The Connection Between Menopause and Allergies
Typical menopause symptoms are bad enough, but add to those the scratching, sneezing, swelling and coughing of allergies, and you’re face with a very uncomfortable routine. Many women discover new or worsening allergies as they move through perimenopause, and fluctuating hormones are largely to blame for this unwelcome change.
While you can’t do anything to stop the onset of menopause, you can help your body through the transition, and ease your allergy symptoms. If you first learn the reasons behind your allergies, you’ll stand a better chance of overcoming them quickly and comfortably.
The Connection between Hormones and Immunity
The glands responsible for hormone production and the mechanisms of the immune system use many of the same chemical messengers to relay messages. In turn, when one of these major systems is disrupted, the other will feel some of the effects.
Menstruation, perimenopause and menopause are dictated and controlled by hormones. Estrogen and progesterone fluctuations are normal aspects of a woman’s cycle, but once you enter menopause, both of these important hormones decrease considerably, and permanently. At this time of hormonal shift, it’s quite common for your immune system to begin responding differently, and that could mean the onset or worsening of allergies.
Not all allergies will worsen, and it can be difficult to predict how each woman will experience the hormonally charged immune response. However, there are a few common allergic reactions to watch out for during menopause:
- Hay fever (sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes are the main symptoms)
- Asthma (allergic asthma causes inflammation in the airways)
- Dermatitis (eczema, rashes or hives are common complaints)
How Menopause May Encourage Allergies
It’s difficult to know exactly what is to blame, but there are a few theories surrounding menopausal allergy triggers. Experts suspect that the issue begins with a shuffling of responsibilities among the hormonal centers of the body, and this gives way to some specific patterns of symptoms:
- Adrenal fatigue. Once the ovaries stop producing adequate amounts of hormones, the burden falls to the adrenal glands. Although they can keep producing estrogen, progesterone and testosterone for your body, the increased stress will eventually deplete the adrenal system, leaving you prone to fatigue and anxiety, but also more sensitive to your environment. In turn, you may develop seasonal allergies seemingly out of the blue, or else suffer through longer bouts of itching, sneezing and sniffling.
- Sensitivity to toxins. As your body becomes more sensitive to allergens and chemicals, you may begin to react to toxins that never gave you much of a problem before. Some common culprits are paint, household cleaning solutions, dust, and molds – many everyday irritants that you could easily inhale. A recent study indicated that women in perimenopause experience an 80% increase in asthma symptoms compared with women who continue to menstruate regularly, so you must take care to avoid respiratory triggers when you enter menopause.
- Food intolerance. Many people live with food sensitivities for years before they become severe enough to really take notice. Some women entering menopause find they can no longer enjoy foods containing eggs, dairy, wheat, soy or sulphites without an uncomfortable reaction. Common mild symptoms might include hives or stomach upset, but severe reactions like difficulty breathing or allergic shock could also occur.Additives, stabilizers and artificial flavors or fragrances are responsible for a good deal of discomfort, but it can be very difficult to avoid them without paying close attention. Get in the habit of reading packages closely, and try to cook more with whole foods that you know your system can handle well.