Lesson 4: The Hormone Immune Connection

the hormone immune connection

While the mechanisms are not 100% clear...

There is clear evidence for the role of female sex hormones in the immune disturbances that result in autoimmune disease. We know women go through at least two significant endocrine shifts during their lifetime, puberty, and menopause. Though there are other shifts that occur, such as pregnancy and breastfeeding. In women, these hormonal shifts exert significant effects on the immune system and can influence the susceptibility of autoimmunity.

genetic susceptibility

Most women go through hormonal transitions without any problems at all. But a small percentage of women emerge with a heightened risk of developing autoimmune diseases.  This is likely due to genetic susceptibility and environmental influences. In women, there are interactions between endocrine hormones such as estrogens and androgens and immune responses. In spite of this, autoimmunity is rarely discussed as a women's health issue.

Final Thoughts

  • Research suggests hormonal fluctuation, immune polarization, and transition states together drive susceptible women over the autoimmune "tipping point."
  • What’s unknown is if autoimmunity can be prevented in women.
  • Though I think we would all agree that living a healthy lifestyle and minimizing exposure to immune triggers makes good common sense for us as women.