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How Menopause Affects Your Immune System

January 17th, 2019

Learn how aging affects immune function and how to protect yourself from disease

There are nearly 100 autoimmune diseases that can affect the immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and MS. As you age, the risk of developing one of these disease increases—especially if you are a post-menopausal woman.

Aging and the Immune System

While there are many factors that can affect how well your immune system fights off invaders, the backbone of immune function is the thymus. This small organ, which is located behind the breastbone, is responsible for producing progenitor cells that turn into T-cells. These T-cells will then orchestrate the immune response in the body when it is time to fight infections and kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, the thymus shrinks with age, meaning it produces fewer progenitor cells and your immune system has fewer T-cells to work with. This leaves you more susceptible to disease as well as subject to increased inflammation that can cause many chronic conditions.

Menopause Can Make it Worse

While everyone will experience some degree of reduced immune function due to age-related thymus shrinkage, women have it worse because of the hormonal changes that occur at menopause. Prior to menopause, women have plenty of estrogen, progesterone, and DHEA, which help support immune function. But as these hormones decline during and after menopause, women lose this protective boost.

Certain menopause symptoms can also weaken the immune system. For example, quality sleep is essential for a strong immune system, but menopause often comes with insomnia or other sleep disturbances that prevent women from getting enough sleep. Fatigue can prevent women from getting enough exercise or eating enough healthy food to keep their immune systems strong. Low sex drive and vaginal dryness can keep women from having sex during menopause, which robs them of the immune boost sexual activity brings. Plus, dealing with menopause symptoms like hair loss, mood changes, weight gain, memory loss, and hot flashes can be stressful, and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been proven to weaken immune response.

How to Support Immune Function After Menopause

If you want to reduce your risk of developing an autoimmune disease, you need to take multiple steps to strengthen your immune system. Part of this is simply staying healthy. Eating a healthy, non-inflammatory diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and avoiding stress are all important. You should also address your hormonal balance. Not only will hormone therapy restore the estrogen, progesterone, and DHEA you need for healthy immune function; it will also relieve any menopause symptoms that are affecting your ability to make lifestyle choices that support immune health. To learn more about menopause treatment from Renew Youth, contact us today.

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