for Rheumatoid Arthritis
by Barbara D. Allan
Author of Conquering Arthritis
Every wonder what a hormone really is? The phrase
'it must be hormones!' comes up frequently when spending
time with someone going through puberty, PMS, or menopause.
People often make that declaration when sexually attracted
to someone they don't particularly like. It is even
heard in response to unusual displays of athletic prowess.
So what is a hormone? My medical dictionary gives the
rather dry definition that it is a chemical substance
produced in the body which has a specific effect on
the activity of a certain organ or organs. This dictionary
then goes on to give definitions for 23 different kinds
What could this possibly have to do with RA?
It turns out that the ratio of two types of hormones,
androgens and estrogens, are often messed up in RA.
(Androgens are any substance that stimulates male characteristics.
Estrogens are any substance capable of producing estrus
in females. Both androgens and estrogens are present
in both men and women, just at different levels.) In
fact, in one study I read all male and female participants
with RA, who had normal estrogen levels had androgens
levels that were too low.
Turns out that estrogens, at normal (non-pregnant)
levels, enhance the type of immune responses that cause
RA. Androgens suppress these responses. If you have
normal levels of estrogens but don't have enough androgens,
it is much harder for the body to stop the out of control
immune responses that cause RA.
Given the complexity of the human body, an imbalance
of this sort does not automatically produce RA. Rather,
these studies demonstrate that this hormone imbalance
may increase susceptibility to RA and may influence
the experience of RA for those who have it.
To know if a hormone imbalance is influencing your
RA you will need to have a doctor check your estrogen
and androgen levels.
In the next newsletter I will discuss treatment options
for this kind of situation.
Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis Part II