Estrogen and Immunity [I Am Woman Series]

Estrogen, Immunity

We have always known that our body’s immunity is an important key to keeping us healthy, however, in recent times of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has brought this topic of wellness to the forefront of conversations and has become more important than ever. 

Something that is not as commonly known is how our body’s estrogen levels affect our immune systems and ultimately immunity against colds, flus and other diseases.

In this I Am Woman: A Celebration of Womanhood post we take a deep dive into the role estrogen plays on our immune system, as we continue to highlight the amazing aspects of the female body.

What is Estrogen

Estrogen is a sex hormone that occurs naturally in people assigned female at birth, controlling the development and regulation of the female reproductive system. The effects of estrogen on our body typically start to be noticed during puberty with the widening of the pelvis and hips, and the development of breasts. Estrogen also greatly affects our body’s timeline for our menstrual cycle, fertility and menopause. 

Non-reproductive functions of our body are also influenced by our body’s estrogen levels such as cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, bone and muscle mass, brain function and the effectiveness of our immune system.

How Estrogen Affects Our Immune Systems

In addition to playing an important role in multiple systems in our body such as controlling our menstrual cycles, regulating our moods and impacting our brain’s development and structure, estrogen also impacts how our immune system performs.

Estrogen influences our immunity by stimulating the production of immune-boosting cytokines which can protect us against certain autoimmune diseases, and curb the expression Caspase-12, an enzyme that hinders the body’s defense system against bacteria and viruses. 

This means that having either high or low levels of estrogen can impact our immune systems differently.

Low Estrogen & Our Immune System

Estrogen helps protect our immune system, so having low levels of estrogen can negatively affect our immune system’s response in several ways. 

Low levels of estrogen leave us more susceptible to colds and cases of the flu, and leave us more vulnerable to developing autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. 

This is because women tend to have larger inflammatory responses than men when their immune systems are triggered, which can increase the likelihood of developing an autoimmune disease. 

High Estrogen & Our Immune System

When our estrogen levels are high, our bodies produce an increased amount of cytokines, reducing our inflammatory responses and helping our immune system flourish. However, in contrast, levels of estrogen that are too high can lead to issues such as menstrual cycle changes, hot flashes, trouble sleeping, vaginal thinning and dryness, low sex drive, mood swings and weight gain.

Many women with autoimmune diseases experience an alleviation or cessation of symptoms while they are pregnant, due to high estrogen levels, and see a return of or increase in symptoms after giving birth, as the hormone levels return to normal.

Additionally, estrogen also greatly aids our body’s in pregnancy by stimulating the uterus and placenta to create new blood vessels and transfer nutrients to the growing baby.

Hormone Replacement Therapy: Elevating Estrogen Levels

Many individuals with low estrogen levels or autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, turn to hormone replacement therapy as a treatment option for increasing their estrogen levels.

If you think your estrogen levels may be off, a good place to start is by having a conversation with an OBGyn you can trust, such as Copperstate. Hormone imbalances can produce different symptoms in everyone, from fatigue to irregular menstrual cycles. In many cases, this imbalance is often easily treated. At Copperstate we offer menopause and hormone replacement therapies to help you restore your estrogen levels.

I Am Woman: A Celebration of Womanhood

In March 1992, Dr. Karen Addis and her husband Dr. Walt Patton opened Copperstate OB/GYN, a premier women’s healthcare facility focused on providing exceptional care and guidance to women of all ages. This year we are celebrating 30 years of female empowerment with I Am Woman: A Celebration of Womanhood. In addition to our monthly blog posts, we’ll be hosting Facebook Live sessions and giveaways each month in our Facebook group, Tucson Women: Healthy Living, that will celebrate womanhood and test followers’ knowledge! 

Are you looking for an OB/Gyn you can trust in the Tucson area? Let us support you in achieving true health and wellness. Call (520) 721-8605 to book your appointment today.