There has been so much talk regarding the benefits of fasting for weight loss and improved energy over the last few years that it seems a natural response to want to jump on board to reap these benefits! But did you also know that there are other incredible health promoting benefits to fasting that are in my opinion underrepresented? One of these amazing benefits has to do with inflammation. Is it possible that women can harness the powerful effect of fasting to mitigate inflammation, when done in accordance with our hormonal cycle?
Firstly, I want to mention that most of the studies done on fasting, up until recently, have only been done on men and as we are aware, there are some major differences in our sex hormones and how they function.
The menstrual cycle is regulated by the luteinizing (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which stimulates the ovaries to produce the sex hormones: Oestrogen and Progesterone. These powerful little messengers are almost single-handedly responsible for the day-to-day running of a women’s body. When these hormones become unbalanced women may experience ‘abnormalities’ such as mood swings, depression, changes in weight, sleep disturbances and even pain. The body’s natural painkiller system is adversely affected by lowered oestrogen levels.
When we study the difference of pain symptoms between males and females, we notice variations, especially between puberty and menopause. As well as a more cyclical presentation in women than men. Indicating how female sex organs may have a direct role in altering our pain experience as well as increasing an inflammatory state. It is interesting to note that studies have now shown that several pain conditions can vary during hormonal cycles and have linked them to fluctuating hormones.
Fluctuations in oestrogen are linked to some migraine headache. Women may experience migraine headaches for the first-time during menopause, and some women may experience the reverse reaction and see a reduction in occurrence.
Temporomandibular disorders (TMD)
Some research suggests a link between oestrogen imbalances, pain and jaw disorders. Certain animal studies have found females with lower endogenous serum levels of oestradiol have an increased risk for TMJ and that oestradiol and progesterone seem have a protective role against pain.
For some women diagnosed with fibromyalgia, menopause may bring heightened sensitivity to pain.
Joint/non- specific low back pain
Oestrogen has been shown to protect joints from inflammation and damage. When oestrogen levels are reduced, the hormones anti-inflammatory effect can be reduced also.
It’s inevitable that we will experience some type of inflammation throughout our lives and as we age, oestrogen levels will begin to decline. In my clinical experience I often see a reoccurrence of inflammatory presentations without a known pathophysiological cause. Could the changes in our hormonal levels be driving this inflammation? And could fasting for our hormones hold a key to slow this inflammation down or even stop its progression in its tracks?
In part 2 I will look deeper into inflammation and our hormones and how fasting might help those of us who find ourselves in pain for no known cause.
Chantal is a Myotherapy practitioner, Massage therapist, Reiki practitioner and explorer of health. She has extensive experience with musculoskeletal injuries, pain and rehabilitation and is tirelessly looking at how she can help her clients to heal at a deeper level. Chantal was inspired to study Myotherapy as it was a catalyst for profound physical and emotional healing for herself.
 McCarthy, M., Raval, A.P. The peri-menopause in a woman’s life: a systemic inflammatory phase that enables later neurodegenerative disease. J Neuroinflammation 17, 317 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12974-020-01998-9