Immune System Basics
Before we dive into the connection between perimenopause and immunity, let’s briefly refresh our knowledge about the immune system. Our immune system acts as a defense mechanism, protecting our bodies against harmful pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. It consists of a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to identify and eliminate foreign invaders.
Hormones and Immunity
Now, I want to explore how hormones, particularly oestrogen, influence our immune system. Oestrogen receptors are present in various immune cells, suggesting that oestrogen plays a vital role in immune regulation. Oestrogen helps enhance immune responses by promoting the production of antibodies, stimulating immune cell activity, and modulating inflammation.
As you know, during perimenopause, our hormone levels start to fluctuate. Oestrogen levels begin to decline, leading to changes in our immune system. These hormonal shifts can result in an altered immune response and may affect our susceptibility to infections and autoimmune conditions.
This is What Happens Next…
Increased Susceptibility to Infections
The decline in oestrogen levels can weaken our immune defenses, making us more vulnerable to infections. Research suggests that women in perimenopause may experience more frequent respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and vaginal infections (oh yay!). This increased susceptibility to infections may be attributed to the reduced levels of oestrogen, which impacts the immune cells’ ability to fight off pathogens effectively.
Impact on Autoimmune Conditions
Autoimmune conditions, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues, are more prevalent in women than men. Perimenopause can influence the development and progression of autoimmune disorders. The decline in oestrogen levels may trigger or exacerbate autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. Oestrogen has anti-inflammatory properties, and its decrease during perimenopause can lead to an imbalance in immune responses, potentially contributing to autoimmune flares.
Changes in Allergic Reactions
Perimenopause can also bring about changes in allergic reactions, like I mentioned in the last few blogs. Some women may experience an increase in allergy symptoms during this phase. Oestrogen helps regulate immune responses involved in allergies, and its decline can disrupt this balance. As a result, women may find themselves dealing with new or intensified allergic symptoms, such as hay fever, asthma, or skin rashes (like me with eczema).
Supporting Your Immune System During Perimenopause
While perimenopause may present some challenges for our immune system, there are steps we can take to support our overall health and well-being:
1. Balanced Diet: Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support immune function.
2. Move Your Body: Regular physical activity that you enjoy will increase your endorphins, help to maintain a healthy weight, boost circulation, and enhance immune responses. Aim for a combination of cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
3. Stress Management: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system. Introduce some stress-reducing techniques that will fit easily into your day (yes, this is something that should be done daily to get the best result) such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or doing things that bring you joy to help manage stress levels.
4. Quality Sleep: Prioritise getting enough sleep and establish a consistent sleep routine. Aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night, as sleep plays a vital role in supporting immune function.
5. Immune Supporting Supplements: There are some incredible herbs that help to support a healthy immune system and Energy Glow NR is ideal as it also will support a healthy stress response PLUS contains vital nutrients to help with recovery from illness. Use code BLOG30 for $30 off as a gift for reading this far!
Susie Garden | Clinical Nutritionist & Naturopath
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