Updated: Nov 8
Itchy, watery, red eyes
We all know the symptoms. But what many of us don't realize is the link between menopause and hay fever.
The hormonal changes during perimenopause can affect our immune system in many ways. So there is a much greater tendency for problems to arise, especially with allergies and intolerances. Hay fever is one ailment that may increase at this time of year, and I can now testify to how annoying this can be.
I have never had the misfortune of this illness until this year.
Falling oestrogen and progesterone can contribute to detrimental changes in the immune system's functions. This can predispose women to an increase in the frequency of flu, allergies, and the development of autoimmune conditions.
Other parts of menopause can also create problems with our immune system.
Menopause is a stressful time for a whole array of reasons. A chronic increase in cortisol can affect the immune system. Generally, cortisol is anti-inflammatory, but long term, it has the opposite effect.
Sleep disturbances, changes in the levels of bacteria in our digestive system, and altered physical activity can all negatively influence the immune system.
Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is an allergic response to certain substances, including pollen. When the person comes into contact with this allergen ( in this case, pollen), their immune system overreacts, releasing histamine and other chemicals, causing symptoms such as sneezing, itchy and runny nose, congestion, and watery eyes. The release of histamine is an important protective mechanism.
Histamine and oestrogen are very closely connected. High oestrogen can trigger high histamine and vice versa. The fluctuations in oestrogen that arise during perimenopause mean that our histamine levels also fluctuate. For many people, this isn't a problem; an enzyme DAO can break it down. The functioning of this enzyme can be reduced by oestrogen and stress.
There are two primary sources of histamine. We either produce histamine internally or eat it. Foods high in histamine include avocado, aubergine, tomatoes, spinach, mushroom, rocket, alcohol, tea, coffee, chocolate, and nuts.
Add to this a reduced immune system – you can see why allergies can increase at this time of life.
Some women are either not super tolerant to these higher levels or cannot get rid of the increase fast enough – creating an increase in allergic responses.
What can I do?
Anti-histamine medication may be the quickest option; although that does not remove the problem, it simply suppresses it.
Vitamin C, quercetin, curcumin and omega 3 fatty acids are all super important.
Vitamin C (kiwi, citrus fruits, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables) supports the immune system by stabilizing cell membranes and reducing histamine release.
Quercetin is a polyphenol found in onions, apples, and berries and has anti-allergic action inhibiting histamine production. It can help stop swelling and relieve some of the symptoms.
Curcumin and omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and work well together.
Support your gut. 70% of your immune system is located in the gut, and most of the DAO enzyme is produced there too. The gut functions well when there is a good level of the right bacteria – for this, we need to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables. Some specific probiotics can provide more support to those suffering from histamine intolerance.
Sleep and stress management – support your immune system to help cope with these fluctuations.
In extreme cases, reducing foods high in histamine can help. However, I rarely recommend this because it results in an extremely restricted diet that is hard to manage and not good for us.
If you are struggling with hayfever, an increase in allergic reactions in any form, and would like help. Please do contact me, the link is below.