Asthma and the female hormones

Asthma and the female hormones

Research on the effect of female hormones on asthma has thus far been quite contradictory and confusing. However, one fact that has emerged is that women with asthma need to balance their hormones in order to help control their asthma. Here’s why…

Although research conducted on the effect of female hormones on asthma has thus far been quite contradictory and confusing, a few facts have been established and generally agreed upon. One such fact is the observation that oestrogen has the ability to keep the airways open and more relaxed during an asthma attack but that it also has pro-inflammatory characteristics that may at some point, when in excess, cancel out its previous benefits.

A second is the fact that asthma is more common in men before puberty and after puberty for women. The latter indicates some connection between female hormones and asthma. In fact, women with menstrual cycle-related asthma have reported a definite worsening of their symptoms before menstruation and even midway through their cycle. This is the period when the ovaries are supposed to produce the sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.

Unfortunately, ovarian dysfunction has become epidemic among modern, young women often resulting in fluctuating hormone levels. This underproduction of one or the other of the sex hormones usually has a detrimental effect on a woman’s body and asthma status as seen when, for example, progesterone levels are low and oestrogen levels in excess or when oestrogen levels drop to an all-time low just before a woman’s period starts.

The above-mentioned points to a significant link between fluctuating hormone levels during periods such as the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause and the importance of balancing those wayward hormones, especially in women with asthma.

Balancing act
One way in which to balance hormone levels and hopefully help control and reduce the severity of asthma attacks is the use of hormonal contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy.

Unfortunately, as with all other medications, both these methods have benefits and risks attached to their use and have been surrounded by controversy because of their link to breast and uterine cancer.

However, therapy that helps balance hormone levels and therefore may also help avoid triggering inflammation in the lungs, may also be a more practical solution for those struggling with asthma symptoms before menstruation, during pregnancy and after menopause. Medical experts advise women with asthma to discuss the issue with their doctors who will carefully weigh the risks against the widely-accepted benefits of hormonal contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy before prescribing treatment options.

Good news
Although asthma is a serious health issue, it is totally treatable and can be managed successfully, even if your hormones are not in zinc. Try to prevent flare-ups by actively avoiding the common triggers of your asthma such as pollen, mould, dust, animal dander and air pollution and by taking your asthma medication, especially your maintenance medication, as prescribed. Next, work in close association with your doctor to control fluctuating hormone levels during your menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause, keep your weight in check and strengthen your body and lungs with mild exercise. Don’t let asthma and your hormones manage you, show them who is boss!

Estrogen may reduce airway constriction in women patients with asthma. 2010. Retrieved from:
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Hartfield, H. 2009. The impact of female hormones on asthma. Retrieved from:
Hepburn, MJ et al. The effects of estrogen replacement therapy on airway function in postmenopausal, asthmatic women. Retrieved from:
Lee, JR. 2001. Asthma and hormones in women. Retrieved from: