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For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org

Has IUD and similar hormones been linked to arthritis?

Q) I had an experience of arthritis while using the Mirena IUD five months after childbirth. I noticed after eating tomatoes, the following day, I would experience arthritic symptoms. This continued each time I ate tomatoes for the next five years; But because I liked the taste, every now and then I would eat them and suffer the consequences. However, what I noticed was when I had the IUD removed the symptoms vanished. I thought it was an interesting correlation, and indicated there may be something involving the synthetic hormones released by the IUD and the onset of arthritis. I was curious to know whether the natural release of similar hormones has been linked to arthritis, and, if not, it could be an avenue for research. I should say I had no history of arthritis before this experience. I would be interested whether any other women have experienced this.
Lisa Derwent, via email (Spring 2013)

A) A question about hormones and diet. Hormones, particularly female hormones, play a strong role in susceptibility to many forms of arthritis, as indicated in my answer to the first question, and there is on-going research on this subject at the moment. Accordingly, arthritis starting after childbirth is not uncommon, and it is fortunate that yours settled eventually. The Mirena coil produces progesterone rather than oestrogen and that may be an important difference in your case. The relationship between tomatoes, and other foods, and arthritis has been the subject of opinion and investigation for some time. Some years ago I reviewed all the books available on diet and arthritis and also surveyed my patients, asking them about any dietary treatments they had taken. Not very scientific, but it did result in a publication in The Lancet. Almost all the patients we talked to had tried to control their arthritis by diet, but very few had found any success. Some patients had lost vast amounts of weight following particular dietary exclusions, in some cases making them ill. Other, more scientific research has shown that fasting can improve arthritis, but obviously only in the short term. A very small minority of patients have true food allergy where that food specifically can cause joint problems, and we know that this may be a temporary phenomenon as people become ‘conditioned’ to the foodstuffs. This may have been the case with your tomatoes but I could only guess how the Mirena coil fits into the picture.

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