When it comes to stress is there a difference between men and women’s immune systems? Should we treat their immune systems the same? Even though the word stress has earned a bad reputation, it is important to recognize that a balanced amount of a physiological stress response is necessary to promote survival tactics during fight or flight situations. While long-term stress can be harmful, short-term stress can be protective as it prepares the body to deal with challenges.
How Is A Woman’s Immune System Different From A Man’s Immune System?
Our expert Dr. Joel Rosen points out the fact that while a robust immune response in both men and women protects the body from foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses, an over-activated immune response, causes inflammation, which can lead to many health challenges such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis, etc. He says, what we need to look at and what sets men and women apart in immune differences is the makeup of sex hormones.
For example, women have two X chromosomes versus men who have one X and one Y chromosome. He comments that it’s interesting to note that the most influential genetic factor that can determine the difference in the immune response between males and females is the X chromosome, and as we know from the study of genes that some of these genes are involved in the immune map. Another thing we know from the gnome map is that the X chromosome is present only in one copy in males so this means every X chromosome random recessive mutation will be expressed. However, this is not the same for females, because women have two X-Link copies present. So what does this mean for immunity in the genders?
He says both men and women generally react differently to such stressors like environmental factors such as microbial exposure, social norms, genetics, and diet to name a few. In his practice, Dr. Rosen consults with many women who tend to be more proactive with their health compared to the men. He says this may be due to the fact that women have monthly cycles and seek him out when they are having trouble with their cycles and want to make the necessary changes. Another consideration pertaining to stress in women is that during pregnancy a women’s immune system can change variably, as well as her hormones, in preparation for the baby.
Another difference between men and women when it comes to stress and immunity is the fact that women sometimes have a higher susceptibility to autoimmune disease than men. He says that autoimmunity is a big challenge for many women who visit his practice. Many times they’ve been struggling for years before they are able to figure out what is causing their mysterious symptoms.
How Does Mental Stress Effect The Immune System As We Age?
Of course, we know that as both sexes age there are significant differences in immune gene regulation. As we age, our cells are aging too, especially for those who are sedentary and not leading active lifestyles. Now, add a chronic disease burden to the body, and recovery takes longer to bounce back to health not only from the physical but many times mentally.
He goes on to say that as they age both men and women feel a difference mentally when stressed because their brains get flooded with stress hormones. The midbrain takes charge and the front of the brain which controls concentration, attention, and decision-making, can go into overdrive. The abundance of stress hormones in the brain can also contribute to short-term memory problems that are unrelated to dementia or age-related memory loss. He recommends good quality sleep to his patients to help flush stress hormones from the brain.
Sleep The Key To A Healthy Immune System
Many older adults have sleep problems that prevent them from having a good night’s sleep that’s so necessary for healthy bodies. This could be due to worry, feeling alone, or the medications they are taking. These reasons can add to the stress that may make it more difficult to fall back asleep. So the inability to clear these stress hormones from the brain during sleep means that the cognitive effects of stress can worsen over time and affect the immune system from working optimally especially during an illness.
Activity and Movement Important Keys To Maintaining Your Health
He really encourages both men and women to be as active now and just get moving every day with some form of exercise. This could be in the form of low impact aerobic activity, walking, rebounding trampoline and stretching. Make it a habit to get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet full of the colors of the rainbow fruits and vegetables. Step away from EMF’s as much as possible and get some vitamin D especially from the morning sun every day.
Health Studio Labs and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Health Studio Labs is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.