Can hormones affect autoimmune disease?
There is a strong connection between the state of our Hormones and Autoimmune Disease. When we think of hormones, we generally think of female reproductive issues which may explain why women are 10 times more likely than men to develop an autoimmune disease.
So just what are hormones? They are chemical messengers, made in our endocrine glands and carried in our blood. They control things like metabolism (thyroid), stress (cortisol), hunger (leptin, insulin), reproduction (oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and sleep (melatonin) to name a few.
Testosterone (and DHEA) is usually low in men with autoimmune conditions, whereas oestrogen is usually high (oestrogen dominance) in women with autoimmune conditions. Oestrogen is known to stimulate the immune system during the childbearing years; thus, women have a more robust immune system than men. As women approach their menopause years, oestrogen levels begin to decline.
Of course, hormones are not the only cause of autoimmune conditions. Leaky gut is a major driver because larger, poorly digested particles are allowed to pass between cells in the gut lining, instead of being absorbed through them. These are seen as invading pathogens by the immune system, which becomes overactive in an attempt to keep us safe.
So what can be done? Diet and nutrition can greatly influence the production of hormones and just as importantly, the clearance of excess oestrogen metabolites from the body. Liver health is critical in this process. Additionally, some excellent herbs and supplements can modulate specific hormones such as the thyroid, stress and sex hormones.
Other considerations include testing for pathogens, particularly latent viruses such as Epstein Barr virus. Repairing leaky gut and normalising gut function is also key to addressing autoimmune conditions.
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