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Asthma is a chronic and inflammatory condition of the air passage, which is characterized by symptoms like wheezing, cough, shortness of breath and tightness around the chest, which is invariably worse at night.

Asthma is a condition which is caused due to allergic reaction to a host of stimuli, including: pollen, pollutants, chemicals, etc. These stimuli tend to increase the serum IgE levels, which cause edema, smooth muscle hypertrophy, epithelial damage, mucus plugging and plasma exudation, which result in the air passage obstruction. The levels of hormones play a crucial role in the management of Asthma.

Hormones and Asthma: Role of Female Sex Hormones

It is observed, that the time of asthma attacks are related to the ‘circadian rhythm’ (i.e. the 24 hour cycle, with variations in the production of various hormones). It is observed that the levels of cortisol are lowest at night and highest early in the morning. This is one of the reasons, why most of the asthma attacks occur between midnight and early morning. As the levels of cortisol drop, the levels of IgE tend to increase considerably, which in turn results in the attack of asthma.

Prednisolone is given orally to patients with severe form of asthma. Prednisolone is a corticosteroid which has been proven to be highly beneficial in the management of asthmatic patient. Further, the levels of histamine are highly elevated in patients with asthma attack, due to hypersensitivity to various allergens.

In addition to the beneficial effects of corticosteroids, testosterone, progesterone and estrogen have also been known to considerably improve lung function, as per reports published in the Journal of American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

It was observed that these sex hormones play a vital role in strengthening the respiratory muscles, aiding in relaxation of the smooth muscle of the bronchi and reducing the contractile response to allergens. Further, the sex hormones have strong anti inflammatory properties, which help in reducing the severity of the condition.

The study also indicated that during menstrual and premenstrual phases, when the levels of these hormones are low, female asthmatic patients were observed to suffer from frequent and more severe attacks of asthma, which increased incidence of hospitalizations. Further, the levels of estrogen and progesterone, tend to increase throughout pregnancy, which is why, asthmatic females are relieved of most of their symptoms of asthma during the 3rd trimester, when the levels of estrogen and progesterone are the highest.

Hormonal Contraceptives and Incidence of Asthma:

The apparent relationship between sex hormones (namely, estrogen and progesterone) with the incidence and severity of asthma attacks in female has been known. In a study published in the European Respiratory Journal in 1999, an effort was made to understand the relationship between the use of hormonal contraceptives and asthma. The study was conducted on 891 females between the ages of 20 to 30 years in the United Kingdom. The study found no evidence between the users of different hormonal contraceptives or between users and non users of hormonal contraceptive, clearly implying that hormonal contraceptive don’t have any affect on asthma in females.

Management of Asthma

Management of asthma primarily involves avoiding the allergen, diet modifications and following an exercise regimen to harmonize hormonal production.

• Identifying the offending allergen and steadily avoiding it is very important in warding off an asthma attack. Stay away from pollen, animal dander, hair and fur.

• Protecting oneself from excessive atmospheric and weather changes is essential.

• The diet should be devoid of fried food, sugary foods and processed foods which have several asthma-triggering elements.

• Also, incorporating - turmeric, honey, garlic, onion and lime in the daily diet will show brilliant results.