Can Hormone Balancing Improve Allergies Or Asthma?

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.

Estrogen, Asthma and Black Cohosh

Some of this is not exactly news; it’s been known for a long time that there is a direct link between hormone replacement therapy and asthma. This is supported by the number, ages and gender of those most likely to develop it. As children, boys prior to puberty have the highest rates. After puberty, girls and women of child bearing years are more likely. After menopause, the risks level off…unless HRT is used.

Front page health news today introduces us to a French study that suggests it is not all hormones, but primarily estrogen that causes the increased risk. It’s not a little risk, either. Women taking estrogen are fifty-four percent more likely to develop asthma than those who have never used any HRT.

Aside from the risk factor, there is a good reason these studies are being done on post menopausal women. Fluctuations of these hormones has ceased, so the basis for the study is neutral.

What does this have to do with black cohosh? That herb is one of the main supplements suggested to women to ease the problems menopause causes. No one likes hot flashes, mood swings and the other symptoms this process causes. Black cohosh contains a phyto-estrogen, which could be as dangerous as prescription medications in causing asthma.

Black cohosh is not the only one. Soy isoflavones do as well. That’s why there are warnings about not giving them to boys and teens who are still developing, and why pregnant women are told not to use them. The estrogen levels are too high.

If you wish to take these supplements anyway, I have two recommendations. One is that you make sure your doctor knows, so you can be monitored. Asthma is a potentially life threatening condition. The doctor can help you with the second recommendation; that you have what you need available should an asthma attack begin. Asthma doesn’t always have warning signs.

Here are a few symptoms to look for; shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing sounds when breathing and blueness on the lips and fingernails. If these symptoms develop, get medical help immediately. Your life could be at risk.

Nutritional Applications That Help Fight Against Asthma

Asthma is often misdiagnosed in older adults because of the common belief that it is just a childhood disease. But according to the American Lung Association, experts now think about 10 percent of the people with asthma are over age 65.

Some adults with asthma have dealt with the disease all their lives. Others may have had asthma as a child and experienced it again after many symptom-free years. But if you’ve developed breathing problems as an adult, you have lots of company. Lateonset asthma is becoming more common and is often triggered by a serious respiratory infection.

Women are more likely to be affected than men, possibly because of their smaller airways. Researchers think hormones may also play a part. They’ve found that women who are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are 50 percent more likely to develop asthma than women who aren’t on HRT.

Although asthma is a serious and potentially fatal disease, you can protect yourself by avoiding things that trigger an attack. Cigarette smoke, cold air, dust, and mold are a few examples of asthma triggers. And research shows that eating foods rich in certain nutrients may help reduce your asthma symptoms.

Nutritional blockbusters that fight asthma

Vitamin C. Researchers say antioxidant vitamins could play an important role in preventing asthma or controlling its symptoms. Vitamin C is the perfect example. Studies have found that vitamin C not only improves asthma symptoms, it helps you avoid the disease altogether. For top-notch asthma protection, mix up a fruit salad with oranges, pineapple, strawberries, kiwifruit, and papaya. Then pile your dinner plate with high-C vegetables like broccoli, red and green peppers, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and peas.

Vitamin E. Another antioxidant powerhouse that may cut your risk of asthma is vitamin E. A study in Saudi Arabia found that children who had the least vitamin E in their diets were three times more likely to get asthma. Research also shows that vitamin E helps protect you from developing this condition as an adult. For extra lung protection, sprinkle some vitamin E-packed wheat germ, almonds, peanuts, or sunflower seeds on a salad or in baked goods.

Vitamin A. This vitamin completes the asthma-fighting trio of antioxidants. Studies find that people who eat vitamin A-rich foods tend to have clearer air passages, which makes breathing easier. You’ll find vitamin A in meat and dairy products, especially beef and chicken livers, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and egg yolks.

Lycopene. Think pink – or red – to help avoid asthma symptoms. Lycopene, the carotenoid that gives foods their pink or red coloring, may protect against asthma, according to a recent small study. Researchers gave people with exercise-induced asthma 30 milligrams of lycopene each day for one week. At the end of the week, more than half the people showed significant protection against asthma symptoms.

It’s always best to get your nutrients from foods, and in this case, it could earn you double protection. Many foods that contain lycopene, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon, are also high in vitamin C.

Magnesium and selenium. These minerals may be the dynamic duo of asthma-fighting minerals. Magnesium acts as a bronchodilator, which means it helps open up your airways, making it easier to breathe. Selenium’s power against asthma may come from its antioxidant abilities. Studies show that people with low levels of selenium are more likely to have asthma. You’ll find selenium in meats and shellfish and in vegetables and grains grown in selenium-rich soil. Food sources of magnesium include avocados, oysters, and beans. Broccoli is a good source of both minerals.

Water. A tall glass of water could be your ally if you’re asthmatic. Researchers at the University at Buffalo (UB) discovered that the symptoms of people with exercise-induced asthma got worse, both before and during exercise, when they didn’t drink enough water.

Frank Cerny, Ph.D., stresses the importance of drinking water, especially if you have asthma. “The message continues to be, `Drink fluids whenever you get the chance,” says Cerny, chairman of the UB Department of Physical Therapy, Exercise, and Nutrition Sciences. “If you have asthma, dehydration may make it worse, particularly during exercise.”

Your body needs water long before you feel thirst so don’t wait until you’re thirsty to wet your whistle. Make sure you drink at least six full glasses of water every day – more when you exercise.

Caffeine. Start your morning with a fragrant cup of coffee, and you may ease your asthma. Caffeine is chemically related to theophylline, a drug used to treat asthma. When you have an asthma attack, the muscles around your airways tighten up and your passages swell, making it difficult to breathe. Caffeine helps relax your bronchial tubes so your airways stay open. Research shows that caffeine can help improve symptoms for up to four hours.