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HomeBlogMen’s health: X doesn’t mark the spot for the male immune system

Men’s health: X doesn’t mark the spot for the male immune system

By: Medix Team
Men’s health: X doesn’t mark the spot for the male immune system

The global pandemic makes it more important than ever to understand how men’s immune systems differ from women’s and how to boost it.

November is now Movember for the many men around the world, who spend a month growing a moustache to publicise men’s health issues. The 19th of the month also marks International Men’s Health Day and this year it’s a particularly poignant one given that men are more likely to die from Covid-19 than women.


Clinical studies are still limited and mixed. But they are coming to the conclusion that men could be almost twice as likely to die from the virus than women.


Two reasons are coming into focus: one chromosomal and one lifestyle-related. But there is one clear conclusion that offers plenty of hope. Lifestyle adjustments can boost everyone’s immune systems and especially so for men, as it will help them to counteract the fact that women have two copies of the X chromosome, which provides them with a more active immune system.


When it comes to the immune system, one of the first lines of defence is the T-cells produced by the thymus gland, located behind the breastbone between the lungs. These helper T-cells stimulate B-cells to make antibodies that help to eradicate viruses.


As we age, our thymus produces less T-cells. One way to stop this natural shrinkage is exercise since active muscles release high levels of a chemical called interleuken 7 (IL-7), which is a key growth factor for T-cells.


One recent study by the UK’s University of Birmingham and Kings College London analysed 125 male and female cyclists aged 55 to 79. They found that men who could ride 100km in less than six-and-a-half hours were able to produce as many T-cells as their younger counterparts.


Lifting weights is also particularly beneficial since we progressively lose muscle mass as we age. By the time a man hits his 70’s, he will typically have one third less muscle than at his peak.


Weight training uses a number of major muscle groups at one time, stimulating the production of the human growth hormone (HGH), which is produced by the pituitary gland and regulates muscle and bone growth. By the time a man hit his forties, he will typically produce 50% less than he did in his twenties.


The hormone is produced while we sleep: another reason why getting a good night’s sleep of seven to eight hours is one of the best ways optimise the immune system. Cutting down on alcohol helps in this regard because the latter disturbs sleep patterns and affects the gut microbiome - the bacteria, which live in our large intestine.


About 70% of the human immune system lies in the gut, which is why the old adage “you are what you eat” is so true. Everyone’s health and wellbeing benefits from a well-balanced and varied diet of lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruit.


Getting enough fibre is extremely important because our microbiota feed on it. The WHO recommends 30 grams a day, but very few countries actually achieve this level. Asia is notoriously low in this respect because of the large number of people eating white rice as their main carbohydrate.


The right diet can also help men to supplement declining testosterone levels. Vitamin K is one natural booster and good sources are eggs, broccoli and fermented drinks like kefir.  Omega 3 is another one and can be found in cold water fatty fishes like salmon and nuts like walnuts.


Other types of seafood such as oysters and shellfish are a good source of zinc, which helps to regulate sperm production. Zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral found in the body, but it cannot be stored so it’s important to eat a zinc-rich diet. It also has a key role helping the immune system to function properly as it is vital for normal cell function.


Getting enough vitamin D can also help you to avoid getting ill in the first place. If you do fall ill, it’s also important to seek out medical advice since study after study shows that men often delay seeking medical treatment hoping that they can just tough an illness out. Why not tough up your immune system instead!!

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