Hormone Changes and Allergies
The CDC reports that at least 20% of Americans have allergies which is contributable to varied causes, but women who are going through perimenopause and various stages of menopause, experience increased allergies that are due to hormone changes, where a woman may develop new allergies or their existing allergies are heightened. The additional symptoms that are a cause of menopause cycles, such as depression, night sweats, hot flashes, et al, are very stressful on the body, both physically and mentally.
Menopause Stress and Allergies
When the body experiences stress, in addition to decreased estrogen levels, the body begins to slow down, which affects the body’s immune system, throwing it out of balance. Menopausal women will notice an increase in existing allergic reactions or they develop never before allergies. Due to changes in the hormone levels, menopause can cause the immune system to react differently to allergen environments that were once harmless.
Allergy and Antibodies
When someone experiences an allergic reaction, the body mistakenly perceives an unknown substance as being harmful to the body. As a result, the body develops an antibody to protect itself, which is called IgE antibodies. IgE causes histamine chemicals to be released into the blood stream, which is responsible for the symptoms of runny nose, sneezing, and itchiness. When a woman goes through menopause, her estrogen and progesterone hormone levels decrease, but the hormones and the immune system use some of the same neurotransmitters that allergies react from.
Allergies range in severity from mild to severe and the symptoms are as follows:
- Mild Symptoms: mild rash, itchy eyes, nose and throat, congestion, sneezing, and post nasal drip.
- Moderate Symptoms: Hives and itchiness, difficulty breathing, drop in blood pressure, dark circles under the eyes, constant sneezing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
- Severe Symptoms: swelling, abdominal pain, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, confusion, and anaphylaxis, hives, migraines, and extreme shortness of breath.
Cortisol and Allergies
A reduction in cortisol is another reason that allergies arise in menopausal women. When a woman is expressing some of the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, which causes her to become stressful, cortisol hormones in high levels, are secreted into the body causing allergy related chemicals to rush in. Cortisol is a hormone which is secreted by the adrenal glands and is responsible for immune functions, inflammatory protection and a regulator of blood sugar and blood pressure.
Managing allergies is an important first step during menopause. Lifestyle changes are the best treatments for allergies. Inside the home, use hypoallergenic pillows, use air filters and dehumidifiers, wash bedding in hot water, vacuum and dust daily. If the outside environment causes allergic reactions, then, if possible, remain inside, especially when the pollen count will be high. Shower when you come indoors and wash your body and hair to remove pollen that has settled onto your body.
Vitamins and Allergies
There are remedies and safe medications that can be taken and administered to relieve menopausal women from allergens. Vitamin C helps to reduce histamine from cells and breaks them down quickly so that they are no longer carried by the blood stream. Calcium also reduces histamine production, magnesium opens constricted airways, copper and vitamin E are antioxidants that fights free radicals in the bloodstream that causes inflammation, and selenium protects cell membranes and protects the immune system.
Herbal Remedies and Allergies
Herbal remedies are safe for menopausal women to take and they also reduce allergic reactions. Black cohosh and Saint Johns Wort, are herbal remedies that contain phytoestrogens, that mimic the estrogen hormone and which alleviates many menopause symptoms, while also providing allergy relief. Other natural phytoestrogen herbs for menopausal women to use in tea or supplements, include dong quai, red clover, ginseng, and kava. Chamomile reduces hay fever attacks, ginger reduces nasal and throat inflammation, and eucalyptus ease congestion, especially when used in hot water and is inhaled.
Over the counter (“OTC”) antihistamines and decongestants, are drugs that block histamine levels, to relieve nasal congestion and unclog nasal passages. For severe allergy reactions, menopausal women should consult with their physicians so that they receive the right prescription for their specific problems. Also, hormone therapy treatments are used when advised by a doctor, even though successful research has been conducted in reducing the possibilities of heart disease, cancer or blood clots forming. More menopausal women are also using alternative medicine treatments to relieve allergy symptoms, as well as many menopausal symptoms. These methods include acupuncture, yoga, massages, and aromatherapy using essential oils.
Relief Is Around The Corner
Women going through menopause experience many health changes and allergies is a minor, annoying symptom that arises unexpectedly. However, as menopause progresses over the years, what a woman is allergic to today, they may not be allergic to tomorrow. Menopause and allergies is an increasing problem with many women, but not all. However, like all menopause symptoms, allergy symptoms are also being studied, researched, and taken seriously to help women.