The signs and symptoms of conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, or interstitial cystitis seem to flare up in women just before and even during menstruation.
Of course, all three of these are disorders that involve the autonomic nervous system- which involves the nerves, brain, and spinal cord.
Your autonomic nervous system controls bodily functions such as bladder control and blood pressure, which are involuntary and are below our level of consciousness.
The condition of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is characterized by signs and symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, and bloating.
Interstitial cystitis, or IC, is characterized by pain in the bladder. The condition of fibromyalgia, or fibro, is characterized by widespread pain and inflammation in the body.
All of these conditions affect women much more often than they do men and both stress and anxiety can worsen all three of them.
In one study, 79 women with the condition of IBS, 77 women with the condition of fibro, and 129 women with the condition of IC were asked to fill out a questionnaire that asked about the severity of their symptoms during a given month.
Approximately 25 percent of the women with IBS, 18 percent of the women with fibro, and 9 percent of the women with IC reported that their symptoms seemed to flare up more just before or during their periods.
While fluctuations in hormones were not addressed in the study, it is believed that this could be the reason why the symptoms of these conditions flare when a woman is on her period.
Experts say that estrogen is a hormone that helps to prevent pain. Since estrogen levels are low right before and during a woman’s period, pain and other symptoms will flare-up.
In addition, approximately 15 percent of the women involved in the study reported that their pain also increased during menopause, which is another time in a woman’s life when her estrogen is low.
Finally, researchers discovered the fact that approximately 37 percent of women experienced an increase in the signs and symptoms of their condition around the time of their first period.
Researchers are not clear on the reasons why symptoms fluctuate with rises and drops in hormone levels in some women and not in others- but the study did confirm the fact that hormonal shifts do play a significant role in the exacerbation of symptoms.
There is some research that supports the fact that women suffering from the conditions of IBS, IC, and fibro and are on birth control pills that contain estrogen typically have fewer symptoms and symptom flares than women who are not on these pills.
Of course, physicians should not recommend that women go on birth control pills to control their symptoms- but instead should recommend that they get on an exercise program to improve and control their symptoms.
Menopause and Fibromyalgia
As mentioned above, women who have the condition of fibro report that their symptoms seem to increase when they reach menopause.
After all, research has proven that somewhere around 85-90 percent of individuals with the condition of fibro are women.
However, did you realize that a lot of those women are menopausal? Of course, this makes sense because, after all, most of the time women are diagnosed between the ages of 40 to 55- which is typically when women experience menopause.
When a woman is going through menopause, she often wonders if what she is feeling is just in her head- the truth is, it’s not.
Many times, she feels as though her body has taken a beating. There are so many hormonal changes going on, menopause can leave a woman feeling both sore and cranky.
In addition, when you are suffering from the condition of fibro you don’t get adequate sleep- and even when you do sleep, it’s not a restful, restorative sleep.
Finally, as calcium and other minerals in the body degenerate, women notice more and more body aches.
Women who suffer from the pain of fibro also find that they can’t handle strong odors, bright lights, or loud noises.
Connection Between Fibro and Menopause
The female body produces a hormone called estrogen- when there is a decrease in the production of this hormone, women experience more symptoms such as anxiety/depression and sleeplessness.
The typical woman who has gone through menopause has around 40 percent less estrogen in her body than a woman who is still having periods.
Even hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, doesn’t seem to offer any help for the symptoms- though it does seem that estrogen patches are much more effective than estrogen pills.
There are some studies that have revealed that a decrease in both progesterone and estrogen in conjunction with a decrease in thyroid functioning and thyroid hormone levels could be a contributing factor to some of the signs and symptoms of individuals with the condition of fibro such as anxiety, mood changes, muscle pain, and fatigue.
However, more research is necessary to prove the connection between the bodily changes of menopause and fibro flares.
Some of the current medical research seems to indicate that low levels of cortisol, which is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal gland, could be a contributor.
No matter how a woman goes through menopause- spontaneously- or if she has a hysterectomy, the symptoms are going to be the same.
Women who have hysterectomy-induced menopause report having all of these crazy symptoms.
They’re often not sure if it is something that is in their heads (again, it’s not)- but they often have surges of depression/anxiety, aches and pains, and so much more.
Women go through all sorts of changes during their lives due to all of the extra hormones they have surging around.
Women with fibro notice that their symptoms often flare during their periods and then again during menopause.
However, there are some things you can do to help keep your symptoms under control. Speak with your physician about some medical- as well as natural- ways to do this.