Have you noticed that ever since menopause you’ve been feeling sick more often? No matter the amount of hand sanitizer or the number of times you’ve washed your hands, you’re still getting colds, infections, or other ailments? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Many women report increased health concerns after menopause, and it’s all because of a weakened immune system caused by hormonal changes. In a 2013 review published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the decrease in estrogen and progesterone showed to reduce immune functioning. Due to the reduced functioning of the immune system, it’s not able to ward off germs that enter the body, leading to more viral illnesses. Understanding how the immune system works will shed light on why this happens to menopausal women.
How the Immune System WorksWhen viruses, bacteria, and fungi enter the body, the immune system uses cells, proteins and chemical reactions to ward them off. When a germ is destroyed, the system remembers it and doesn’t allow it to enter the body again. In addition, the immune system filters blood to trap bacteria to keep the body healthy.
How Menopause Affects the Immune SystemOne of the ways the immune system fights off germs is with special cells called T-cells. These cells are responsible for destroying harmful bacteria and cancer cells. Unfortunately, the number of these cells decreases during menopause. Inflammation increases during menopause, which affects the body’s immune response. This increases susceptibility to:
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Celiac Disease
How Diet and Lifestyle Compound Immune System FunctioningIn addition to the changes in the body because of menopause, other factors compound the decrease in immune system functioning.
- Eating Habits
- Poor Gut Health