Do periods lower your immune system



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


26 March 2020

Our bodies are very clever.

Without need for intervention, they, generally speaking, keep everything ticking over. We don't have to tell our heart to keep pumping or our lungs to keep breathing. Likewise, our immune system functions pretty darn well without us having to intervene. Our body uses a whole host of methods to keep us well and defend us against invading pathogens. The external barrier of our skin, the hairs in our nose, antibodies, killer cells and inflammation – We have lots of defenders fighting our corner, which is a comforting thought. That said, helping our body with the incredible job of keeping us well is always a good idea.

For women to stay well, we need to understand the cyclical nature of our bodies. Research indicates that the immune system in menstruating women follows a cyclical pattern. Yes, your period affects your immunity.

In the middle of your cycle, during the early to late luteal phase, progesterone increases. This causes the uterine lining to hold on to fluid and produce mucus, making it easier for sperm to pass through the reproductive tract. It also makes the uterine lining nicely plump and receptive for any fertilised eggs. The rise in progesterone links with the down-regulation of the immune system. The inflammatory response dampens down now too. While this has a positive effect on chronic conditions, it is not ideal for your immune system, because inflammation is one of the ways our body deals with pathogens. (A pathogen is a microorganism that causes disease, like a virus or bacterium.)

Is that why I always get sick during my period?

Some women experience what people call a period cold or flu. This term describes flu-like symptoms occurring during menstruation. Why does this happen during menstruation when our immune system is strong and not beforehand when it is weak? Well, it could be a matter of timing: you are more likely to pick up a bug during the pre-menstrual phase. This would take time to incubate and symptoms may not appear for a few days. Meaning, you may begin to experience symptoms at the same time you begin to menstruate.

Atrogel, counters aches and pains and can be helpful during a period. Whatever the cause of feeling run down during your period, understanding what is happening at each stage of your cycle and taking care of yourself is going to help.

So here are some tips to help you do that:

1. Understand and track your cycle

  • You can download a period tracking diary here. Record each day how you are feeling.
  • Once you have done this for 3-4 cycles you will begin to see a pattern emerge.
  • This will give you lots of information about when your body needs an extra helping hand to stay well.

2. Know your helpers

  • Now you know when in your cycle that you need extra support, discover what remedies you can call on at the right time.
  • Supplementation with zinc, vitamin D and C could be helpful. A Vogel Immune Support tablets may be perfect for you at this time of the month.
  • Take 20 drops of Echinaforce 2-5 times per day if you feel you have picked up a cold or flu while vulnerable.

3. Remember we are cyclical

  • We are not robots of optimum performance. We have huge fluctuations in energy, enthusiasm and confidence during every 28 days. When we observe and allow these shifts and capabilities for certain tasks, we can begin to shape our life in a way that's in tandem with our cycle. Take rest when you feel tired. Schedule social events for when you feel energised. It sounds too simple to be effective but trust me it works. Ignoring our body's signals for rest and recuperation won't do our immune system any favours.
  • Female essence is a wonderful, remedy to support you in this.

4. Address your heavy periods


My Top Tip:


Nasty period symptoms such as bloating and menstrual cramps can be due to an imbalance of hormones. Take 15 to 20 drops of Agnus castus in a little water twice daily to help gently balance hormones which are out of kilter, provided you are not taking hormonal contraceptives.

"Top-notch quality, this stuff is a life saver!"

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5. Exercise

  • If in the lead up to your period you worry about the drop in your immune function, get moving.
  • The lymphatic system plays an important role in immunity. Think of lymph fluid like the bin man of your body. Unlike your actual bin man, it doesn't have a truck to drive around in. It needs a bit of help to propel itself round, which is where exercise comes in. Exercise induces deep breathing and muscle contraction. This is like a pump for the lymph fluid and gets the lymph moving around to collect your debris.
  • We have a quick 10 minute workout for you to try here. Or, if workouts aren't your thing, stick on some music and have a dance, walk the dog, bounce on a bouncing castle; even a few gentle twists at your desk will help.

6. Diet

  • Eating well is important all month long. It is especially important when your immune system dips in the middle of your cycle. It will also help in the case of PMS-induced period flu.
  • Have a look at Dr. Jen Tan's blog on immune boosting foods to find out more.

References:

https://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(18)30060-0
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1365-2265.2001.01432.x
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169534718300600
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.2217/WHE.13.32
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11935378
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4327930/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22155200
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11935378
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4efe/64016ba09235a0f0ff76efa8b666e85ea322.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3349212/

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As the A.Vogel  Women’s Health advisor, I recommend Agnus castus to help relieve premenstrual symptoms such as painful periods.

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