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Menopause and Inflammaging

By | Fact Checked |

Menopause and Inflammaging

Discussions about perimenopause and menopause often include mention of chronic inflammation and the many health challenges and diseases that can accompany it. In fact, there is a specific term that applies to age-related health conditions involving chronic inflammation: inflammaging. For women, declining levels of estrogen and progesterone, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties, is a significant contributor to the systemic inflammation associated with menopause.

Read about menopause and inflammation

Inflammaging is characterized by high levels of pro-inflammatory markers in the blood and tissues. This condition is a significant risk factor for many health issues associated with the menopause years such as cardiovascular disease, loss of muscle mass and strength (sarcopenia), type 2 diabetes, depression, dementia, and chronic kidney disease.

What should you know about inflammaging and menopause?

Exploring inflammaging

In 2000, a group of scientists used the word “inflammaging” to describe the subtle but chronic low-grade inflammation that accompanies increasing age among women and men. Experts also pointed out that inflammation appears to be a strong player in the progression of many age-related inflammatory and chronic diseases.

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More specifically, inflammaging involves high concentrations of inflammatory substances such as C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor, interleukin 6, and interleukin 8. High CRP, for example, is seen in autoimmune conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Another factor involved in inflammaging is called immunosenescence, which is when immune function becomes altered, and then in turn contributes to an increased susceptibility to infection, autoimmune disease, and cancer. 

Some of the possible causes of and contributors to inflammaging include:

  • genetics
  • abdominal obesity
  • altered gut microbiome
  • insufficient sleep
  • chronic stress
  • inactivity
  • exposure to toxins
  • and too much alcohol.

These factors, along with aging itself, affect quality of life on many levels. Various lifestyle changes and supplements, however, can have a positive and beneficial impact on inflammaging and its consequences.

Managing inflammaging naturally

Women in perimenopause and menopause can adopt various lifestyle habits and take certain supplements to help rein in and reduce inflammation and inflammaging. In the lifestyle category:

  • Stay physically active. Regular physical exercise, including both aerobic and strength training, fights inflammation. In a 2022 study, experts reported that both types of exercise were helpful in managing inflammaging among middle-aged and older adults.

Read about strength training in perimenopause and menopause

  • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, healthy oils, and herbal teas, possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that support and promote health in perimenopause and menopause. The Mediterranean and DASH diets, as well as all-plant based options, are recommended. 
  • Manage stress. When you manage stress, you help reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that promotes inflammation. Include stress-reduction activities in your daily plan, such as deep breathing, walking, dancing, yoga, tai chi, meditation, or visualization.
  • Get sufficient sleep. It’s been shown that inadequate sleep promotes many health problems, including systemic inflammation. Strive for 7 to 8 quality hours of sleep nightly. Research supports the need for sufficient sleep for optimal immune response and healthy inflammatory responses. 
  • Avoid environmental toxins. Experts have shown that environmental toxins, such as food additives, chemicals in cosmetics, personal health, and household cleaning products, pesticides, air and water pollutants, plastics, and more can accumulate in the body and lead to inflammation and organ dysfunction. Choose organic foods, all-natural cleaning and personal health items, avoid pesticide exposure, exchange metal and glass containers for plastic, and filter your water.

It’s also recommended you consider supplements that have anti-inflammatory properties. Take supplements according to package directions or your healthcare provider’s recommendations.

  • Omega-3s. These essential fats must be consumed in food or supplements. The three main types are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), with the former two found primarily in fatty fish. ALA is in flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds. Omega-3s are effective at lowering the effects of inflammation in the body, including CRP, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor.
  • Vitamins D and K. This is a winning vitamin combination for reducing inflammation, promoting calcium absorption by bones, and supporting both immune function and neuromuscular function. Look for supplements products that contain both.
  • Magnesium. This mineral is involved in more than 300 biological processes in the body, and among them is the ability to rein in inflammation. A deficiency of magnesium promotes several critical activities that lead to inflammation.
  • Curcumin. This compound is found in the spice turmeric and has potent anti-inflammatory properties. You can take either curcumin or turmeric supplements. If you choose turmeric, research shows that it “aids in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions.” Take a turmeric supplement that contains black pepper (piperine) to enhance bioavailability. 
  • Resveratrol. You can find this plant compound in the seeds and skins of red grapes and berries, as well as onions. It is a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant readily available in supplement form. Taking resveratrol and curcumin together can be especially effective against inflammation.
  • Glutathione. This is a potent antioxidant that is found in all human cells. It has the ability to lower oxidative stress and inflammation. Levels of glutathione decline with age and with stress, poor diet, and exposure to environmental stress. It is considered an important supplement for fighting inflammation.
  • Vitamin C. Fruits and veggies are great sources of this vitamin, but because it is water soluble, it’s important to ensure you get lots of this potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory vitamin daily. Much research supports its use in fighting inflammation, including a randomized controlled trial showing how it reduced inflammatory markers, including high-sensitive CRP and interleukin-6. 
  • Vitamin E. Of the various types of vitamin E, the tocotrienols have more potent antioxidant properties and great anti-inflammatory abilities. Research demonstrates that tocotrienols can inhibit the production of inflammatory substances such as tumor necrosis factor, CRP, nitric oxide, and interleukin 2, 4, 6, and 8. You can purchase Morphus Toco-E here.

Bottom line

Chronic inflammation increases with age and is associated with significant health concerns. This condition, referred to as inflammaging, also is a significant health issue in perimenopause and menopause. Women are encouraged to change lifestyle habits and consider supplements to help curb inflammaging.

  • Ellulu MS et al. Effect of vitamin C on inflammation and metabolic markers in hypertensive and/or diabetic obese adults: a randomized controlled trial. Drug Design, Development and Therapy 2015 Jul 1; 9:3405-12.

  • Ferrucci L, Fabbri E. Inflammageing: chronic inflammation in ageing, cardiovascular disease, and frailty. Nature Reviews Cardiology 2018 Sep; 15(9):505-22.

  • Franceschi C et al. Inflamm-aging: an evolutionary perspective on immunosenescence. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2000 Jun; 908(1):244-54

  • Frasca D, Blomberg BB. Inflammaging decreases adaptive and innate immune responses in mice and humans. Biogerontology 2016 Feb; 17(1):7-19.

  • Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A review of its effects on human health. Foods 2017 Oct 22; 6(10):92. 

  • Irwin MR. Sleep and inflammation: partners in sickness and in health. Nature Reviews. Immunology 2019 Nov; 19(11):702-715.

  • Kresser C. Tocotrienols: a more potent (and safe) form of vitamin E. ChrisKresser 2023 Jul 6

  • Maier JA et al. Magnesium and inflammation: Advances and perspectives. Seminars in Cell Developmental Biology 2021 Jul; 115:37-44.

  • Pan W. Aging and the immune system. Chapter 7 in Molecular, Cellular, and Metabolic Fundamentals of Human Aging. Elsevier/Academic Press 2023; 199-224

  • Qureshi AA et al. Nutritional supplement-5 with a combination of proteasome inhibitors (resveratrol, quercetin, δ-tocotrienol) modulate age-associated biomarkers and cardiovascular lipid parameters in human subjects. Journal of Clinical & Experimental Cardiology 2013 Mar 2; 4(3):238. 

  • Silva TR et al. Nutrition in menopausal women: A narrative review. Nutrients 2021 Jun 23; 13(7):2149  

  • Xing H et al. Effect of aerobic and resistant exercise intervention on inflammaging of type 2 diabetes mellitus in middle-aged and older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 2022 May; 23(5):823-30.e13. 

  • Yoshimura H. The impact of environmental toxins on autoimmune diseases and the use of detoxification protocols to manage symptoms. Rupa Health 2023 May 23

Lisa is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) who focuses on helping women find relief in perimenopause and menopause. Lisa has more than eight years of experience in the health and wellness space. She is also in perimenopause and experiences the occasional hot flashes, some anxiety, and irregular cycles. She is passionate about listening to her body, eating as much of a whole-food diet as possible, and exercising for strength and longevity.