Inflammation is a leading factor of ill health, it’s at least partially responsible for many health conditions I see each day, but most people don’t believe it affects them.
What is inflammation? Very simply put – we have an immune system that is usually ready and willing to stand up and be counted on when we’re attacked by a foreign invader, be this a virus, bacteria, or even something as benign as pollen. The immune system will send out defenders in the form of white blood cells to overwhelm and surround the invaders, imagine you’ve cut yourself on a knife, if it is kept clean and dry it should be fast to heal but it could also become inflamed: red, swollen, irritated, painful, weeping if its not looked after. Next consider what happens when our immune system believes its facing a threat because we’ve eaten something it doesn’t like, something that is part of our diet each day, or when we’re in the midst of spring when pollen is extensive. The immune system doesn’t shut down, it keeps defending, but becomes less capable of eliminating the threat and the tissues we can’t see like those in the digestive system can become inflamed.
The main way of reducing the impact of inflammation is by avoiding inflammatory foods, making healthy food choices.
- LESS processed foods; sugar; alcohol; coffee, check for food sensitivities and avoid them, and reduce stress.
- MORE fresh vegetables, some fruit, protein with each meal (which as aside can make a significant difference to energy levels, anxiety and depression), plus drink plenty of water each day.
I’m appalled that so many women of all ages, from teens to peri-menopausal, do not realise that suffering during their monthly cycles is not normal. Why have we accepted this as fact?
Signs of a “Normal” period:
- 21-35 day cycle;
- 2-7 day bleed;
- No pain or PMS;
- Approx. total of 80ml bleed
When we experience a cycle that is not normal – we need to look at why? Why is my body suffering? What is my body trying to tell me?
Is your monthly cycle so painful that you can’t go to school or work, does PMT cause intense emotional feelings, maybe grumpy, irritated, angry or tearful?
Perhaps its that food intake is not enough, too little protein and other nutrients will mean the body is not able to support a period, or it could be that the diet has too much inflammatory foods (refer to info on inflammation above).
It could be that there is too much stress in which case again the body doesn’t feel safe enough to support a period. Stress comes in all shapes, and affects almost everyone, consider what we do to relieve stress, sometimes to excess, for example – over or under exercising, binge eating, excessive alcohol intake – if we didn’t have stress would we feel a need to do these things? When we overindulge we’re not supporting our body.
One of the first changes I suggest for my clients is to trial removing dairy, this is to do with the inflammation dairy can create which makes it the first part of understanding the puzzle. So if you’re reading this then please trial eliminating dairy (milk, cheese, butter, ice-cream, cream, sour cream) for 2-3 months. If you are still not having normal periods after that change then there are other things to try, including improving gut health, taking specific supplements that support healthy ovulation and therefore healthy periods, herbs to support metabolise/eliminate built up oestrogen.
Endometriosis occurs in approximately 1 in 10 of women, and can take many years to diagnose. It may not be hormonal as much as it is a symptom of whole body chronic inflammatory disease. So yes reducing inflammation within the body can help but medical intervention may still be required.
Heavy irregular periods in peri-menopause are another common issue. One of the causes of these are anovulatory cycles when ovulation does not occur in a particular cycle. However oestrogen is still produced and bleeding still occurs, but no progesterone is released. Anovulatory cycle may also be either regular or irregular, so it you’re experiencing shorter cycles this could be why.