The body evolves through the arc of life and knows well how to do so. The menopause transition is a natural passage along the way. So is aging. But we live in a stressed world, which can speed up that arc and make us feel older than we are. The two biggest speed-up culprits are unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress.
When the menopause transition comes along, creating its own stress, the body gets behind the eight-ball if unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress are depleting her reserves already. It’s not that the menopause transition is a problem or disease. It’s that during this transition, the body is trying to find footing on the uneven seashore of a waning hormone terrain.
Think of it this way: When the body is dealing with the stress of unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress already, the reservoir of resilience never has a chance to fill up.
When we quiet down the inflammation and oxidative stress – while also doing the inner work of shedding the old menopause and aging story – we give the body–self the chance to adapt to menopause with greater ease. Symptoms quiet, and we feel better.
What is Unchecked Inflammation?
Inflammation is the immune system’s first response to a health threat, be that an illness, injury, or exposure to pathogens or toxins. Even stress in overdrive can turn on systemic inflammation.
That first response is acute inflammation. Acute inflammation is like an army of fiercely protective mothers sweeping in to guard your cells and tissues against troubles. Usually, acute inflammation calms down when the body has licked her wounds through all the stages of repair.
The body’s hush on acute inflammation is thanks to natural anti-inflammatory processes that counter the pro-inflammatory ones. The body bounces back to equilibrium. This delicate balance of pro-inflammation with anti-inflammation is an attribute of the body’s know-how to be well.
But sometimes acute inflammation exceeds its sell-by date. When threats keep stacking up, your body’s efforts to protect you create a different kind of trouble – the kind where systems struggle to function. That fierce protectiveness starts to wear systems thin.
Signals get faulty from the wear and tear. It’s not that the inborn wiring is faulty. It’s that the body is saying too much! Add a transformational hormonal transition to the mix, and what was happening under the radar before now becomes apparent.
What might stir unchecked inflammation? There are many culprits, but the primary contributors are unique to modern life:
- Dead food (processed food and sugary-sweet beverages)
- Unchecked stress
- Environmental Toxins, including cigarette smoke
These factors affect the composition of microbes in the gut, triggering inflammation inside the intestinal tract and setting up a cascade of inflammatory processes throughout the body.
There’s another piece to the inflammation puzzle salient to midlife. Menopause itself affects how our body responds to inflammation. Estrogen has natural anti-inflammatory qualities. When estrogen declines, the body is less resilient to unchecked inflammation. It becomes all the more critical to address lifestyle and environmental contributors to inflammation.
What is Oxidative Stress?
‘Oxidation’ is a natural part of our body’s exchange with and movement through the world. It happens when we breathe. When we eat. When we go for a walk. It happens when we sleep. It happens in every cell that goes about the business of carrying on life. Oxidation is the reason we rely on oxygen so immediately to stay alive.
During oxidation, the body produces ‘free radical’ oxygen molecules. In a balanced state, there are enough antioxidants molecules to keep the oxidant free radicals in check. When free radicals go unchecked, they create oxidative stress, which can damage tissues and DNA.
These changes can lead to unchecked systemic inflammation. Unchecked inflammation can, in turn, lead to oxidative stress.
Sources of oxidative stress that challenge the body’s resilience include:
- Dead food (processed foods and beverages)
- Unchecked stress
- Environmental Toxins, including cigarette smoke and certain medications
This list looks an awful lot like the one for unchecked inflammation. It also gives us an early glimpse at where to turn to slow down unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress and boost resilience.
Partnering with Your Body
We can’t shut down inflammation or oxidation. Nor would we want to. What we can do is partner with the body to support robust health by:
- Eating real food that’s plant-rich and freshly prepared
- Moving often
- Resting and restoring
- Living a “clean and green” life
- Limiting alcohol intake to moderate consumption
These practices support resilience and the body’s know-how to adapt to the changes of menopause. They also give us moments of connecting with our body–self. Every freshly prepared meal is an act of self-care. Every act of self-care is a cup in the reservoir of resilience. And every drop in that reservoir supports your body’s endeavor to adapt and makes way for healthy aging.
Gateway to Vibrant Wellbeing
- What sensations, images, words, or reflections come to you as you read about unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress tax resilience?
- What sensations, images, words, or reflections come to you as you read about the primary culprits and remedies to unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress?
- And, what lifestyle practice to support resilience feels most challenging to you? What feels easiest to lean into?