Inflammatory Menopause, What is It?

Last Updated on 15 March 2021

Inflammatory menopause is a secondary side effect which occurs in women who ended their fertile life. This condition can go from mild to severe and is affecting a higher number of women in Western World. Common menopause coincides with the end of menstrual cycle and marks an important step in the life of a woman.

Unfortunately, this common and biological condition may be accompanied with inflammatory symptoms in various areas of our body, giving rise a still unknown and strange disease labeled as inflammatory menopause. What it is exactly and why does it occur? Read this short guide to find the answers.

Menopause Overview

Usually, in the life of a woman, menopause occurs between 45 – 55 years. As said, this condition is normal and physiological and is characterized by a progressive drop of female hormones and the permanent loss of reproductive capacity. In menopause, estrogens represent the most important part of this hormonal reduction.

Even progesterone diminishes, but it is the estrogen deficiency which can cause the so-called inflammatory menopause. The end of menstruations should be a sort of renewed freedom for women, allowing them to live a carefree sexuality without the fear of an undesired pregnancy and instead, what happens to many of them?

A strange, sudden, and annoying set of disorders that go from joint pain to vaginal dryness. These symptoms are all triggered by a systemic inflammation of the entire organism.

A disease is systemic when regards our entire body. Hence, inflammatory menopause regards the entire body of a woman, opening the way to further symptoms and future diseases linked to aging. But, don’t be scared by these words, I am also a menopausal woman who developed just the bad version of this condition, namely the afore mentioned inflammatory menopause.

I successfully managed this condition. For this reason, I want to help you overcome the inflammatory symptoms of menopause. Maybe you don’t know that menopausal inflammation is a transient condition you can treat and heal. Follow this article, in order to defeat it.

What Causes inflammatory menopause?

With the arrival of menopause, female ovaries stop producing estradiol, the most important sexual hormone belonging to estrogens and responsible of menstrual cycle. This stop causes a deficiency of the serum estradiol in blood.

This hormone has a protective role against inflammation and it is just this deficiency that triggers an inflammatory response in an unlucky group of menopausal women. Indeed, estrogens protect hearth, skin, hair, bones, muscles, vagina and intestine. However, they don’t not protect breast from cancer, because their structure causes an increase of breast cells. It seems, instead, that estrogens protect men from stomach cancer.

However, in menopausal women, estrogens deficiency may cause an inflammatory stress. Let’s see how the process starts.

Inflammatory Role of Estrogen Deficiency in Menopause

A study performed at the University in Ferrara revealed that estrogen deficiency may trigger inflammation in menopausal women who have a preexisting unbalanced autoimmune response. It is as if menopause unveiled an inflammatory condition already present in the organism of affected women, but asymptomatic before menopause.

Nowadays, women are subject to aggressive, external, and internal stimulus and these ones can trigger an unbalanced autoimmune response to the sudden hormonal change of menopause. The unbalanced immune response occurs in women with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, for example, or in women with an unbalanced level of estrogens before menopause. But, to discover this detail, we should have done hormonal dosages when we had still menstruations.

These conditions could make women prone to develop inflammatory menopause. A stressful lifestyle, anxiety, depression, bad diet, and pollution also cause inflammation in menopause. The above-mentioned causes trigger the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, a group of proteins that activate the inflammatory reaction in several diseases, in infections and even in hormonal deficiency.

Inflammatory Menopause Symptoms

If normal menopause is marked by hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, irritability, reduced sex drive, gain of weight and swollen belly, inflammatory menopause is marked by an unprecedented level of inflammatory symptoms in particular areas of body.

The most affected part of the body of menopausal women are musculoskeletal system and mucous membranes. In the most severe cases, even brain and hearth are involved, but fortunately, inflammatory menopause does not reach so extreme consequences. As regards mucus membranes, menopausal inflammation affects vagina, oral mucosa and intestine, but symptoms are visible on skin and hair, as well. These zones appear marked by a severe and unnatural dryness.

When vagina is too dry, menopausal women may be diagnosed with vaginal atrophy or vaginal dryness. This condition causes cystitis and painful sexual intercourses, making extremely complicated having sex. Cystitis, in turn, occurs when bacteria attack the tissue of bladder, impeding you to urinate regularly.

With Cystitis, to pee becomes a real adventure, because this disorder causes a frequent emission of burning urine! You may also suffer from urinary incontinence, because the estrogen deficiency shortens even the length of bladder, unfortunately! And, behold, the paradox: cystitis causes abundant production of pee, but with a short bladder, you become unable to hold it back.

With inflammatory menopause, women have also frequent vaginal infections, not to mention about intestinal symptoms such as Irritable bowel syndrome. The latter tends to worsen, too. Frequent are even oral inflammations and infections, with inflamed and swollen gums that are the sign of a systemic inflammation.

As said, inflammatory menopause is a condition that regards your entire body! Another area affected by the inflammatory effect of menopause is the afore mentioned musculoskeletal system.

Menopausal women often experience bone pain and in some severe cases they can also have arthritis. What is the mechanism that involves this system? Follow the paragraph below to discover it.

Musculoskeletal Inflammation in Menopause

The afore mentioned medical research performed in Italy, at the University of Ferrara, gives an answer to the menopausal musculoskeletal inflammation. According to this research, the menopausal estrogen deficiency is responsible of an oxidative stress in the musculoskeletal system, hearth, and brain.

When we get aged, indeed, our body releases the so-called ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species), instable molecules, which can also come from pollution, psychological and physical stress, and radiation. They give rise to chemical reactions in order to become more stable.

If the presence of Ros is excessive, it can damage tissues and cells, causing oxidative stress and inflammation. It is just the role of estrogens that has an antioxidant effect on the musculoskeletal system, hearth, and brain of women.

Estrogens, in fact, protect us from the oxidative stress triggered by ROS. With the deficiency of estrogens in menopause, ROS would be capable to create inflammation in the musculoskeletal system, with activation of Lymphocyte T and cytokines.

These molecules, in turn, cause the early dead of the cells of your bones with reduction of bone tissue and consequent osteoporosis. This process may also open the way to muscle and bone aching, up to osteoarthritis.

However, ROS are always present in the human body, but if they increase and antioxidants decrease, the inflammatory process develops very easily. That is why menopausal osteoporosis is considered by researchers as an inflammatory disease. Moreover, postmenopausal osteoporosis is a billable ICD 10 code even with no pathological fracture. To obtain the reimbursement for healthcare diagnosis, the exact code is ICD-Code M81.0.

As regards arthritis, there is not a clear correlation between inflammatory menopause and this disease, yet. It has only been observed that in a small group of women worldwide, about 1%, menopause coincides with the occurrence of rheumatic illness. This occurrence would be mainly linked to an underlying autoimmune condition.

Medical research, instead, proven that there is a high prevalence of osteoarthritis in postmenopausal women. This rheumatic disease affects the 44% of women with inflammatory menopause. Osteoarthritis always starts with painful symptoms such as bone and joint aching. A study about the correlation between menopause and rheumatic illnesses explains why menopausal inflammation may trigger aching and related osteoarthritis.

Estrogen receptors are present in joint tissues – the study reads -. Estrogen has chondro-protective roles in part due to glycosaminoglycan synthesis, which is an important part of connective tissue…”.

In short, menopausal women risk chronical aching because their body lose the connective tissue produced thanks to their sexual hormones!

The bad effects of this deficiency are even visible on skin and hair, because they also contain two important substances of our connective tissues: collagen and hyaluronic acid. They are both organic compounds of the human body. The former is a protein, the latter is an insoluble mucopolysaccharide. Their main function is the tissue regeneration, including skin and bones!

Collagen keeps joints united, hyaluronic acid, instead, makes fibers elastic because it binds water molecules. The deficiency of these important substances causes dryness in skin and hair, but even wrinkles, and aching. The intensity of pain is nearly always proportionate with the level of this deficiency.

Collagen and hyaluronic acid are as a cover for our skin. That is why, when we are younger, we don’t have so much back pain. With aging and menopause, especially inflammatory menopause, the protective layer of collagen and hyaluronic acid meets a severe depletion due to the normal process of aging and to the estrogen deficiency.

Sexual hormones, indeed, especially estradiol, the one produced by ovaries before menopause, along with progesterone, stimulate the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid and keep bones and skin elastic and smooth. That is why they are also called hormones of youngness. Inflammatory menopause worsens their deficiency, making skin so dry to crack.

Furthermore, muscle and bone aches become so annoying to prevent us from stretching the hand even to take a glass of water. With inflammatory menopause, however, another pathological condition is the vaginal dryness due to the process I have explained so far: estrogens make tissues elastic and when they reduce, tissues dry out, including vagina.

As inflammation continues, the tissue of vagina reduces and thins out, dryness is so severe that you feel your vagina burning. If your partner tries to make love with you, you feel only pain, not pleasure.

Sometimes, the internal tissue of vagina gets scratched and bleeds. You’ll perceive this symptom like a strange pubic twinge. The inflammation also causes the release of cortisol, a hormone that is created to combat diseases, but that in inflammatory menopause has the unpleasable effect to increase weight.

As you experience the normal metabolism reduction due to aging, the deficiency of estrogens and the increase of testosterone lead you to accumulate fat on the abdomen.

And, finally, you find yourself fully changed: in your body, bones, skin, vagina, hair, and belly. That is inflammation during menopause, folks! It does not matter how much we were active and beautiful before menopause. The menopausal inflammation forces us to struggle with an important change.

It is hard to look us at the mirror and see dryness, frizzy hair, the early wrinkles, a belly that seems to belong to another woman, but not to us. No. We aren’t that image mirrored in front of us, with frizzy hair resembling the straw broom of a witch! We aren’t those ladies that have the morning constipation (always due to the estrogen deficiency).

I described all this based on my personal experience, because I have inflammatory menopause too and struggled just with the symptoms I explained in this article. When you see your beauty fading, you are not ready to accept it and this may lead you toward depression and anxiety. These are also two common consequences of inflammatory menopause.

But remember: if you reached menopause, even with inflammation, you are alive and this means you can still fight to reverse the path. I fought and managed to relieve my inflammatory menopause, retrieving a nice quality life and my usual physical look. If you are ready to continue reading, I’ll explain you how to get rid of the annoying disorders of inflammation from menopause.

Inflammatory Menopause Treatment

The treatment of inflammatory menopause regards the inflammatory symptoms triggered by this condition.

They can be vaginal dryness, cystitis, bone aching. Hence, the therapy can be systemic or local for the single symptoms. Let’s see them in detail.

  • Systemic Treatment

Usually, to relieve the symptom of inflammation in menopause, your gynecologist will suggest you the hormone replacement therapy, also called menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). However, if you have breast benign nodules or breast cysts, this therapy is not advisable because it could increase the risk of breast cancer.

Menopausal hormone therapy, in fact, consists of medications based on synthetic estradiol. Medications can have the guise of pills or patches to apply on your skin. These medications supply your body the estrogen whose deficiency is responsible of inflammation.

But what happens, when you can’t start the hormone therapy for the risk of breast cancer? That was just my own experience: no hormones because I suffer from breast cists.

Well, my gynecologist studied for me a customized treatment which includes lifestyle, diet and unharmful products. Seen that I successfully used them under the strict control of my doctor, I wanted to share with you my experience regarding this effective treatment. Read the paragraphs below, to discover more.

  • Local Treatment for Vaginal Dryness

When I started suffer from vaginal dryness, my gynecologist prescribed me a 10 days treatment with a vaginal moisturizer made with a small quantity of estradiol. The vaginal moisturizer is not a hormonal therapy, because estradiol remains in the vaginal environment and can’t be absorbed by our body.

The moisturizer, indeed, leverages only the beneficial effects of estradiol to reduce vaginal inflammation and dryness. After this short treatment, my doctor replaced this hormonal moisturizer with an organic and natural gel to apply for two times per week. The latter has the function to keep our vagina lubricated and hydrated, reducing burning, twinges, and pain, even during sexual intercourse.

I am using a not hormonal gel still today and I don’t have vaginal dryness, anymore. I feel to be returned younger there! You can find several types of natural vaginal moisturizers online, but they don’t have all the same effectiveness. This was my personal experience, at least. One of the products my doctor prescribed me was Fillergyn, a vaginal gel with Hyaluronic acid and organic plant extracts such as Tea Tree Oil.

Unfortunately, this gel worked for a while, but after some months, I have had back my vaginal dryness. I faced the matter with my gynecologist and he suggested me to replace this gel with another type of cream. Afterwards, I discovered why Fillergyn stopped working over me. It was a natural and not hormonal gel with a small fault: it contained propylene glycol; a substance used in cosmetics.

Propylene glycol is a humectant which avoids that cream dries. Since it is makes evaporate water, this substance, in turn, causes further dryness. When I explained this detail to my doctor he agreed with my remarks and prescribed me a hormone free vaginal gel without propylene glycol. I am using it still today and I can say I defeated my vaginal dryness from inflammatory menopause.

Hence, to overcome vaginal dryness, look for a hormone free vaginal moisturizer gel without propylene glycol. If it contains collagen or hyaluronic acid, it is also good, because it gives the vaginal tissue the turgidity lost with the deficiency of estrogens.

  • Treatment for Cystitis from Inflammatory Menopause

In the acute phase of cystitis, your gynecologist will prescribe you antibiotics, but seen that menopausal cystitis is recurrent and you can’t take antibiotics lifetime, the solution to treat this disorder is more natural and pleasurable to apply.

To keep cystitis at bay, you must eat every day, for breakfast, in the morning, cranberries. This fruit has an anti-cystitis effect. You can eat it under the guise of sugar free marmalade. At the grocery store, you should find organic cranberry jam containing only the natural sugar of these fruits.

Cranberries have antioxidant effects that counteract the cystitis from menopausal inflammation. I eat every day cranberry marmalade and defeated my cystitis, also.

menopause osteoarthritis

Besides that, avoid chemical soaps for your genital hygiene and prefer water and sodium bicarbonate, they keep away vaginal infections and save you from inserting antibiotics suppositories in your vagina. I applied these natural treatments under the suggestions of my gynecologist (he is a real menopause wizard for me).

  • Local Treatment for Osteoarthritis

For osteoarthritis, when aching becomes sharp or excruciating, you can make injections with hyaluronic acid. They are local injections performed on the areas affected by pain, usually shoulder blades and knee. Hyaluronic acid restores the connective tissue damaged by inflammatory menopause.

The benefits last until the complete absorption of the acid. Usually, the treatment makes you free from pain for several years. This therapy must be prescribed by an orthopedist and is effective for osteoarthritis caused from inflammatory menopause.

Lifestyle and Diet

To reduce swollen belly, take the habit to walk 30 minutes per day. The walk makes lose weight and the exercise also provides oxygen that reduces inflammation. If you are forced to stay at home, never renounce to exercise, you can also do it at your home. Even diet must be anti-inflammatory. Avoid food that increase inflammation, such as refined sugar, refined flour, processed food, and processed snacks.

 If you suffer from food intolerance, avoid the food your body is unable to tolerate. From breakfast to dinner, eat only organic food. That is my usual diet, by now, and this way I don’t have hot flushes and night sweats. Increase the assumption of food containing phytoestrogens, such as legumes. I avoid the soy because I suffer from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

But even other kinds of legumes contain phytoestrogens, such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas. Don’t forget to eat food containing collagen. The latter is contained in fat food, because collagen is a fatty protein! You can find it in turkey meat, eggs, fish, skin of chicken, oysters, cow, and pig meats. However, some food can be indigestible; hence prefer turkey meat, eggs, and fish along with fruit and vegetables.

If your hair is dry and frizzy, choose shampoo with panthenol, oil and glycerin, these substances feed the fiber of hair. Panthenol is the B5 vitamin that women lose because of menopause. Also use a hair conditioner with natural oil, and dry your hair with bath towel before using the hair dryer. About the latter, use a ionic hair dryer. This device, indeed, does not burn hair.

At the end, apply some drops of organic almond oil. It is used for skin, but it works also on hair damaged from inflammatory menopause. This oil is rich in proteins and B vitamins, namely the main substances of our hair.

Conclusion

Thanks to the things I discussed in this article, I managed to defeat the symptoms of inflammatory menopause and get my life back. Obviously, women are not all equal. Hence, always discuss what you read here with your doctor and let me know if some of these solutions worked for you, as well.

References and Bibliography

  1. Le Science – Estrogeni protettori contro tumori gastrici – July 14, 2011 –  www.lescienze.it/news/2011/07/14/news/estrogeni_protettori_contro_tumori_gastrici-551356/
  2. Francesco S. Pansini, Carlo M. Bergamin – Il deficit estrogenico come fattore di stress infiammatorio: un’ipotesi patogenetica unificata per l’aumentato rischio osteoporotico e cardiovascolare in postmenopausa – Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche e Terapie Avanzate, *Dipartimento di Biochimica e Biologia Molecolare, Università degli Studi di Ferrara – Boll Ginecol Endocrinol vol. 3/2009 – PDF file – https://bollettinoginendo.it/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/41_53.pdf
  3. NHS – Symptoms – Menopause – August 29, 2018 – Next review due: 29 August 2021 – www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/symptoms/
  4. Carecloud -ICD-10 Code: M81.0 – Age-Related Osteoporosis without Current Pathological Fracture www.carecloud.com/icd-10-codes/m81-0/
  5. Mitali Talsania and R. Hal Scofield -Menopause and rheumatic disease – May 1, 2018 – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5385852
  6. Dr. Mariam Bozhilova Forest Research Institute, BAS. “Difference Between Collagen and Hyaluronic Acid.” DifferenceBetween.net. October 18, 2019 – www.differencebetween.net/science/difference-between-collagen-and-hyaluronic-acid/
  7. Dr. Ascanio Polimeni – Gli Ormoni della Giovinezza – F -weekly magazine March, 2016 – www.studioapolimeni.com/medicina_antiaging_-_menopausa/gli_ormoni_della_giovinezza-f_settimanale-marzo_2016-.htm
  8. Magazine x115 – Collagene Alimenti | Benefici dei Cibi Ricchi di Collagene – October 15, 2020 https://magazine.x115.it/x115/collagene-alimenti/

Author: Rosalba Mancuso
Rosalba Mancuso is a medical journalist, an international content writer credited at the University of Washington and a blogger born in Sicily. She is popular for founding four websites in English. On Modernhealthinfo.com, Rosalba writes well researched and detailed health articles backed by her experience as a medical writer for pharma companies and as a PR assistant for a clinical analysis laboratory. She is also a member of the AHCJ, American Association of Health Care Journalists and Center for Excellence in Health Journalism.

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