If your allergies or asthma seem to worsen at certain times of the month or with age, the blame may lie in your hormones.
Research has shown allergies are often triggered or intensified by natural body 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 start of menstruation and the risk of serious asthma attacks quadruples at menopause.
Progesterone levels rise just before the onset of menstruation and remain high until it ends, and are linked to worsening asthma in up to 40% of women. One study linked the development of allergies and asthma to irregular menstrual cycles.
During menopause, a woman’s ovaries decrease production of estrogen and progesterone, and this has also been linked to worsening allergies. Some women, however, seen to experience decreases asthma and allergy symptoms with 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 like 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 in the rest of the population.
One reason for hormonally-driven fluctuations in allergies and asthma is a reduction in cortisol. When this occurs, the body tries to compensate by producing more adrenalin, which causes inflammation and hence, an increase in allergic and asthma symptoms.
Low progesterone levels can also aggravate allergies and asthma, as can too much estrogen (estrogen dominance). 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 as women not on estrogen. Oral contraceptives, which contain estrogen, were found in a 2004 Norwegian study to increase risk of asthma by 50%.
Natural hormone balancing should therefore be considered a key element of allergy and asthma solutions. Patients whose hormones are brought into natural balance are often astonished to find that their allergy and asthma symptoms are also significantly relieved.
Yet it is not surprising. Hormones play such an important role in the health of our bodies and immune system that they are inevitably involved in allergies and asthma, either increasing their severity or helping to provide relief.