Autoimmune diseases occur more in women than in men, and this may be attributable to the role of estrogens. Androgens promote autoimmune diseases with a profile of type 1 cytokines, such as rheumatoid arthritis, whereas estrogens promote autoimmune diseases with a type 2 cytokine profile, like systemic lupus erythematosus. Both androgens and estrogens regulate the Th1/Th2 balance. Type 1 autoimmune diseases are improved when decrease type 1 cytokines (i.e. during fasting), or when there is a rise in type 2 cytokines (increased estrogens, as in pregnancy). Type 2 autoimmune diseases improve when type 2 cytokines are diminished (decreased estrogen, as in post-partum period) or when type 1 response is stimulated.
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