
Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women's health and a women's freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.