If your allergies or asthma seem to get worse at certain times of the month or with age, the blame may lie in your hormones.
Research has shown that allergies are often triggered or intensified by the body’s natural transitions and cycles such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Hormonal fluctuations also cause more severe asthma attacks in many women, especially older women, usually before or at the beginning of menstruation, and the risk of severe asthma attacks quadruples in menopause.
Progesterone levels rise shortly before the onset of menstruation and remain elevated until the end, and are linked to worsening asthma in 40% of women. One study linked the development of allergies and asthma to irregular menstrual cycles.
During menopause, a woman’s ovaries decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone, and this has also been linked to the worsening of allergies. Some women, however, have seen asthma and allergy symptoms decrease during menopause. It appears that women’s bodies can react differently to estrogen and progesterone, so that hormonal fluctuations can affect existing allergies or asthma differently.
Research also shows that autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, celiac disease, Chron’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and insulin-dependent diabetes are also affected by hormone levels. They are three times more common in premenopausal women than the rest of the population.
One of the reasons for hormonal fluctuations in allergies and asthma is a reduction in cortisol. When this occurs, the body tries to compensate by producing more adrenaline, which causes inflammation and therefore an increase in allergic symptoms and asthma.
Low progesterone levels can also aggravate allergies and asthma, as well as too many estrogens (predominance of estrogens). That’s why estrogen therapy and the pill are of little help and actually aggravate asthma. A 2004 Harvard study showed that women on hormone replacement therapy (which increases estrogen levels) were twice as likely to develop asthma than women who did not take estrogen. Oral contraceptives, which contain estrogen, were found in a 2004 Norwegian study to increase the risk of asthma by 50%.
Balancing natural hormones should therefore be considered a key element of allergy and asthma solutions. Patients whose hormones are brought back into natural balance are often surprised to find that their allergy and asthma symptoms are also significantly alleviated.
Yet it is not surprising. Hormones play such an important role in the health of our bodies and the immune system that they are inevitably involved in allergies and asthma, increasing their severity or helping to provide relief.