Autoimmune disease occurs when your immune system attacks your own body. It affects approximately 7.5 percent of Americans. Approximately three quarters of patients with autoimmune disease are women.

Researchers have known for a long time that hormones play a big role, but have recently found that genes are involved too. Regarding hormones, women are at higher risk of developing an autoimmune disease following childbirth. Some autoimmune diseases fluctuate in intensity throughout the month, depending on the phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle. They tend to be worse in the week leading up to a period. Some autoimmune diseases go into remission during pregnancy, while others intensify markedly.

Women with autoimmune disease commonly experience an aggravation or flare in the second half of their menstrual cycle if they are not producing adequate progesterone. This is because progesterone has wonderful anti-inflammatory effects. This can be ameliorated well with the use of a natural bio-identical progesterone cream. You can also support progesterone production by ensuring your diet contains sufficient vitamins and minerals and healthy fats (since progesterone is mostly made of fat). However, if you have an autoimmune disease and are low in progesterone, you should experience faster improvements in your wellbeing with a bio-identical progesterone cream.

Regarding genes, a recent study published in the journal Nature Immunology showed specific gene expression differences between males and females that are associated with an increased risk of autoimmune disease. The researchers from the University of Michigan identified 661 genes that are expressed differently between the genders. Many of these genes are involved in immune function and inflammation, and are seen in autoimmune disease.

According to senior researcher Johann Gudjonsson, "This previously unknown inflammatory pathway promotes autoimmunity in women". While it is possible to balance your hormones, it’s not possible to change your genes. Fortunately there are still so many ways to treat autoimmune disease and reduce inflammation in the body. It is critical to heal leaky gut, eliminate gluten and other foods that inflame the gut. Correcting nutrient deficiencies and improving liver health are also vital for everyone with autoimmune disease. For more information see our book Healing Autoimmune Disease.

Reference: Liang Y, Tsoi L, Xing X, et al. A gene network regulated by the transcription factor VGLL3 as a promoter of sex-biased autoimmune diseases. Nature Immunology. 2016