Why do I feel sick before my period?

Q: Do women’s immune systems weaken at certain times of the menstrual cycle? I’ve always noticed that if I get sick, it almost always happens right before I get my period.

Experts say that while there isn’t enough data to prove you’re more likely to feel sick before or during your period, there are some suggestions that it’s entirely possible. Emerging research shows that the immune system can fluctuate during this time, sometimes exacerbating underlying chronic disease symptoms or creating new symptoms that some women may mistake. signs of a new illness.

For example, just before their period, some women report symptoms commonly associated with the flu, such as body aches, malaise, and even fever. The so-called period flu It’s not caused by an actual pathogen, says Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, a gynecologist at NYU Langone Health. But it may be the result of a person’s immune response to the natural inflammation that occurs when the uterus contracts and sheds cells. “It’s your body’s way of recognizing inflammation,” she says.

Dr. Shirazian says that hormones can also be to blame for these symptoms. Luteinizing hormone, or LH, rises just before ovulation and then plummets with the onset of menstruation, she says. As LH levels change, people may experience fatigue, bloating, headaches, and nausea. “Some women go through this with really severe symptoms every cycle, every month,” says Dr. Shirazian.

In a year 2018 review In partnership with cycle-tracking app Clue, the researchers also note that in women with certain underlying medical conditions — such as inflammatory bowel disease, epilepsy and autoimmune disorders — symptoms are associated with It sometimes gets worse during ovulation, improves about a week later, and gets worse during menstruation.

Sabra Klein, a microbiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said this could be the result of seeing hormones and changes to the immune system over time.

Another study found that between 19 and 40% of women with asthma reported more frequent and flare-ups of asthma just before or during their period. Asthma menstrual cycleAs the name suggests, is associated with an increase in asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations, including intubation.

Some small learn have also shown that women with multiple sclerosis report worsening symptoms just before or during their periods. And lupus patient reported more pain and fatigue around their menstrual cycles.

“The evolutionary function of the menstrual cycle is to create opportunities for women to get pregnant,” says Dr. Kimberly Keefe Smith, a reproductive endocrinologist and gynecologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. When fertilization occurs, certain parts of the immune system are suppressed so that the body does not reject the fetus.

During the menstrual cycle, the ovaries secrete estrogen and progesterone, which affect different branches of the immune system in different ways depending on the part of the body. In particular, progesterone can be an immunosuppressant when present in high levels in the body, as during pregnancy, says Dr. Keefe Smith. But estrogen and progesterone alone cannot account for a weakened immune system, she adds; For example, patients who received extra doses of hormones during certain courses of medical treatment or while using birth control were not more likely to get sick.

Without solid data, scientists can’t provide clear guidance on how women should think about the likelihood of getting sick based on their cycles.

“This has been well researched,” says Dr. Klein. “I can’t really tell you if you’re more likely to catch a cold or get an infection, because more detailed studies haven’t been done.”

While more research is still needed to better understand how your menstrual cycle affects your chances of getting the disease, she adds that if you regularly find yourself getting sick at a certain point in your cycle, don’t ignore it. You can take steps to stay healthy before your period: Make sure you’re eating right, getting enough sleep, and washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. “Every woman knows her body best,” says Dr. Klein.

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