The sex differences that impact the strength of your immune system

There are sex differences that put you at an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to your risk of different diseases, including cancer and autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis


31 January 2023

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - AUGUST 19: Commuters are seen wearing face masks and face shields inside a bus on August 19, 2020 in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte relaxed quarantine measures in the Philippine capital in a bid to boost the country's tanking economy despite having the most coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia. The Philippines' health ministry has so far confirmed 173,774 cases of the coronavirus, a third of which were recorded in the last two weeks. (Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

Being male is a significant risk factor for severe covid-19

Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

THE concept of “man flu” – the idea that men make too big a deal out of a cold – is an old joke. But when covid-19 arrived, we had to take a serious look at sex differences in how people respond to infections. Being male was a risk factor for experiencing more severe symptoms of the coronavirus: in England during 2020, men were about 60 per cent more likely to die from covid-19 than women. Men are also nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with tuberculosis and slightly more likely to die from flu. So does your sex put you at an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to immunity?

There may be several reasons for immune sex differences. For one thing, we have discovered in recent years that oestrogen, the main female sex hormone, broadly stimulates immune system activity. The main male equivalent, testosterone, weakens it. But there are other forces at work too.

Sex is governed by DNA, which comes packaged up into 23 pairs of chromosomes. Most women have two X chromosomes, while most men have one X and one Y. To make sure that cells in female bodies don’t have duplicate X chromosome genes in operation, one X is mostly disabled in every cell.

This article is part of a special series on immunity, in which we explore:

Source link It is widely known that there are biological sex differences between men and women, however, what is not widely discussed is the ways that these sex differences can impact the strength of your immune system. It is important to know the differences and how they can influence your body.

Women are more prone to certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. This is due to their higher levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can cause their immune systems to be more sensitive. Additionally, women tend to have an increased response to vaccination. This could be due to the fact that their immune systems have greater exposure to foreign substances due to things like childbirth and hormonal changes.

Men, on the other hand, are more prone to infections due to their increased levels of testosterone, which can reduce immunity. In addition, men often have poor immune responses to certain vaccinations and tend to have more severe symptoms when infected by certain viruses.

One of the biggest sex differences to consider when discussing immune strengths is the effects of stress. Women tend to be more susceptible to stressors than men, which can lead to a weakening of the immune system and an increase in vulnerability to illnesses and diseases.

It is also important to note that diet plays a big role in both men and women’s immune systems. Eating a well balanced diet that is high in vitamins and minerals can help to keep our immune systems strong, as well as supplementing with probiotics.

In conclusion, it is important to be aware of the different ways in which men and women’s immune systems can be impacted by biological sex difference in order to take steps to ensure optimal health. Taking steps such as maintaining a healthy diet, reducing stress levels and receiving all necessary vaccinations, can help to stay healthy and protect against illness.

Reference List

Heinz, E., Schaffer, P., & Kohler, S. (2017). Sex-Dependent Differences in Immune Responses. Frontiers in Immunology, 8(612). doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00612

Aldabergerova, N., Karpuzova, N., & Purim, M. (2019). Sex Differences in Immune Regulatory Mechanisms. Frontiers in Immunology, 10(1249). doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.01249

Potter, C. (2020). Differences between male and female immune systems. Medical News Today. Retrieved from

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