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How estrogen helps protect women from the flu (at least a bit!)

Women, like men need flu protection and should still get vaccinated!

Our goal is to keep you healthy, at work, at play, with your family, and flu prevention is definitely part of the plan! Some people just seem to have better immune systems and 'never get the flu'. Others have to hand wash like crazy around flu season, and they get it. Others are protected by the flu vaccine, and then others get the flu in spite of the vaccine! So much to learn about the flu and prevention of this potentially serious infection.

Although estrogen levels are very high in pregnancy other factors take over and pregnant women are more susceptible to serious influenza disease.

Flu prevention in babies begins with prevention in moms, so the CDC recommends that all pregnant women get flu shots.

And now there is another twist to the flu story. The female sex hormone estrogen has anti-viral effects against the flu causing influenza A virus, commonly known as just THE FLU. According to a study in American Journal of Physiology—Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology reports.

Female nasal passages protect more than male nasal passages against acquiring viral infection!

Physiologically, whether you get the flu or not doesn't just mean you were exposed, you need to be infected by the flu virus, the virus has to multiply in your cells, and then it escapes the cell of replication and then spreads through the body. How many virus copies or "viral load" amount will determine how sick you become, with more viral particles meaning a worse case." Sabra Klein, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University gathered nasal cells—the cell type that the flu virus primarily infects—from male and female donors and then studied hormone exposure and the ability to multiply. The researchers found reduced flu virus replication in nasal cells from women but not men, making them conclude estrogen levels may be the determining factor in why women are overall less susceptible to flu. This makes sense to gynos as in ancient times it would figure that our physiology needed to be hardier to protect the babies we carried! According to Klein, “Other studies have shown that estrogens have antiviral properties against HIV, Ebola and hepatitis viruses.

Higher natural estrogen, estradiol, protects just a bit against the flu as well.

Menopausal estrogen use also is slightly protective against the flu, and perhaps this could extend to other types of hormone use. The researchers are asking if this 'protection' works for all levels of estrogen through the menstrual cycle or whether. premenopausal women on certain kinds of birth control or post-menopausal women on hormone replacement may be better protected during seasonal influenza epidemics,” she says. “We see clinical potential in the finding that therapeutic estrogens that are used for treating infertility and menopause may also protect against the flu.” Could be another non-contraceptive benefit from birth control pills!

There are many things you can do to protect yourself and bolster your immune system, so call for an appointment! 217-356-3736


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