Diet, Menopause and RA: I've been scrolling through... - NRAS


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Diet, Menopause and RA


I've been scrolling through posts dated 7 years ago about this subject. I'm a relative newcomer to HealthUnlocked, and it is interesting to read members' experiences and their comments even from so long ago.

I wonder how many women had their first symptoms of RA about the time of the menopause. Perhaps there has been research into this - and if so, it probably runs together with research into pregnancy and the first symptoms. My first symptoms appeared in 1960, 3 months after the birth of my daughter, a time of hormonal turmoil. The menopause is also a time of hormonal changes. Well, we are women, so not a lot to be done about it, perhaps. RA affects women more than men and, without wanting to sound too cynical, women's health in general has not, in the past, attracted much notice. Hysteria being one of the favourite reasons given for any sign of ill-health! But this is the 21st century and if anyone can enlighten me on present research on the connection, if any, between hormonal changes and RA, I would be grateful.

About diet and RA: I agree with those who state that there is no proof that a change of diet would affect the disease itself. What healthy eating habits (a better description than diet) do is maintain our general health; and that in itself has a positive affect on our ability to cope with the disease. Weight can be stabilised, blood pressure also and we won't accumulate unwanted fat around our vital organs. Add to that enough water to keep well hydrated and we must feel better. That doesn't mean goodbye to medication, but it should work hand in hand with it. No magic formula sadly.

Another scorching day - keep cool and calm, everyone.

29 Replies

Yep. My RA came on about 2 years ago when I was just entering menopause x

It’s not just healthy eating, I think we need to go wider and talk about healthy lifestyle. Sleep and exercise are also very important - plus ditching the negative things like smoking and excess alcohol.

If it wasn’t for the RA I would now be a picture of health!

bienassis in reply to helixhelix

Just how I feel - it's only the RA that's a problem - otherwise I tick all the boxes about heart and lung health, kidneys and liver; my arteries are clear, and the valves work a treat. Don't smoke; booze limited to a glass on special occasions - such as recent 85th birthday. I'm fortunate to have never taken steroids - at a time (the 1960s) when little else was available. A friend I met during those early days was taking 20mg of prednislone daily, and had been doing so for several years. Her bones were crumbling - her teeth fell out. At that time she had twin sons of 3 years old. I lost touch with her when she moved; and often wonder if she's still alive. I think steroids are handled much more wisely today - they were looked upon as magical then. They are indeed valuable drugs but need careful monitoring.

About exercise: daily exercise is obviously important; but it was something that was not mentioned much in the past, simply because everybody exercised without thinking of it. In the late 1940s and 1950s cars were rare - walking several miles a day wasn't unusual, just to get from A to B. Home to work. Cycling wasn't a sport, it was a means of transport. I had my first bike at 12 years, old, just to get to the local Grammar School. Later I upgraded to something smarter (although still without gears) to cycle to work and anywhere else I wanted to go. From Southampton to Parkstone, for example, to see friends I'd left behind when we moved. At least 30 miles each way - through the New Forest and Bournemouth. And back for tea. Nothing unusual. No special gear - certainly no helmets.

That's a bit of reminiscing - but the good done to our bones at a young age, reaps rewards in later life. Obesity was unheard of.

Keep moving!

AgedCrone in reply to bienassis

But also back then .....apart from the chippie we didn’t have fast-food & ready meals, we mostly walked everywhere looking where where we were going, not at a tablet, & the telephone was on the wall in the hall ....not clutched in our hands 24/7 In case we missed something.

Happily, I know for sure we had much more fun than kids have today.... because we were allowed to be children for much longer.

bienassis in reply to AgedCrone

Yes, as you say, AC, life was much simpler; food was much simpler. We didn't have the confusing choices that are flung at us today. They are confusing because when you stand back and consider them, the contents of manufactured foods vary little, in spite of the claims. We have been trained to taste with our eyes! If it looks good, it must taste, and be, good.

I remember when my mother first discovered cake mixes! She thought they were heaven sent. Couldn't believe how easy it all was. She never baked traditionally again. As time went on, she latched on to every short cut in food preparation that became available.

Yet, at that time there was no TV or phone, of any kind, in the house. She never understood the enthusiasm for "gadgets", as she called them, but anything that kept her out of the kitchen was acceptable. Horses for courses, perhaps. She was very sociable, and I feel she missed the camaraderie of the war years.

My brother and myself had much more freedom of movement than children today. There are many reasons why that has changed, and parents today would be horrified to let their children "off the lead" to the extent we, and our contemporaries, were. We were not supervised at every minute of our lives.

Well, AC, got that off my chest!

Have an enjoyable weekend

AgedCrone in reply to bienassis

Although we didn’t have the gadgets.....we developed good old common sense & learned self reliance.....Much more useful. In fact my mother was horrified when cake mixes arrived. But she was a great this day I still can’t bake a cherry cake with the cherries evenly distributed-hers were bang on every time .....dammit.I don’t think she ever knew the Black Forest Gateaux I made, were chocolate cake mixes!

As you 11/12 we disappeared off on our bikes for the day with an Apple & a sandwich.....I’m sure our Mums would have been horrified seeing us weaving around in what traffic there was back then. But we survived!

I’m sure there were just as many children who were ‘troubled’ by strangers...but without social media the news didn’t spread.....& of course Illegal drugs hadn’t arrived except to the criminal fraternity......that would be one situation it would be good to return to.

We had our first TV in 1953 to watch the Coronation of Elizabeth 11. We must have had about 20 people in our little sitting room ....all peering at a black & white 12” screen....but it was a wonderful day off school!

Now I voluntarily watch colour TV on my 12 inch iPad!

What goes around comes around!

bienassis in reply to AgedCrone

Lucky you to have had a Mum who loved baking! I knew such Mums existed from visiting friends for tea - it all contributed to my sense that my family was not "normal".

When at the age of 14, I set off one morning on my long bike ride through the New Forest and Bournemouth to visit a friend, my mother didn't bat an eyelid. I don't recall any traffic - although there must have been some. Buses and trams were about of course. That was in 1949.

It's good to see young people now taking up cycling, not just for exercise but, once again, as a means of transport - and how much better for our environment. I rather envy them their modern bikes - a few gears would have been helpful around parts of Southampton and Bournemouth.

We were blessedly free of hard drugs, but cigarettes and pipes were part of most peoples lives. My mother started smoking in air raid shelters and never gave up. The house was always full of smoke - either from Mum's fags or Dad's pipe. At least, that has mostly disappeared. But every generation has its share of horrors.

In spite of the war and its aftermath, it was a happy time and the future looked bright. The NHS , the Education Act, and new housing, were fundamental changes that affected all of us.

Now for a bit of lunch - I'll see what my husband is up to in the kitchen!

My RA diagnosis was when I went through an early menopause aged 45. My friend is convinced that is what brought it on. Reading your post makes me think it could be due to a change of hormones. I don’t know enough about it. But how come no symptoms whatsoever all my life until I started the menopause?!

bienassis in reply to Azzure

Good Morning Azure

Well yes, this is the conundrum! Many people with RA don't get symptoms until these two important times of hormonal changes - childbirth or menopause. The question is - Why? These are both times of some stress - which some people cope with better than others - and there is a lot to learn as yet about the connections between the immune system, hormonal changes and the brain. Many RA patients have been able to trace their symptoms back to a particularly stressful time. We all react differently to stress; and it is beginning to be recognised that the brain and the immune system are intimately connected.

There is an interesting article in the NRAS Magazine Summer/Autumn 2018. "RA, stress and the autonomic nervous system". It's quite a technical article but well worth reading as it deals with the brain-stress-immune concept. This study is still in the early stages, but is very hopeful.

Azure, I hope my thoughts have given you something to ponder on! I'm always looking for enlightenment on this subject - so if you have further ideas please let me know.

AgedCrone in reply to bienassis

On the contrary my R.A. raised it’s horrible head a couple of years after I left a very stressful job, having planned on a long looked forward to retirement in the sun!

AgedCrone in reply to Azzure

There is no rhyme nor reason to R.A....

Babies have it & I had no symptoms until I was well past the menopause.

As my oncologist told me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I said “how could I get this“ he said that’s the one thing you should not worry about...because nobody knows

Guess RA is the same!

bienassis in reply to AgedCrone

Good Afternoon, AC

Just read your last two replies. RA, like all auto-immune diseases, can attack at any age. In children this is called JIA. These days, much can be done for these children by using aggressive treatment - it has to be very carefully monitored to prevent growth impairment; sometimes by a "stop/start" procedure. If it can be hit on the head before puberty (or thereabouts) they have a good chance of it not progressing to adult RA.

Research into the immune system has been given much more attention over the last few years - it had been for a long time neglected. I think there are more than 80 conditions that are considered auto-immune, so perhaps it's time to spend a bit of research money on them.

It is possible to have inborn "tendency" to certain auto-immune diseases - RA is one. But the mystery remains as to the mechanism that triggers it off in some people but not in others. The brain/stress/ immune concept mentioned in an earlier post is one line of research. I have a thyroid problem, as does my daughter - all part and parcel of the same thing.

All physical ills, and mental, have reasons; the reasons may be unknown at the moment, but as we know from medical history they will eventually be discovered. As will a vaccine for this wretched virus we are suffering from!

Ever optimistic!


AgedCrone in reply to bienassis

Early diagnosis by a knowledgeable rheumatologist is I’m sure key to a successful outcome.

I thought my first rheumatologist was mad when he started asking me if I had hay fever, asthma or eczema.... but of course it all comes down to autoimmunity.

Back in the 1960s ....30 years before I was diagnosed with RA..... I had more allergy / autoimmune tests then you could imagine.....but there was never any inkling that RA was hanging around.In fact even back then there was a lot of auto immune disease research both in the UK & the US.

Don’t you remember all the publicity there was about that woman who was supposedly allergic to the 20th century and had to live in a bubble?

Maybe one day there will be a really proficient blood or gene test will be discovered that autoimmune strands can be switched off before they are full blown & actually cause the disease?

But I don’t think I shall be around to see that!

bienassis in reply to AgedCrone

How right you are about early diagnosis! This is key to a successful treatment. Once damage is done, it is irreversible - only surgery might help, but you would still have the RA. After a successful operation on my left hand in 1994, the surgeon reminded me of just that. The hand is still very useful, but it is beginning to twist again slightly; but I'm not complaining.

And the more we know about genetics and the role our genes play in just about everything, the more advanced, and individual, the treatment. Genetic engineering is occupying many research scientists at the moment. The removal of the gene in the early stages of development in the womb is, I believe, not a wild dream. Now, I know many people would not agree, for religious reasons, with this "interference"; but how could anyone object to such treatment for children who would otherwise be born with terrible crippling genetic conditions that shorten their lives to a few miserable years?

Yes, I do remember that story of the woman in a bubble. Whatever happened to her eventually?

Well, like you, I shan't be around to see these treatments become commonplace. I've reached a point when after every birthday I wonder if I'll be here for the the next!

So, just keep taking the pills - or infusions. And eat well.

bienassis xx

I dont know but I had menopause at 46 and was diagnosed with RA at 56. I had been referred with suspect RA at 50 but was not confirmed. I am on HRT and have been since I was 47. I was recently reading that live births and RA are correlated. More live births less likely to have it. I do not have children.

If you do a google search combining both things there is some research on the interaction of the two ( menopause n RA ) . I did it a while ago when I was diagnosed and it made interesting reading but I cant remember the details sos!

Theres also research and evidence around the link with the hormone regulatory system , thyroid etc, pregnancy etc. I read a lot and it was interesting, food for thought, but didnt change much it just filled my head with more information. 🤔

100% agree with everybody on the healthy diet and lifestyle, although like many was a non smoking, moderate drinking runner runner before symptoms. Stress is the enemy ! All the best 🙂x

bienassis in reply to Thingybob

Your mention of pregnancy is interesting as it reminded me of someone I met in a rheumatology department in the 1960s. She had been diagnosed with RA sometime before she became pregnant; she was in quite a bad state as there wasn't much in the way of treatment. But during the pregnancy all symptoms of RA disappeared and she was overjoyed and looked forward to the birth of twins. Alas! only days after the birth all the horrors of the RA returned. Now, what research has been carried out since then about this particular reaction of the hormonal system, I don't know. How intriguing it all is!

Keep well, and safe!

bienassis x

bienassis in reply to Thingybob

Hello Thingybob.

Thyroid problems! I was diagnosed at St Thomas' Hospital London in 1956 with an overactive thyroid. An operation followed, and I was well thereafter until at 65 years old my thyroid registered underactive - it is now treated successfully. But the point of this little story is that when I was diagnosed in 1967 with RA, the rheumy noticed my faded scar, looked at me and said "Thyroid?" I nodded and he said "That would make sense". I didn't pursue the theme; I was an ignoramus, and it was all a mystery to me then,

It's like a jigsaw puzzle.

bienassis x

Stress is definitely the enemy, that’s what triggered my RA, without a doubt. Or more accurately, going on a very relaxing holiday after several years of high stress!!

Yes definitely menopause for me ! I was perfectly healthy then wham! My fingers unrecognisable within a few months and my mum said the same happened to her but it went away after menopause ... which didn’t happen for me and also delayed me seeking treatment 🤦‍♀️Now my mum says mine is caused by the years I “ abused “ my body with “ all that keep fit “ I did 😂

bienassis in reply to LinaM

Aren't Mums wonderful! When you worry, as Mums do, you grab the only thing you think might be the cause. But yes, RA can "disappear" spontaneously. I have heard that happening to a neighbour who was diagnosed at the time of her menopause, but then it disappeared. It then remains dormant - perhaps for the rest of your life.


Yep menopause for me too but stress could have been a factor too because I had a bowel cancer tumour in my 30’s and whilst they were sorting that I had a hysterectomy at the same time although they left my ovaries in, so when they packed up that’s when R.A. hit. Have to say I’m not sure I didn’t have juvenile RA too because puberty was very difficult on my joints especially my knees but then again my mum died when I was 16 so stress may have made things worse then too, although symptoms came on earlier than that. Who knows but I’ve always found it a bit too much of a coincidence that R.A. can hit women after childbirth and during menopause more often than in between so if you ask me there’s definitely a hormonal link.

Not menopause or child birth for me, I was diagnosed long before either of those.

bienassis in reply to KittyJ

Hello KittyJ

Yes, the menopause and childbirth are two well known stress promoting times in life - so easy to identify; but there many other moments in life when stress can contribute to auto-immune diseases and other diseases.. There have been studies on patients with cardiac diseases where the conditions are connected with stress, and when the treatment takes account of this, the impact of stress can be reduced. As far as RA is concerned , observations have noted that higher stress levels are an important risk factor in developing RA. Moreover, these higher levels might also diminish the chances of responding well to treatment.

All food for thought!

Variation on the menopause theme - I had a very early menopause at age 29 and was diagnosed with RA last year at 46. I’ve wondered if there’s any connection, long shot but has anyone else had a similar experience?

Hi - I am newbie here too. Thanks for raising the subject.

My inflammatory arthritis (both ankles) was triggered by menopause, so much so I trialled HRT patches 5 months after diagnosis & starting MTX, which wasn't helping at that time or hadnt kicked in yet. It could be coincidence but after being on HRT for 3 1/2 months, my ankles improved so much that they showed "no synovitis or odema" at my next check up with Rheum. Unfortunatley due to unwanted side effects with HRT and issues with supply, I came off it. By the next Rhuem appointment 4 months later my ankles had flared again.

I have been on MTX continuosly for nearly 2 years, including increased dose and now injections but the only time my ankles improved, was when I was on HRT.

It's something that needs investigating (and maybe no coincidence that menopause and RA share many symptoms). Stress is pivitol too, oestrogen was described to me by my GP as the calming hormone. This is a difficult time of life for many women, with family and work stresses on top of deteriotating health, it all builds up.

My Mum (86) has an auto immune called Sjorgrens syndrome, she has bladder, eye, mouth,digestive and breathing issues amongst other things and cannot tolerate DMARDS. She was on HRT sucessfully well into her 70s but was told to come off it as they felt she was too old. As a result her symptoms got much worse, she has been through the mill with procedures and treatments over last 5 years, none of which has worked, it has certainly had a negative impact on her quality of life.

For me I'm still trying to work out what is causing what; puffy achey joints/fatigue/low mood/anxiety/ is it side effects of medication/ active disease or menopause? I still have no real clue nearly 2 years in.

HRT is known to help bone health but with increased heart and stroke risk with RA, there is still some conflicting advice as to whether HRT is beneficial not. It isn't the answer for everyone but for some women, it's benefits extend way beyond just reducing hot flushes and vaginal dryness and should be researched further. Maybe NRAS and Menopause Matters/ Dr Heather Currie could collaborate on this?

Sending happy thoughts to everyone in these difficult times. Look after yourselves xx

Yes my RA came on when my GP insisted on me coming off HRT!

bienassis in reply to Joang

This is interesting, Joang. Many years ago when HRT was first being prescribed, there was talk that it could treat RA and other immunological conditions as well as keep us all young!

I can't say I've heard much about it since then, but at the time an old friend with newly diagnosed RA, and having started the menopause, was prescribed HRT and found it improved her RA symptoms. Why this wasn't taken any further I'm not sure. Certainly my friend stopped taking it on the discovery that it might cause cancer. We know now about the possibility of cancer with HRT, and things went very quiet about the treatment of RA; for the same reason maybe.

Perhaps someone else could add to this if they have any experience or knowledge about the subject.


Yes, me too. Am 56 and though I cannot completely say I am in menopause, having periods starting sporadically again after 8 months of none, I'm am as near as can be. My troubles started 2 1/5 years ago, actually put them down to meno at first.. I also have Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis and these started , or at least became a lot lot worse, straight after giving birth 24 years ago! Have no doubt hormones have huge effect, as they do on so many things!

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