The Subtle Yet Immense Connection Between Your Period and Your Immune System
While the immune and reproductive systems aren’t directly connected, the fluctuations of hormone levels throughout your cycle can have certain effects on your immune response. So, if you’ve ever felt run-down or exceptionally well in tandem with specific phases in your cycles, you’re spot on! Let’s dive into why.
Sex hormones—estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone—have been shown to have an effect on the immune system and its function. There is evidence that suggests premenopausal people’s bodies react differently to illnesses and infections over the course of their cycle partly due to these fluctuations.
Immune system responses and categories
Having an understanding of how your immune system functions allows you to appreciate and anticipate your healthy and less-healthy days. Your immune system can be roughly broken into three main categories.
- Innate immunity – The secretion of mucus and some types of immune cells.
- Acquired immunity – This is developed when we’re exposed to bacteria, viruses, and other substances and includes B and T lymphocytes, and antibodies we’ve developed in response to infection and vaccination.
- Inflammation – When exposed to foreign substances, like bacteria, or injury, the body’s immune system will stage an inflammatory response to protect tissue and increase the number of immune cells to the infection or wound site. Acute inflammation is helpful for this, chronic inflammation can lead to chronic diseases.
Inflammation and your cycle
We’re going to break down how hormone fluctuations affect you in each phase of your cycle, of which, there are four. Most of the time we think of our phase being in two cycles, follicular and luteal, but our bodies are so complex and there are actually four! Or perhaps breaking down your cycle into phases is new to you altogether.
The Four Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
Menstrual: Estrogen and progesterone are low here. Changes in these hormones can present a struggle for the immune system, particularly right before and during menstruation. Inflammation associated with cramps and bloating can make chronic autoimmune symptoms worse. (Days 1-5)
Follicular: Estrogen production is ramping up now, which could be responsible for a stronger immune response. Estrogen receptors are tied to T-cell function, which makes immune cells have a heightened response to outside infections but may also have that same response for the body’s own cells. People with high levels of estrogen are more prone to autoimmune disorders. It’s important to note here that technically speaking, the follicular and menstrual phases coincide for a bit, but if it helps you to think of them as completely separate, that’s okay too. (Days 1-14)
Ovulatory: The immune system takes a dip here to accommodate outside cells—sperm for a potential pregnancy. This could make you more susceptible to infection. Your energy might be higher with estrogen rising, but don’t back down on your immune-boosting habits. (Day 14)
Luteal: Progesterone is on the rise, which may cause the immune system’s power to fall. Progesterone can lower the ability to fight infections that affect reproductive, gastrointestinal, and respiratory tracts. The end of the luteal phase sees heightened cortisol levels which will likely make the immune system work harder to stay healthy. This is definitely a good time to make sure you’re supporting your hormones, gut, and overall immunity. (Days 15-28)
- Note: The day breakdown is based on a 28-day cycle, but yours could be slightly different. Tracking your cycle is the best way to understand which phase you are in.
How can I support my immune system throughout my cycle?
We created two supplements that can help support you during your cycle.
- The Daily Hormone Balance helps support healthy hormone levels and has vitamins and minerals that boost immunity.
- PMS & Period Support help with inflammation levels, mood swings, and cramps.
- If you need both in your life, grab the Cycle Self-Care Bundle, which includes both, and save!
Even though your reproductive system and immune system aren’t directly connected, there is evidence to support the effects they have on one another throughout the menstrual cycle. Supporting your body during every phase of your cycle is a great way to keep it happy and healthy all month long!