How does our menstrual cycle, pregnancy and postpartum affect eczema and skin flare ups?

Eczema is very tough. As well as being linked to changes in your hormones, you may have heard previously the link between eczema and gut health which I’d encourage you to explore. This article gives an overview: 

So back to our hormones and eczema. 

During the follicular phase of our cycle (which is from Day 1 of your period to ovulation) you have higher levels of antibodies and also rising oestrogen levels which together cause an increased inflammatory response in the body. The theory is that during this time your body wants to fight off all foreign invaders so that you can stay healthy enough to ovulate and then become pregnant.

Many people notice that their allergies, eczema and immune issues flair in the week leading up to and around ovulation. The reason for this is the close relationship between oestrogen and histamine. 

As well as pollen and pet hair, oestrogen triggers the release of histamines from mast cells. The more oestrogen we have the more histamine is produced. Unfortunately, there is a feedback loop and the more histamines you have, the more oestrogen is produced, and around it goes in a vicious cycle! People with imbalanced gut health are more likely to have more histamine release and a hyper-inflammatory response.  

This vicious cycle can cause histamine intolerance and it can present itself as eczema, headaches, fatigue, bloating, itching, insomnia, irritability and gut issues during middle of your cycle, around when you ovulate and your oestrogen is highest. Also it can be a reason for period pains.

So how does this fit with your 5 month post-partum eczema? I’m unsure if you had started your periods around then, but even if you haven’t, at different times post-partum your body is attempting to ovulate and so there’s oestrogen in your body which would cause the inflammatory response and cause your eczema flare.  

Eczema improving just before your period? After we ovulate our body produces progesterone which has anti-inflammatory properties and suppresses our immune system. The reason for this is to prevent immune cells from attacking a fertilised egg and stopping implantation

The no eczema during pregnancy? During pregnancy progesterone and relaxin both have an anti-inflammatory response. Similar to what I mentioned above, the down regulation of the immune system during pregnancy to prevent the body from attacking the fetus also would play a role.

Ways to help high oestrogen/high histamine situation include: an anti-inflammatory diet or low histamine diet, prioritising your sleep (appreciate this is always hard with kids!), supporting your gut and liver health and having daily habits which reduce your stress.

Copyright  2022 @ Tara Ghosh