Exploring the link between oestrogen, progesterone, and histamine. Why your fluctuating hormones may be exacerbating your symptoms.
It’s a fascinating fact that before puberty, if you are born male, you are more at risk from childhood allergies, but that after puberty those born female are more likely to suffer from conditions relating to immune function including allergies and autoimmune conditions. (1,2)
It’s also reported that many people experience an onset, worsening or sometimes remission from eczema and IBS symptoms at certain times in the menstrual cycle or life stage e.g. pregnancy and menopause.
Have you ever considered why?
Studies have hinted at the interaction of the neurotransmitter, histamine, and the hormones, oestrogen, and progesterone. Today’s article, the fourth in my ‘histamine’ series, explores this emerging topic and includes:
Histamine, a quick overview
Histamine is a compound that acts as both a neurotransmitter and an immune system messenger. It is responsible for a range of roles, including immune response, vasodilation (the widening of the blood vessels), and stomach acid production. Whilst histamine is vital for protecting the bodies against infection and supporting wound healing, too much histamine can lead to various health issues.
For more detail on how this might link to digestive health, skin conditions or autoimmunity, please see my previous articles, links below.
Oestrogen, progesterone, and the menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is an intricate ballet of hormonal fluctuations, depending on distinct phases, going from menstruation to the follicular phase, ovulation and finally the luteal phase. During this cycle levels of sex hormones, including oestrogen, progesterone, luteinising hormone, and follicular stimulating hormone, rise and fall with the aim to prepare the body for pregnancy.
Oestrogen is a group of sex hormones (estrone, oestradiol and estriol) that plays a key role in the development and functioning of the female reproductive system. Less well considered is the fact that oestrogen also impacts bone health, cardiovascular function, cognitive function, and the modulation of the immune system. Oestrogen levels are at their highest during the follicular phase, between the first day of a period and the next ovulation (days 1-14). Oestrogen is primarily excreted from the body following detoxification via the liver. Some oestrogen is, however, recycled and remains in circulation which may lead to oestrogen levels being proportionately higher at some times.
Progesterone, another vital hormone, works in step with oestrogen to regulate the menstrual cycle and prepare the body for a potential pregnancy. It also plays a role in thermoregulation (cooling you down or keeping your warm), skin health, brain function, and vitally has anti-inflammatory actions. Progesterone levels are highest during the Luteal phase of your cycle. This is the phase directly after ovulation which lasts until your next cycle begins.
Oestrogen, progesterone, and histamine, how might they interact?
Research suggests that histamine levels are influenced by the hormonal fluctuations that happen during the menstrual cycle.
Oestrogen has been demonstrated to encourage release of histamine from mast cells. This may explain the increase in symptoms such as allergies, migraines and eczema during the follicular phase, reported by many. (1)
Some studies, have indicated that oestrogen may not just trigger mast cells to produce histamine but may also downregulate the production of DAO (diamine oxidase), one of the enzymes that breaks down histamine in the gut. (3,4)
Some studies suggest that progesterone may slow mast cells from releasing histamine. (5)
Histamine levels linked to the menstrual cycle.
A useful, but basic summary, particularly in relation to the topic we are discussing today is the fact that oestrogen can stimulate histamine production and progesterone is anti-inflammatory. If we know that oestrogen levels are highest during the follicular phase and progesterone’s are highest in the luteal phase, then we can start to consider whether a person’s own symptoms can be mapped to their cycle.
It is important to note that whilst some do report an increased sensitivity to histamine during certain phases of their cycle, many do not.
Histamine and pregnancy
Hormone levels are increased during pregnancy and for those sensitive to histamine, an increase in skin or digestive issues may be experienced at that time. Morning sickness can also be related to histamine’s role in stomach acid production.
On the other hand, during pregnancy the immune system is naturally heightened, which for some results in remission from eczema or other symptoms for the duration of the pregnancy.
Menopause and histamine imbalance
The menopause marks the end of the reproductive years and is characterised by a host of hormonal changes including the reduction of oestrogen and the almost total cessation of progesterone production.
Remember, oestrogen can induce histamine production whereas progesterone counter acts the effect with its anti-inflammatory role. So, during the menopause when progesterone levels are almost nil, but oestrogen continues to be produced, the scene is set for histamine load to be higher, and many menopause symptoms are directly related to this, including:
My recommendations for keeping histamine in check.
If on medication, please speak to your GP/consultant before making any changes to your diet.
If you are interested in histamine and its impact on symptoms, this article is the second in a series I am currently publishing covering. The series in total will include:
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Read more by clicking below to see my previously published articles:
I’m Jessica Fonteneau, the Eczema and Digestive Health Nutrition Expert. I’ve worked with hundreds of clients to help them change their diets, better manage their flares, and find relief.
My vocation is to help those with eczema and digestive issues, because I have suffered with these interlinked conditions since I was 6 months old, and I truly know what it is like to experience these debilitating conditions.
Every client I have ever worked with has their own triggers and ideal nutrition. There is no such thing as ‘one-size-fits-all’. Whether you work with me one-to-one or use my guided tools, my objective is to help you uncover what works best for you, so that you take back control and experience relief.
My guided programmes are only suitable for adults as children have very specific nutrition requirements. I do, however, work with many child clients as part of my clinic.
I also offer two free communities for adults caring for children with eczema and digestive symptoms, feel free to come and join us and get some well-deserved support.
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