Why women get more autoimmune diseases

It is a widely reported fact that women are far more likely to fall prey to almost every type of autoimmune disease, but the reasons for this are not clearly understood. This article examines the evidence regarding the incidence rates of autoimmune disease among different age, gender, and socio-economic groups, and the possible causes explaining the differences.


15 Replies

adoctor, the evolutionary imperatives for men to heal quickly and women to be around for a long time to rear children made some sense to me. Of course, when life expectancy was shorter the development and impact of autoimmune disease was less obvious. The dumbing down is tragic, as is the way protocols can impede clinical care.

Thanks for an interesting post and link, Clutter. I don't know quite why, but the article left me rather disappointed. As the doctor's post shows, the issue of the women/men ratios is obviously a much more complex one than the article would suggest and I don't think the author gets to grips with it. Also, if one was brought up in a dishwasher-free, wild-roaming - ie not sanitised - environment, as I was and probably most of the 60+ age group (male or female), it's odd that this does not confer a good immune system for life and, if it doesn't, why not have a dishwasher...if you get my drift?! What I am saying is: I get the air travel story, but that implies that male and female immune systems are never safe, unless we live for life in a mud hut in Africa. Interestingly, Dr Skinner did not seem to believe in the word 'auto-immune' when I used it. I never got the chance to ask him why....

As well as hypothyroidism, I have another quite distressing auto-immune illness (lichen sclerosus) which does not seem to figure in the list in the article (though I appreciate it was not meant to be exhaustive). This probably appeared - but went unnoticed - about the time I was diagnosed with 'fibromyalgia', but before seeing Dr Skinner and starting thyroid meds. It would be interesting to know if any other forum members who have more than one auto-immune illness have also found that they probably started around the same time, indicating the trigger might be a virus, which knocked an otherwise good immune system for six, which I believe is the case for me.

Stiltski - not sure about when the AID's started. Crohns diagnosed at 27 at the time of the Ileao-Caecal TB and Hashimotos in 2005 at 59 ! Have a feeling it could well have been the same time - just kept blaming the fatigue on the TB treatment I had endured at 27..... Have a feeling that BCG jab in my early teens was a trigger for many things.....

Good point re AIDs, which I think started in the late 70s/early 80s. That belies the articles's premise that living in a mud hut (metaphorically or in reality) gives you good immunity. I have also wondered about the BCG jab. I got glandular fever not long after having it. When I went on a course for people with CFS/fibromyalgia ..all about CBT and relaxation exercises...I asked and all ten of us had had glandular fever in our teens. When I get really tired, I find that my neck glands still swell up.

Marz you have really made a link for me! I have been wondering why did I start feeling ill suddenly all those years ago - it was the year I had my BCG jab.

Marz, the myth doing the rounds when we had BCG and whatever the pre-BCG skin test was, was that it would 'out' those of us who were illicit smokers and our parents would be informed. Pity it didn't, really.

...not heard that one. But then I was down in Somerset in the 50's and out of the loop :-)

Stiltzski, the dishwasher analogy was trite but the point being made was that we need exposure to some 'dirt/germs' to develop immunity. I remember back in the day people 'blaming' bagged bread, instead of previously unwrapped bread, being 'too clean' and causing asthma etc.

I totally agree, which is why I let my children play in dirt if they wanted to, but one still developed asthma, as I did I around the same time, in my thirties, when we were living on a busy road. Perhaps we should be looking more at pollution as a cause of auto-immune diseases? The incidence of MS in Calgary - an oil town - is incredibly high (my cousin and her daughter live there and both have it). Not much pollution in the depths of Africa!

...too much washing weakens you ! Have no idea who said this - however when you understand the synthesis of the suns rays on the skin to make VitD - it can make sense when it is washed away with daily showers :-)

Do hope your cousin and her daughter have good levels of VitD and B12 - when low both are implicated in MS I have read....

Thanks for your post, Marz. I think they both take VitD and B12 supplements but will check. They both have very good, proctive doctors..not a phrase we read much on this forum!

If women have stronger immune systems, as this article suggests, then why are they more susceptible to colds & flu?

Hairyfairy, maybe because women pick up colds and flu from young children.

That's a very interesting article. I noticed that for 4-5years before my thyroid started to fail I didn't have so much as a cold. Each time I felt I might be going down with a cold, even when the people around me had streaming colds (my husband teaches, so gets them fairly regularly) I would just start to feel a bit 'tickly' and then the symptoms would disappear within an hour or so. My hypothesis is that my immune system had become so good at its job that it got bored and started attacking my thyroid.

good point eeng many years ago i would often get colds and flu and bad headaches sometimes taking 3 weeks to shake off and viruses however the only illnesses id get were always pregancy related. now at age 60 ive been diagnosed with hashimotos so maybe as you stated the system gets bored.

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