What the hell is up with my hormones?
Adrenal fatigue? Menopause, Perimenopause or Histamine… Hormones? Reaction?
As promised in my other article I wanted to talk about hormone supportive food, especially for women. First off let me just say that more and more women are hitting perimenopause and don’t even know it. These little signs are often mistaken for a food allergy… wait, maybe it’s the other way around?
Let me tell you a little about what happened tome. After both of my children I developed this nasty, itchy rash on my arms and upper thigh. As per my allopathic physician and my obgyn, it was just my hormones balancing out after having a baby and could take a year to do so. They gave me a script for a hydrocortisone cream and sent me on my merry little way, as if that was going to satisfy this girl… I think not!
Well I never filled that script, I used what I had around the house, I made tinctures lotions and potions and finally a year later the rash was gone. But I still wasn’t satisfied. Fast forward a few years and all of a sudden I have this unbearably itchy rash, on my forearm. Well it’s winter and I did accidentally wash my clothes with some fabric softener, somehow this answer didn’t sit well with me. It’s been three weeks and I still have this unbearable itch! It has to be more than just a reaction to soap or winter dry skin. Something else was going on, something much deeper.
Now I know I was having signs of perimenopause, although they were mild I knew what they looked like. But this rash…. what was going on? Then it hit me. The connection between histamine and menopause! I’ve read about this somewhere and knew I just had to dig a little deeper. No I don’t have the issues sleeping or the hot flashes, I am not in full-blown menopause, although this would apply to you as well, I do have the itch…that unbearable itch. Some women get just the itch, as if you skin is perpetually dry, no rash just an itch. Others like me, get the rash.
I started to notice certain food would set it off, so I figured it must just be an intolerance right? A beer used to sit fine, then I could only drink certain ones without noticing that itch, now beer in general is just plain off the list. This isn’t a big deal since unless it’s summer I don’t drink much anyway… then it started with wine. Now I am not a big drinker but don’t you DARE mess with my glass of wine. I knew I needed to figure this out because itch or no itch I wasn’t about to not be able to enjoy the only alcohol I ever drink.
So let’s see the facts, I had this strange histamine type reaction. OK so what exactly is a histamine? It’s the body’s natural allergic response but it’s also present in many foods. Funny enough beer and wine are both on that list. (For the full list check out this article)
Luckily for me I had an idea about this from a colleague and decided to practice what I preach to all my patients. Time to start a food journal.
So what did I discover? Cheese which is almost never on my plate, this was an instant trigger, so were certain mushrooms and then my beloved avocado. So now what? Well I decided to google a few things and found the term menopause histamine popped up, meaning that many of these symptoms women have been experiencing are preventable with a nutrient dense anti-inflammatory diet. No way! I have got to look into this.
Now I’m not saying I have scientific data to back this up, it’s just a few experts with a theory… but it’s better than nothing. So could this be the answer? A connection between a histamine response and the hormonal fluctuations of a woman experiencing perimenopause or even menopause is definitely worth checking out. Time to do some more digging.
I found some answers but then those answers led to other issues. One woman actually started taking evening primrose oil to help manage her PMS, I bet some of you reading this are doing the very same thing. Here is the issue, evening primrose oil is high in Omega 6, when we have an overabundance of this and overpower our much-needed Omega 3’s we start to cause inflammation. There’s that word again, are you seeing a trend? For one woman what ended up happening was an imbalance leading to a
compromised immune system which in turn led to more histamine response and therefore more inflammation.
For another, there was the aspect of too much red meat messing with her estrogen levels. Then another case where a diagnosis was made of adrenal fatigue. But was it? Take a look at your DHEA levels, you want to know that this is the body’s natural cortisol opponent. This goes hand in hand with adrenal fatigue.
So we know we need to have adequate Omega 3, watch out for Omega 6 (most of us have way to much in our diets as it is) and make sure to be getting adequate levels of DHEA as well. But what if we don’t? Cortisol is our stress hormone, raise your hand if you don’t have any stress in your life? Ya, I didn’t think I would be seeing any hands up. Cortisol gets secreted by the adrenal glands, we need it for many functions including immune function and inflammatory response. DHEA is also secreted by the adrenals, it also just so happens to be a precursor to estrogen. Let me put it this way Low DHEA = low estrogen = high cortisol = bad news. To summarize, long periods of stress mean you have long periods of high cortisol, this diminishes your body’s ability to produce much-needed DHEA and with that your immune system becomes compromised. Enter inflammation all over the place.
So does this ultimately lead to what is known as histamine intolerance? Many believe so. But if you head over to your general practitioner and explain all this he will likely shake his head and tell you that you are nuts. You see with allopathic medicine it has to be black or white, never grey. Enter in the naturopath who says you could be suffering from adrenal fatigue. While you do not have full-blown adrenal fatigue or a serious debilitating disease what you do have an issue that needs to be dealt with. If we do not start to listen to these subtle cues our bodies are giving us we are going to end up in serious trouble.
So fast forward from perimenopasuse to full-blown menopause. Your estrogen drops, I mean it’s likely been fluctuating for years already but the serious drop finally has kicked in, this means the DHEA is fluctuating as well. So now your cortisol rises, your inflammation rises, the histamine intolerance comes into play and voilà, adrenal fatigue. Call it whatever you want, the symptoms are still going to be the same and they are very real.
So what we need to do is get a healthy balance of Omega 3 back into our diet, I don’t worry about the Omega 6 as it’s in abundance already. Now we also need to get the B vitamins back in there as well. This cannot be stressed enough for women, especially those who are on a vegetarian or vegan diet. You also need to know about food combining, what vitamins are fat soluble and need fat and zinc in order to be properly absorbed (you can schedule a consult if you want to learn who to best absorb and utilize the nutrients in your food) and which ones need to be eaten separate from others as they can have the opposite effect.
Let me back up a second here. Homocysteine levels rise (that’s the body’s thermostat) when estrogen falls (hello hot flashes). This is typically when your GP will race over with a script for hormone replacement therapy (HT). My advice? Stay far away from those synthetic hormones or you are asking for a whole slew of health problems down the line. If you want to go the replacement route make sure you go to a trained physician who knows about bio identical hormones, that is a way better option.
But…what if all we have to do is bring the homocysteine levels back to normal range? We can do that with a diet rich in B vitamins. B9 lowers homocysteine levels which is what you want. Folic acid, B12, B6 etc, are all important players. Can you imagine? If you actually look at these symptoms of menopause and you take a look at the symptoms of high homocysteine they look pretty much identical. Google that! (No seriously, go google it, I’ll wait).
Now one more thing I want to mention, a wonderful woman who is the one behind a lot of these theories brought it to my attention in a blog article that DAO is essential as well, but what is that? It’s an enzyme that breaks down histamine, how wonderful! It just so happens to be produced in your intestines, can you hear me saying that a healthy gut is the most important thing? So what to do if you don’t have enough? Grab some organic, cold pressed high quality olive oil… yup that stuff has been said to help your body make some good old DAO.
Alright, back to me, while on this elimination diet I had put myself on I felt great, I made sure to get adequate vitamins and minerals and gradually added things back to my diet with no issues, thankfully cause I was lost without my avocados.
Wine I still do only occasionally, I switched to drinking sparkling water out of a wine glass, makes me feel like I am not missing out. Did I mention that following the recommendation of adding Omega 3 (mine comes from algae as I don’t trust the fish sources anymore) and B vitamins into your diet – through food not supplements, will not only get rid of the hot flashes in most cases (not all unfortunately) but it also gets rid of that need to frequently get up at night and pee, the insomnia and the dreaded itch. Oh and don’t forget the brain fog, I hear it works wonders with clearing that right up.
So here it is, eat a diet rich in nutrients, include lots of anti-inflammatory foods and get rid of the processed crap. Heal your gut and your hormones and see how happy you feel. Don’t forget about proper food combining and last but not least, love yourself.
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