How the immune system changes in menopause

After the age of 50, there is often a feeling that you can get sick more often, but is this really the case?

This article was written in collaboration with our staff of doctors and specialists

In addition to determining the definitive cessation of menstruation and therefore menopause, the change in hormone levels affects the entire body. In particular, the absolutely physiological lack of estrogen in menopause can have repercussions on other organs and areas of your body.

In recent years , science has been investigating the relationship between hormones, particularly sex hormones, and the immune system . It is scientifically proven, in fact, that “an important role in the regulation of the immune system is certainly entrusted to estrogen, the main female sex hormones, which, for example, are able to stimulate the response against viruses more than what happens in ‘male organism ”(source Veronesi Foundation).

Could this therefore translate into the risk of becoming ill more in menopause ? If this occurs to you that you are more likely to catch fevers and colds, no, that’s not the observation you need to make. Read this article: We tell you what really can happen to the immune system in menopause (and what it can entail).

How the immune system changes in menopause

Estrogen plays an important role in regulating the body’s defenses . This, however, should not lead you to deduce that in postmenopausal women the progressive decrease in the levels of these hormones can compromise the immune system with a consequent increased risk of getting sick.

All this, in fact, is not scientifically proven .

However, two factors must be kept in mind, this time demonstrated:

  • Over time, the immune system physiologically undergoes a loss of effectiveness of its activity. It happens a bit like the metabolism : as we age, it slows down its reactions
  • The woman’s immune system is genetically “hyperactive” due to the ancestral need to strengthen the immune mechanisms in order to protect herself from infections following childbirth. This would explain the greater tendency of women (compared to men) to suffer from autoimmune diseases , that is, those deriving from their own immune system which, instead of playing a defense role, recognizes as foreign elements of its own organism and “attacks” them
  • In menopause, rather than getting sick more or more often, there is the risk of suffering the consequences of a flu – even a trivial one – for longer . This is because the body takes longer to restore balance and strength. This is why we should be more careful not to get sick and to preserve the health of the body.

How to strengthen the immune system in menopause

When you feel grounded most of the time you blame stress , which is actually an enemy of our immune system because it weakens the body’s defenses. Stress can be more impactful in menopause , meaning you may be affected more. Perimenopause is not that far away and you are probably still in the irritability phase : many things bother you more than ever and cause you nervousness and impatience. This is why stress can actually be more impactful than at other times in life.

The body and the psyche undergo changes that for some women can be particularly tiring on both fronts. Do not forget, however, that menopause is not a disease but a completely physiological and natural passage. So it must be understood and metabolized, first of all accepting the changes that it entails and that will generate a new, wonderful phase of your life.

You can support and facilitate these changes with a healthy lifestyle , the effects of which have a 360-degree impact on the body, including the immune system.

Here are some guidelines to strengthen the immune system :

    • Follow a balanced diet
      but above all appropriate for your age : now you need lighter meals, to increase the portions of fruit and vegetables to maintain good intestinal regularity and for a substantial intake of vitamins and minerals. Your new phase of life must be this also at the table: limit foods rich in fats and sugars; your body needs simplicity. Preventing certain inflammations ( such as colitis, for example ) means enjoying more daily well-being.

 

    • Practice physical activity in the open air
      even if light (as long as it is constant), it helps to keep the physiological tendency to weight gain under control and improves mood, but it also helps to strengthen the immune system because it stimulates the production of immunoglobulins . So doing sports, especially outdoors, can help you not only have a better mood but also protect you from the most common seasonal influences . Of course try to choose a place where pollution is minimized such as a park, a pedestrian path or the coast of your city if you are lucky enough to live by the sea.

 

    • Spend as much time as possible in natural light
      and try to take advantage of every break from work or your day to expose your legs, arms, face and neck to the sun or at least natural light. Our lives are increasingly indoors and this does not help stimulate the production of vitamin D, which is essential for bone health and your mood. Sun exposure also helps you regulate your sleep-wake rhythm , another very important factor in maintaining generally good health.

 

    • Stop smoking and the habit of alcohol
      among all the thousand reasons why it is good, at any age, to stop smoking there is also the weakening of the immune defenses as a result of the increase in inflammatory states caused by nicotine. Similarly, alcohol consumption should be reduced: never between meals, every now and then a good glass of wine is allowed during a dinner or lunch. Alcohol is high in calories, complex to metabolize, and can seriously affect liver health.

 

    • Try to get enough sleep
      if due to hormonal changes related to menopause (upcoming or full-blown) you suffer from sleep disturbances , you know how much the lack of adequate night rest weakens your body, with the result of making you fall into a vicious circle. to chronic fatigue , stress and consequent difficulty to rest well. Try to catch up on good sleep through a relaxing routine before bed. Avoid the screens and monitors of your TV, tablet or cell phone and opt for a good book. If you really can’t read, download an audiobook and listen to it with headphones: it will surely give you a good rest.

Menopause and infections: vaginal infections can be more frequent

The hormonal changes that characterize menopause can weaken the vaginal environment and change its condition. This has nothing to do with the immune system itself, but it could certainly lead you to more frequent need to consult your doctor ( or rather the gynecologist ) to help you solve small problems.

During the fertile life the vaginal environment is in fact protected from endogenous bacteria and a naturally acidic pH (between 3.5 and 4.5) which make the genital apparatus “inhospitable” for external pathogens. In menopause, however, the pH increases physiologically (up to 7) and tends to become neutral: a condition that exposes you to a greater risk of vaginal infections .

When these disorders occur, it is always necessary to consult the gynecologist to investigate their nature and identify personalized treatments. Often, in these cases, the shortest way seems to be that of word of mouth between friends but, remember, do-it-yourself can be very harmful to health . The most frequent vaginal infections are:

  • the cystitis : is an inflammation of the urinary tract, as common as frequent in menopause (more than in the fertile life) It manifests itself with difficulty, burning and pain in urination, but also with losses. It is often caused by the bacteria of Escherichia Coli , present in the intestinal flora and in the faeces which, due to the alteration of the vaginal pH that we have just illustrated, are able to go up to the bladder without finding the natural “obstacle” of an acidic vaginal environment.
    To find out more, you can click here to read the article dedicated to the topic .

 

  • the Candida : is a form of vaginitis caused by a fungus ( Candida albicans ) already present in the vagina (but also in the intestines and in the mouth). It is more frequent in childbearing age but can also occur in menopause, when it can often have a  relapsing form. The characterizing symptom is the appearance of  whitish and cheesy losses, with a lumpy consistency. It also manifests itself with burning, itching, irritation of the private parts and pain during sexual intercourse.
    Read here the article that illustrates its symptoms, causes, consequences and prevention strategies.

 

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