Estrogen, Asthma and Black Cohosh

Some of this is not exactly news; it’s been known for a long time that there is a direct link between hormone replacement therapy and asthma. This is supported by the number, ages and gender of those most likely to develop it. As children, boys prior to puberty have the highest rates. After puberty, girls and women of child bearing years are more likely. After menopause, the risks level off…unless HRT is used.

Front page health news today introduces us to a French study that suggests it is not all hormones, but primarily estrogen that causes the increased risk. It’s not a little risk, either. Women taking estrogen are fifty-four percent more likely to develop asthma than those who have never used any HRT.

Aside from the risk factor, there is a good reason these studies are being done on post menopausal women. Fluctuations of these hormones has ceased, so the basis for the study is neutral.

What does this have to do with black cohosh? That herb is one of the main supplements suggested to women to ease the problems menopause causes. No one likes hot flashes, mood swings and the other symptoms this process causes. Black cohosh contains a phyto-estrogen, which could be as dangerous as prescription medications in causing asthma.

Black cohosh is not the only one. Soy isoflavones do as well. That’s why there are warnings about not giving them to boys and teens who are still developing, and why pregnant women are told not to use them. The estrogen levels are too high.

If you wish to take these supplements anyway, I have two recommendations. One is that you make sure your doctor knows, so you can be monitored. Asthma is a potentially life threatening condition. The doctor can help you with the second recommendation; that you have what you need available should an asthma attack begin. Asthma doesn’t always have warning signs.

Here are a few symptoms to look for; shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing sounds when breathing and blueness on the lips and fingernails. If these symptoms develop, get medical help immediately. Your life could be at risk.