Women’s Health: 80% of autoimmune cases are women
Written by Clinical Nutritionist and Holistic Lifestyle Coach, Suzan Terzian @yourhealthguidesuzan
The XX and The XY
As women, we have unique experiences such as pregnancy, menopause, and everything in between that our male counterparts don’t get to experience. These hormonal differences may be the leading contributing factors to these health conditions being more prevalent in women.
We know that how we experience the world is unique to us
To our hormones
Our life experiences
Women’s two X chromosomes may be one of the reasons that women are statistically healthier than men and are less prone to infectious diseases and live longer!
Women have the double X chromosomes and men have a single X and a single Y.
Having the double X protects us against X linked heredity disease however having the two X chromosomes puts us at a higher risk for autoimmune diseases.
Type 1 diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Lupus, Crohns disease, psoriasis, thyroid conditions (Graves and Hashimotos disease) and over 80 more are all autoimmune conditions and they are on the rise
When you experience a virus, a healthy immune system fights it and then calms down. In the case of autoimmunity, that immune response is misguided, causing a person’s immune cells to attack healthy cells in the body.
Research suggests that women tend to experience more autoimmune conditions than men due to females naturally having a more exaggerated immune response.
From a functional medicine perspective, there are multiple factors that can contribute to a autoimmune conditions
1. Hormonal fluctuations: Women’s hormonal fluctuations don’t end at puberty. The levels of hormones swing considerably throughout life starting at puberty then pregnancy, and menopause. These hormonal fluctuations can impact the immune system. Estrogen activates the immune system increasing the likelihood of autoimmunity.
2. Genetic predisposition: Autoimmune conditions tend to run in families, and women are more likely to inherit certain genetic predispositions for autoimmune diseases.
3. Chronic inflammation: Inflammation is the driving force for autoimmunity. Chronic inflammation is known to play a role in all disease states. This chronic inflammation can be a direct result of the autoimmune condition or it can be due to external factors such as lifestyle factors.
4. Environmental factors: Environmental toxins, such as heavy metals and chemicals, may have a stronger impact on women due to differences in metabolism and body composition. These toxins can increase inflammation and damage the immune system.
5. Lifestyle & Stress: Women tend to experience stress in a more intense way than men. Higher stress can lead to poor quality sleep which in turn leads to poor health. Chronic stress can also lead to an overactive immune response, triggering autoimmunity.
6. Gut health & the microbiome: Gut health plays a critical role in the immune system. Women are more likely to experience gut imbalances such as dysbiosis, leaky gut, and intestinal permeability, all of which can increase the risk of autoimmune conditions.
We can take control:
A hallmark of autoimmunity is inflammation and that would be my first line of defense. To calm the bodies inflammatory response through nutrition and lifestyle medicine interventions.
We need to address micronutrient deficiencies because as we all know, we’re overfed and undernourished.
- Elimination diets help calm the system and identify triggers
- Gut healing and gut repair protocols as well as supplementation to heal and support the lining of the gut
- Cleaning up the persons environment and identifying environmental triggers – such as perfumes, cleaning agents, plastics etc.
- Calming the bodies nervous system through vagal nerve activation (humming and gargling) as well as breathwork and meditation.