Are your increased allergies connected to the menopause? And can gut health help?

An image of an older woman in a field|

This my second blog in a three-part series looking at some of the symptoms related to the peri-menopause and the menopause and their link to your gut health.

This month it's about allergies and your immunity, a vast subject but getting the basics under your belt will stand you in good stead. Many women notice their allergies are exacerbated as they progress through their 40s, with no explanation for why this is happening. I spent my life being a hay fever sufferer, to the point of being given extreme injections as a child, and still getting more allergic; grass pollen season was a misery. I'd tried every potion out there for hay fever, but no one ever said 'what about your gut health?'.

So, it's a wonderful irony that as now I approach being 50 and menopause symptoms kick in, I have no hay fever, it stopped a few years back; so read on for why!

Research now tells us that the body and allergies are linked in a couple of different ways that are affected during the peri-menopause and menopause. Firstly, there is a link between the menopause and an increase in allergies and asthma due to the hormone estrogen. There are estrogen receptors all over the body, including on immunoregulatory cells and it appears these may skew the body's response to allergies and inflammation.

This process is generally held in check by progesterone, but during the peri-menopause and menopause progesterone levels are low and so your asthma, allergies and even hay fever may get worse. Secondly, histamine intolerance can be made worse at the time of menopause which can lead to more symptoms including eczema and asthma.

ALLERGIES AND BUGS The link between why you may be sneezing through the spring, cutting out wheat in your diet and fighting colds and bugs through the winter boils down to the strength of your immune system. Hippocrates said (around 2500 years ago): 'All disease starts in the gut'. What a wise chap, and how did he have it all worked out back then? We can go further back in time to Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines, both nearer 5000 years old, and they had it worked out too.

Keep your gut in balance to keep your health in check. So what has made our gut go so out of balance in recent times?

THE MICROBIOME This is the environment in your gut where a vast diversity of bacteria resides and extracts the energy and nutrients from your food. Bacteria need to eat too, so if we feed our microbiome well it flourishes; if the bacteria are diverse and strong so is your brain health, immunity and overall digestive system. Our microbiome is formed as we grow up, so how we eat and live in our younger years sets up patterns for life. However this can change for better or worse as we get older. If you live on processed foods your bacteria will die off, if you live on vegetables and whole foods you will be feeding your bacteria and in turn strengthening your immunity.

A stronger immune system reduces your allergic reaction to foods and your environment, and wards off the bugs in the colder months. There are two parts to keeping a healthy gut: a probiotic and prebiotic. A probiotic like microbz repopulates the gut with a variety of healthy bacteria, this is especially needed after either taking antibiotics or having a gut infection.

To keep the gut flourishing a daily dose of prebiotics is required and this isn't anything fancy, it's about eating a vast variety of vegetables and fruits like berries. Don't think 5 a day, think 30 a week! In this way you're giving your gut the variety of vegetation it needs to work optimally and to give you a strong immune system.

I was lucky enough about 4 years ago to get a gut parasite. It was pretty awful, and I did have to have antibiotics, my first time in 20 or so years. Afterwards I realised my gut wasn't back to normal and I came across microbz which I've been taking ever since; and suddenly my horrendous lifelong hay fever was no more!

In helping women strengthen their immunity I have to help them regain a flourishing gut. A healthy microbiome is a major player in relieving all menopausal symptoms. If you would like to know more about how I can help you please visit my website.

But microbz is not only for menopausal women, it's also for younger or older women and also for men; if you have allergies or too many colds and viruses look to strengthening your gut health.

Andrea Marsh is a Shiatsu and Chinese Medicine Practitioner in Gloucestershire who specialises in helping women alleviate their menopause symptoms practically and successfully. Gut health is a topic covered in her new book Understanding Your Menopause - Tried and tested practical, natural solutions to alleviate your symptoms effectively. Available now from Cotswold Menopause.

Reading next

A woman standing with her arms up in a strong position
A group of middle aged women sitting together and having lunch