I’m allergic to my own hormones

“Are you in pain today?” the nurse asks looking up from the computer screen.

“A four,” I say, anticipating her request to “rate the pain on a scale of 1-10”.

She reads the next question, “Do you feel safe at home?

“Well, I live alone with my poodles, so yes… except when one of them farts and I think I’m going to die of asphyxiation.” I laugh at my own joke. The nurse does not. Had she heard that one before?

The nurse continues, “When was the last day of your first period?”

“2013,” I grin. This time I’m not joking.

“Are you on some kind of treatment?” the nurse asks.

I consider telling her I have a five-year-old fetus growing inside of me, but I’m too tired to explain what humor is. The truth is hard enough to believe anyway. “Yes. I’m allergic to my periods.”

She takes my blood pressure and then flees the room.


Five years ago, I didn’t believe anyone could be allergic to their own hormones. How can you be allergic to yourself? Doesn’t an allergic reaction entail hives and sneezing? I did, however, understand that hormone fluctuations could ruin a woman’s life. With the help of the internet, I realized I was experiencing premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

PMDD was my most severe mast cell activation symptom from age 15 (when I got my first period) to age 27 (when I started taking continuous hormone pills). In fact, aside from my reactions to hormones, I felt healthy. Like MCAS, at that time, PMDD was relatively unheard of and provoked a lot of skepticism. No lab test can diagnose PMDD. Women with PMDD have the same levels of hormones as women without PMDD.

I wish I had a heartwarmingly funny way of describing PMDD to you, but the truth is it is living hell. Imagine a panic attack that lasts several days every month. Imagine being overwhelmed by impending doom, even though nothing has happened. Thoughts of hopelessness and paranoia cloud your mind, as your body becomes heavy and exhausted from crying. Your mind suggests death as a better option, while you try to pretend you’re okay for your job and your relationships.

For twelve years, I sought relief from this torture. I tried antidepressants, therapy, and supplements. Finally, a compassionate midwife worked with me to find a hormone pill that my body tolerated continuously. I learned no hormone fluctuations equaled no PMDD. The curse was over.

When I met my mast cell specialist several years later, he asked me to list my medical history. I told him that I was on continuous hormones for PMDD.

“Premenstrual dysphoric disorder,” I explained. He nodded, knowingly. His familiarity was curious, so I added, “I attempted suicide a couple times.”

He nodded again, completely unfazed. Had he heard me correctly?

Soon after, I learned that hormones can trigger mast cell reactions and many women with mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) use medication to suppress hormone fluctuations. I learned doom is a hallmark sign of a severe allergic reaction. These days, when I’m anxious, I increase my antihistamines and it often helps.

I wish I had known about MCAS sooner and gotten tested. Not only would it have probably decreased the severity of my PMDD episodes, which can take an incredible toll on your mental health, but it also probably would have prevented damage to my body caused by chronic inflammation.

10/22/21 Update: I recommend checking out the research on histamine, mast cells, and mental health, for example: Histamine could be a key plater in depression. It’s no surprise the neuroinflammation caused by mast cell reactions would affect our mental health.


As a final note, I’d like to share my biggest pet peeve of all time: women calling all birth control pills “the pill.”

When women tell me “the pill” made their PMDD worse, I want to ask, “Which fucking pill?”

For me, some birth control pills absolutely made my PMDD worse, while others, if taken continuously, can suppress PMDD completely.

The following tips helped me find the right hormone medication to suppress PMDD and minimize hormone-driven MCAS reaction:

  • Monophasic, not multiphasic
  • Avoid ultra-low dose
  • Continuous use (no inactive pills), not regular use
  • Take it at the exact same time every day
  • Be patient as your body adjusts to the new medication
  • Try another one if the first doesn’t work

The number one rule of MCAS is every patient is different.

As always, talk to your doctor about any concerns or questions you may have. Working with a MCAS specialist may be especially helpful.

22 thoughts on “I’m allergic to my own hormones

  1. This is so interesting! I have mast cell and extremely bad cycles; both my periods and I get ovarian cysts. I never thought the two could be connected! I am on Depo Provera for period prevention and so far it’s working very well.

      1. Is this something your MCAS doctor recommended or do you’d have an OB/GYN who is MCAS knowledgeable? I have to have the hormone connection conversation with someone soon and want to suggest continuous birth control with no off days. My allergist diagnosed my MCAS. My pcp doesn’t even really know what it is. I’ve never discussed it with my OB. The week before my period and days of are horrid. Crying. Doom. Want to quit everything. Pain like labor contractions. Bad news bears. I react to anything with dyes. Especially yellow.

  2. Hi I am curious to learn more about your advice on BC. I take lo Loestrin. It’s three weeks of yellow pills and then a week of brown. I’m sorry, I’m not sure what that means ? Is that Mutlipahsic or monophasic? And is this kind a really low dose?
    I’ve been thinking of changing it or going off of it because I have been on it for years and wonder if it’s actually making my PMDD worse or at the very least not improving it. I also am worried about it affecting my nutrition overall. Thanks so much for your time

    1. I take LoLoestrin FE. Twenty-four full-dose, two lower dose, two inactive. Cut my reactivity in half and stopped my periods completely after about five months (the first five months were very light and fairly asymptomatic, though). The initial adjustment to them landed me in the hospital but I opted to hang on and continue since this was looking to be a one-shot deal for me. Turned out to be well-worth it in my case.

      I do have to be very careful to avoid triggers during the low dose and inactive pills, though. Some months I coast right through, others not so much.

      Personally, Loestrin FE made me miserable for the six months I attempted it several years ago. Made my already excruciating cramps worse by dragging them out over more days. This was in the days before I had full-blown MCAS. Things were already in motion (seven years of hives, horrible periods, vague GI problems, new allergies) but MCAS hadn’t been coined yet and at the time I wouldn’t have met the criteria for either that or Systemic Mastocytosis, anyway.

      YMMV, of course. Just thought I’d throw it out there that there can be similar formulations that are more successful than others (or even show drastically different results) in a particular patient.

      Now, if my insurance carrier would just cover them…

  3. Only testosterone could save my from the PMDD. Hats off to anyone who tries to manage that shit without becoming a man!

  4. Only testosterone could save me from the PMDD. Hats off to anyone who is still dealing with that shit…after 17 years of ruining my life every single month, no matter how hard I tried to be sane the rest of the month, I just gave up and became a man.

  5. Your mcas doctor sounds just like my mcas doctor. We also have the ” but that is normal” / ” not normal ” conversation. I too wish I had known what this was decades ago.

  6. I have said for years to any health professional that will listen…I think I am allergic to my hormones!! I stumbled across PMDD last year bingo and then this week it has led me to MCAS which would explain my allergy symptoms! Don’t know what caused it, been happening for years. It’s crap, utter crap! So now I am going to ask about MCAS! Liver function test always out, thyroid issues, gallbladder out, parotid gland out, tonsils out all possibly connected in some way!! Thanks for the info😊

    1. I’ve had my tonsils and gallbladder out…. definitely got my attention with the gallbladder because who the hell has that taken out under 60 lol

  7. i am on a b.c. for it. I am guessing the dr prescribed a wrong kind. Alyse it is called i think. I heard yaz is good. It makes my cycle a lot shorter and i am thankful i am only living ith the symptoms for a lot less time i think but my symptoms are still here ! On another note to help you out, i am reading simply taking clairitin is supposed to do wonders so i just bought it and took it an hour ago and so far i feel a bit better but i really cant tell at this point.. especially since today i purposely am manipulating my cycle to come with the b.c. to stop all these horid symptoms i am going through all over again.

    seems it will be a lot better option then birth control for me anyway if this works out.

  8. I had TIA on low dose pill so i cant take anything. Suspect could be allergic to hormones not sure. Getting worse. Nausea, bloating, intense heat for hours in evening, dizzy, exhaustion. Been diagnosed pots but as always around cycle just wonder.

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