How Hormones Affect Your Immune System
Your immune system has amazing abilities.
It protects your body from viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. It even remembers the invaders it has defeated in the past…so it can stop them faster the next time they attack.
But did you know that a strong immune system depends on properly balanced hormones?
Let’s consider for a moment what your immune system does to defend your body from pathogens.
How Your Immune System Works
Your immune system is made up of two parts: your innate immune system and your adaptive immune system.
Innate immunity is your body’s first line of defense against pathogens. It includes:
- Physical barriers to infection like your skin and your mucous membranes.
- Special cells that can identify bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.
- Cells that are equipped to destroy invading pathogens.
- Cells that can remember what invading pathogens looked like.
Adaptive immunity, on the other hand, builds on what your innate immunity does. When your immune system recognizes a pathogen it has encountered before, it can quickly identify and attack the invading cells.
Symptoms like swelling and fever are typically identified with being sick. The reality is that these are signs that your immune system is doing its job.
In some instances, the immune system can overreact and damage healthy tissue. This can occur when:
- The immune system misidentifies healthy tissue as being tissue that is infected. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
- An infection is chronic. Examples include diabetes, heart disease, and degenerative neurological diseases.
- A cytokine storm occurs. This is when your immune system over-produces proteins called cytokines, which can cause excessive inflammation.
How Hormones Regulate Your Immune System
Your hormones control virtually every system in your body, including your immune system.
How hormones control your immune system depends on the hormone:
- Growth Hormone
- Thyroid Hormone
Estrogen enhances the abilities of immune system cells in both your innate immune system and your adaptive immune system.
This may explain why pre-menopausal women statistically don’t suffer from as many infections as men. It may also be the reason why auto-immune diseases like lupus are more common in pre-menopausal women.
Progesterone regulates inflammation, which is one of the ways your immune system combats pathogens.
Progesterone initiates the inflammatory response by stimulating the production of cytokines. Conversely, once the pathogen has been destroyed, progesterone turns off the production of cytokines.
Thymosin is produced by the thymus, a gland found directly behind your sternum. It stimulates the development of disease-fighting immune system cells called T-cells. T-cells are incredible because they fight invading pathogens without damaging healthy cells.
Once a person reaches puberty, the thymus gland begins to shrink and eventually turns into fatty tissue. As this happens, the thymus loses its ability to produce T-cells.
Growth hormone stimulates the production of critical immune system cells including antibodies, T-cells, red and white blood cells, and interleukin 2 cells. It also enhances the bacteria-fighting activity of microphages.
The thyroid hormone known as T3 is thought to stimulate the activity of many immune system cells, including neutrophils, “natural killer” cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells.
One of cortisol’s functions is to limit inflammation in response to stress. However, long-term stress results in excess cortisol production, which can have the opposite effect.
Too much cortisol can also cause a reduction in the virus-fighting white blood cells known as lymphocytes.
At Renew Youth, we understand that a healthy immune system depends on properly balanced hormones. With age, declining hormones can compromise your body’s ability to fight off bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.
Renew Youth can help to keep your hormones and immune system functioning at their best. If you’d like to learn more, call us at 800-859-7511 or use our convenient contact form to arrange your free 30-minute consultation.