The Hormone Immune Axis



Credentials: PhD Candidate at top 10 Immunology Program in the US

This is going to be an attempt to scratch the surface of some critical hormones in regulating immune function. This will also partially attempt to describe the phenomenon of Test/Androgen-Flu.

The two hormones we will be looking at are Test/androgens, and Cortisol. (Estrogen has it's own effects which I may cover in the future)

Let me also firstly say that the influence of hormones on the immune system is not well understood, and they seem to have different effects at different times in different disease contexts. I will attempt to paint with a broad brush for simplicity sake, but please also realize that things aren't as simple as I am making them sound.

Cortisol and Testosterone/Androgens#

Cortisol = bad for immune system and its catabolic (bad for gainz). Things that lower this are good. When people have over-active immune systems, such as the case in autoimmunity (lupus, eczema, etc) the most common prescription is cortico-steroids, like cortisone or prednisone. These are cortisol-like drugs. These are prescribed because cortisol is a very effective at suppressing the function of the immune system. Testosterone and cortisol work against each other. When your cortisol goes up, your testosterone goes down, and when your testosterone goes up, your cortisol goes down.

Test/Androgen-flu Hypothesis#

Test-flu could happen for a couple reasons imho: 1. Test weakens your immune system, which leaves you susceptible to viral infection, or 2. Test strengthens your immune system, and it makes your symptoms worse, because the intensity of your immune response to a legitimate viral infection is greater. There is good evidence for both of these so it could be either or both.

Test/Androgen Improves Immune Response - Rationale#

This study shows that those with higher cortisol are at greater risk for upper respiratory viral infection. This is a review of a study that looks at immune system function, and immune response (as well as testosterone's relationship with facial attractiveness [good news androgens make you attractive]). Their hypothesis is that testosterone lowers cortisol, which improves immune response, and that androgen related physical traits are considered physically attractive because it is a signal of a strong immune system. All of this evidence would support the idea that a sudden increase in testosterone leads to a sudden decrease in cortisol, which leads to sudden enhancements in the immune response, and if this all happens when you are encountering a viral infection the stronger immune response might manifest itself as worse symptoms.

Test/Androgens Weakens Immune Response - Rationale#

This is a review paper that suggests androgens have an overall inhibitory effect on the immune system. If this were always true however, we wouldn't have seen increasing viral response with testosterone in the attractiveness study. This review paper has a lot of citations supporting the idea that testosterone/androgens suppress the immune system. All of the citations in this review support the idea that test weakens your immune system and leaves you susceptible to a viral infection.

What to Do#

Here are a few recommendations on how to avoid test/androgen-flu, aside from doing all the normal stuff to avoid the flu:

  1. I know it is old-school, but consider tapering up your dosage, particularly if the androgen you are introducing has a short half-life. This should help your body with adjusting to changes that may occur in your immune system.
  2. Do all the stuff that /u/NattyFuck proposes in his stop getting sick post
  3. You can ignore some of this stuff, and there is some other stuff you can't control, but this is list of things that increase cortisol. Stop doing some of these things if possible.