Hormones Do Affect the Immune System

Hormones Do Affect the Immune System

Balanced Hormones = Active Immune System

In the battle for immune power, it is easy to overlook how hormone balance affects the immune system. In this brief overview, we will share general information to help you be aware of the correlation between balanced hormones and a healthy immune response.

We promise to try to give you the “highs and lows” of hormone balance, without being too technical – so you can stay awake.

Though, it is commonly known that the thyroid and adrenal glands are necessary for energy, did you know that the body relies on the thyroid and adrenal glands to stimulate various immune-activating functions? In addition, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone imbalances can suppress the immune response.

When the body’s hormones are either too high, or too low, the immune system can be adversely impacted, so it is imperative to keep hormone levels properly balanced.

Adrenal – The adrenal glands have a significant influence on immunity.  They produce hormones that are vital to several metabolic functions, including DHEA, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and epinephrine.

Specifically, the adrenal gland’s production of cortisol is essential to maintain immunity. However, the overproduction of cortisol weakens the immune system by suppressing neutrophil function. (Neutrophil’s – white blood cells critical for immune response.)

Thyroid – A strong immune system needs an active production of Natural Killer Cells (NK or NKCs – part of the immune system’s first line of defense) to fight off foreign intruders. Researchers found that NK cells were more active among individuals with optimal levels of thyroid hormones.

Low thyroid levels can hamper the body’s response to viruses, and also cause a sluggish response to inflammation.

Estrogen – Extremely high or low estrogen levels affect immunity. Excessive production of estrogen can suppress the thyroid, as well as reduce the activity levels of NK cells and interleukin 2.  Interleukin 2 is produced by T-cells (a type of white blood cell) to stimulate the immune system.

Furthermore, high levels of estrogen decrease the size of the thymus gland, which depresses immune activity by causing a reduction in thymus hormone levels in the blood.

In contrast, postmenopausal women that are estrogen-deprived also have weakened immunity. Low estrogen levels decrease NK cell, B lymphocyte, and T helper cell activity (all essential for proper immune response), while increasing the body’s inflammatory response.

Progesterone – Low levels of progesterone have been linked to some autoimmune diseases.  Correct progesterone balance affects proper T-cell and NK cell activity.
It has also been observed that progesterone aids immune system development in the fetus, during pregnancy.

Testosterone – When testosterone levels are low, T-cell production multiplies. T-cells fight against infections, but overproduction can lead to autoimmune diseases.

In contrast, testosterone levels that become too high significantly increase corticosterone levels, which suppress immune activity. Testosterone also regulates production of monocytes and lymphocytes – white blood cells that are essential to immunity.

At this point, you may feel that some of the terms in this article have twisted your tongue into a knot.  Yet, hopefully you have a better idea of how important hormone balance is for strong immune systems.

If you are concerned about your hormone levels being balanced, see your healthcare provider for their professional advice concerning your individual needs.  Hormone balance is something you don’t want to try to fix on your own.  And, it is definitely not a “one-size-fits-all” area of health.

A comment on food and hormone activity – much information is available regarding how foods and nutrients can assist (or undermine) hormone balance and glandular function.

As an example, if you are concerned about your thyroid activity, you may want to investigate the foods that increase, or decrease, thyroid function.  You will find a wealth of beneficial education in publications and on the internet.

Our last note is to encourage a review of bio-identical hormones. If your healthcare provider finds that you need prescribed hormones, ask about bio-identical hormones.  If they are not aware of the benefits, please investigate on your own.  It is worth your time to have an understanding of the definite advantages of bio-identical hormones over synthetic.

[reprinted from Applied Health Journal No.118]

[Applied Health Publications are registered in the United States Library of Congress, ISSN: 1525-6359]
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