Immune System – This is how to build up your defenses so you can fight off health threats, what your gut has to do with it, and the latest news on autoimmune disorders. You probably don’t think much about your immune system until you’re willing it to banish a nasty bug.
But your immune system does a great job attacking bad-news microbes every single day. That is, as long as you’re supplying the support it needs, says Neil Schachter, MD, a pulmonary disease specialist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. There are a host of ways to boost your immunity—from eating apples (they really do keep the doctor away!) to having sex on the reg. Here’s a primer to help you stay healthy till spring and beyond.
1. Women are more likely to have autoimmune diseases
Of the more than 23.5 million Americans living with autoimmune diseases (such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis), over three-fourths are women. “Why?” is the billion-dollar question: “We think, based on animal research, that sex hormones like estrogen are responsible,” says Abby Abelson, MD, a rheumatologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
“Your body’s immune cells actually have sex hormone receptors that estrogen binds to,” she explains, “and that may trigger inflammation that causes the immune system to go into overdrive.” Women may also have more of a type of B cell that makes autoantibodies that attack the body’s own tissue, per research from National Jewish Health in Denver.
There is good news, though: For some of these diseases, symptoms can be milder in women than in men, says Dr. Abelson.