Hormones and Autoimmune Diseases: Are They Connected?

Is there a link between an imbalance of hormones and autoimmune diseases? Our hormone therapy provider, Judy, takes a look at what the studies show us and why women may be most affected. We already know that hormone therapy for women is highly beneficial in fighting other symptoms of age and illness. So it makes sense that there could be a correlation between our hormone levels and autoimmune health. Let’s dive in and learn more.

By: Judy Couch, FNP-C

hormones and autoimmune diseases

Are Women More Prone to Autoimmune Diseases?

According to data from the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, about 50 million Americans have an autoimmune illness, of this number about 75 % are women. Men and women are both affected but overwhelmingly females are affected most often. There are about 100 different autoimmune diseases.  Common autoimmune diseases are Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system starts to attack and damage your own organs, glands, and tissue.  Normally the immune system protects the body.  Autoimmune disease can be related to the environment, genetics, gut health, stress, and hormone imbalance.  

 The fact that most people who suffer from autoimmune diseases are women indicates the strong connection between hormones as a contributing cause or a result of many autoimmune diseases.  The slightest imbalance of hormones can cause inflammation, cell dysfunction, and tissue damage. When the glands that produce hormones in the body are affected by the autoimmune disease many symptoms can appear. This can further contribute to the autoimmune condition.

Which Hormones Could Affect Your Autoimmune Disease? 

Each hormone out of balance can contribute to autoimmune diseases.  Estrogen’s role is often debated and certainly being researched.  Estrogen has a strong interplay with immune factors that can enhance the inflammatory response in the body.  Studies have shown that during the reproductive years when estrogen levels are higher, females tend to have a more vigorous immune response.  Interestingly, during menopause when the Estrogen levels are at their lowest, many autoimmune diseases decrease in women.

It is not just the hormone Estrogen that impacts autoimmune diseases.  The hormones Cortisol, Progesterone, thyroid hormone, Testosterone, insulin, and vitamin D all could contribute because they all work to maintain balance in the body when one or all of the hormone levels are very low or too elevated it contributes to higher inflammation, and disrupted stress response in the body which can lead to autoimmune disease. Studies are ongoing with each of the hormones to help increase our understanding of each hormone and its impact on autoimmune diseases.

Can Hormone Therapy Help?

While the debate and research continue into the cause of the many autoimmune illnesses, there is no debate about the impact of a healthy diet, exercise, getting enough sleep avoiding stress, and using alcohol in moderation as potential ways to keep the immune system healthy.  The impact of balanced hormones should never be overlooked.

It can be easy to brush off or ignore the symptoms of hormone imbalance, but it might be worth exploring your hormone levels.  At Your Wellness Center we specialize in hormone replacement, and helping our patients achieve a healthy lifestyle. To have your levels checked or to sit down with one of our providers, fill out our initial consultation form and we’ll be in touch!

You can always head over to our hormone therapy pages for both men and women to learn more. There’s no such thing as “too late” when it comes to our health. If you’re struggling with an autoimmune disease or other symptoms you feel may be hormone-related, we can help!

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