Prolactin is a hormone that is most known for stimulating lactation (breast milk production), but it’s also involved in functions including ovulation, reproduction, immunity, and blood cell formation
Hyperprolactinemia is a condition where there is an abnormally high amount of prolactin the body
People with hyperprolactinemia may experience irregular or absent menstrual periods, abnormal breast milk discharge, infertility, and sexual side effects
What is hyperprolactinemia?
Hyperprolactinemia (hyper - prolactin - emia) is a condition where there is more prolactin in the body than is normal. Prolactin is a hormone which is mostly produced in the pituitary gland—a small hormone-secreting gland at the base of the brain (1,2). Prolactin plays a role in many of the body’s functions including ovulation, reproduction, immunity, and blood cell formation, but is primarily known for its role in stimulating lactation (breast milk production) (1,2).
Unmanaged hyperprolactinemia can impact fertility and bone density, leading to osteoporosis (1,2). It can also cause neurological symptoms in some cases (1,3). Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce risks and complications connected with this condition.
Symptoms: What you might notice if you have hyperprolactinemia
Hyperprolactinemia tends to most noticeably affect reproductive organs and function. This occurs because prolactin suppresses luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) (2). [For a refresher on LH, FSH, and ovulation, check out this post].
neurological symptoms, such as headaches or problems with their vision (rare)(1-3).
Postmenopausal people and people of all genders can also have hyperprolactinemia, though their symptoms may differ (1).
Causes: Why hyperprolactinemia happens
Hyperprolactinemia can be caused by other medical conditions that produce hormonal imbalances in the body, growths on the pituitary gland, and some medications (1,3). About 2 in 5 cases of hyperprolactinemia don’t have a known cause (1).
Hormonal interference with or damage to the pituitary gland can cause hyperprolactinemia (2) (1,3). The pituitary gland and hypothalamus (your brain’s hormone command center) work together to regulate many hormones in the body, including prolactin. Some people develop a small tumor in their pituitary gland called a prolactinoma, which can cause more prolactin to be released. These tumors are rare. About 3 to 5 people out of every 10,000 people have a prolactinoma (4-8).
Damage to the pituitary gland can be caused by tumors or cysts, physical trauma, or other syndromes or illnesses, such as Cushing’s disease (1,3).
Hormonal and metabolic conditions
Damage to other parts of the body can also affect prolactin production. In particular, illnesses of or damage to the kidneys, liver, and thyroid can cause hyperprolactinemia (1,3).
Hyperprolactinemia is also associated with other reproductive disorders, such as amenorrhea and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (1). Almost 1 in 6 people with PCOS have hyperprolactinemia (1,9,10).
A person’s behavior can cause hyperprolactinemia. Stress, lack of sleep, and intense exercise can interfere with the normal function of your hormones, leading to the disorder (1,3,11).
Medications can cause hyperprolactinemia. These include:
Psychotropic drugs, such as dopamine-blocking psychotropic/antipsychotic drugs
Narcotics, such as opioids
Drugs taken to treat ulcers or high levels of stomach acid
Estrogen-containing medications, though this is only slight and rarely needs treatment (1-3).
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
A high level of prolactin in the body is normal during and after pregnancy, and while breastfeeding (1-3).
How is hyperprolactinemia diagnosed?
Hyperprolactinemia is typically diagnosed through blood tests (1,3). If a person tests positive for hyperprolactinemia but has no clinical symptoms, it’s possible the test is picking up macroprolactins, or prolactins molecules that are larger than normal (3,11). This form of prolactin affects your body differently, so management and treatment may differ or not be necessary, depending on the situation.
Medication: For hyperprolactinemia caused by medication, a healthcare provider may recommend trying a new medication, or adding another medication to balance out some of the effects of the first medication (3). In these cases, it’s important to discuss concerns and preferences regarding side effects and management of other health issues.
For hyperprolactinemia caused by a benign tumor on the pituitary gland (prolactinoma), a healthcare provider may recommend medications that affect dopamine function (dopamine agonists). They may also suggest hormone therapy, either in the form of hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (1,3).
Surgery: In cases where medication or hormones can’t treat the tumor, a healthcare provider may recommend surgery (1,3). When treating this cause of hyperprolactinemia, it is important for the healthcare provider to know about a person’s pregnancy status and pregnancy intentions, as some medications used to treat the tumors may affect the pregnancy or the developing fetus (1,3).
Nothing gets in the way more than a rumbling stomach, especially if you have food allergies. You can be fine one minute, and the next minute the stomach pains and gurgling are too much to bear. Sometimes you realize it was something you ate, while other times you are left perplexed trying to figure out what is going on.
Regardless, for those with a sensitive stomach from food allergies, these can be familiar feelings, and even knowing the cause probably won't help you feel better faster. When you are faced with a stomach ache, it can leave you running for a bathroom, keep you curled up on the couch, or debilitated in bed. For many, it can impact daily living, and lead to missed work or school.
While most people suffer from an occasional upset stomach, those who have food allergies know that cross contamination with their food allergen or accidental consumption of the food allergen itself can lead to an upset stomach, among other negative (and in some cases dangerous) reactions.
It is important to note that if your symptoms get progressively worse, or include any difficulty breathing, that you seek medical attention right away.
If your symptoms are mainly confined to an upset stomach, though, read on for some tips to help ease that stomach distress.
Stomach and digestive system distress can be painful and uncomfortable, and often it is just the passage of time that helps to ease the pain. With food allergies, the allergen may need to leave your system for your symptoms to resolve. However, there are still many remedies that often can help to alleviate some, if not all, of the discomfort:
Chamomile Tea: Chamomile can help ease stomach pain by working as an anti-inflammatory and by relaxing the smooth muscle. As the muscle in the upper digestive tract relaxes, the contractions that move food through it ease up, relieving the pain of cramping and spasms.
Heating Pad: Either a heating pad or a hot pack should be placed on your abdomen to help reduce pain. The heat will help to loosen and relax muscles and relieve some discomfort. Soaking in a warm bath may also help, since the heat may have the same effect as a heating pad.
Mint: Mint leaves have been shown to have many health benefits including helping to relax muscles in the stomach, soothing inflamed or irritated stomachs. Digestion is improved as the mint helps bile to flow more efficiently, allowing food to be digested more quickly and let the stomach muscles relax. A cup of peppermint tea or even a mint sucking candy can both help ease the pain.
Ginger Root: Ginger contains chemicals that have been found to relax smooth muscle, especially those in the intestinal tract. Consuming ginger will move food more quickly and more easily, helping to relieve stomach cramps. Ginger has also been found to relieve nausea as well. Ginger tea, ginger root or even ginger ale are all acceptable sources of ginger.
Seltzer and Lime: Lime has been found to help in soothing an aching stomach. Lime’s scent actually causes your mouth to water, increasing the production of saliva. With more saliva, your stomach increases its production of digestive juices, aiding your digestion. The acidity of the lime also continues to stimulate the digestive system, bile, and acids. All of this help to soothe the stomach as food moves more quickly and easily through it. It is best to slice your lime and add it to a glass of seltzer. While the lime soothes the stomach, the carbonation can play an additional role in causing you to burp, which can relieve stomach pressure at the same time.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has been found to have an antibiotic nature, and helps to soothe the stomach and aid in digestion. It can be added to warm water and served with a teaspoon of honey.
A Word from Verywell
While these tips might help you to feel better in the short run, you also should focus on avoiding repeats of the problem.
If you have food allergies, it's critical to understand the importance of food safety and how to read labels. In addition, you must always be sure to ask about food ingredients and preparation when dining out.
If you have questions about what foods are safe, or how to protect yourself from allergens when socializing, talk to your allergist. Working closely with your allergist and perhaps a dietitian can help you to reduce the incidences of allergic reactions.