Why Women Get More Autoimmune Diseases

Why Women Get More Autoimmune Diseases

Approximately 80% of all of the people suffering from autoimmune diseases are women! Even animal models seem to often share this bias. Men and women are exposed to the same food and the same toxins in our food, water, and air, yet for every one male that has celiac, there are three females with celiac. For every one man with lupus, nine women will get it. The same is true for the thyroid, with a 9:1 ratio of women to men with thyroid conditions.

As I travel the globe and talk to experts and survivors of autoimmune conditions, it is clear that wherever we are, addressing chronic conditions through functional medicine helps to improve health and quality of life. Understanding why women are more prone to getting autoimmune diseases than men is important when you seek to prevent autoimmunity from ever occurring in the first place.

One theory suggests it may be due to the numerous estrogen receptor sites.

How Receptor Sites May Be Responsible for More Women Getting Autoimmune Diseases

Did you ever have a key that easily slid into a lock, but it wouldn’t turn the doorknob? It’s still the wrong key for that door, but it managed to make its way into the slot.

Receptor sites are a little like the key in the doorknob. Each receptor site was designed to only open up for the type of receptor site it is. So a testosterone receptor site will only allow testosterone in. A thyroid receptor site will only allow the thyroid hormone in. An estrogen receptor site will only permit estrogen to unlock that doorknob. Once estrogen binds to the receptor site, it turns on the expression of the genes associated with the cell.

Unfortunately, we live in a time period where we routinely come in contact with endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors disrupt how your hormones work in your body. Endocrine disruptors have a preference with a majority affinity to estrogen receptor sites.

One subcategory of endocrine disruptors is called xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens mimic estrogen within the body to disturb the hormone levels within the cells.

Only estrogen can open the door of the estrogen receptor site to get estrogen into the cell. The endocrine disruptors will block the pathway for estrogen to get into the receptor site. The endocrine disruptors can’t open the door into those cells, but it can prevent estrogen from getting to where it needs to get to. There’s already a key sitting in that slot. As long as something is sitting there, nothing is able to get in.

When a toxic chemical is just sitting there preventing the hormones from getting into the cells they need to get to, you may feel like you have thyroid problems. If you go for a test to check your hormone levels, the results may show you are fine. This is because your body is producing plenty of hormones. You do not have a problem with the production of these hormones, but your cells still have a hormone deficiency because the hormones can’t bind with the receptor site and activate it in order to get into the cells where they can do their job.

The Role of Estrogen

Estrogen may be the primary sex hormone found in women, but both men and women have it. Similarly, the primary sex hormone for men is testosterone. Women also produce that.

When an estrogen receptor is in a cell, it means that cell requires it in order to be fully functioning. It may be found throughout the body to help with a variety of functions.

Here are just a few roles estrogen plays in your health:

  • Delays memory loss
  • Helps to regulate the portions of the brain responsible for reproductive development
  • Regulates the liver’s production of cholesterol
  • Stimulates the onset of menstruation
  • Maintains healthy lubrication in the vagina and increases your libido
  • Stimulates the development of a female’s breasts during puberty and prepares her glands for producing breast milk
  • Helps to prepare the uterus to support and nourish a baby during pregnancy.
  • Helps to preserve bone density

What about men?

The World Wildlife Fund reported an average 57% reduction of all wildlife on the planet since 1970 — more than half of everything on the planet! Thousands of studies reveal dangerous amounts of daily toxins everyone is exposed to. Percentages of toxic exposure are higher around fresh water due to people drinking the water. In fact, there has been a 78% reduction in mammals near fresh water.

Men have more estrogen receptor sites in their testes. Men now have ⅓ the testosterone that their grandfathers had.

What about pregnant women?

It is no surprise that during pregnancy, a woman experiences many hormonal changes. One of them is a steady increase in estrogen levels. During this time, a woman needs to be extra vigilant in protecting herself against endocrine disruptors.

For example, bisphenol A (BPA) can be found in placental blood. Studies show that higher levels of BPA interfere in the development of a baby’s upper decision making part of the brain, the hypothalamus. The myelin coating that protects the hypothalamus is disrupted in higher levels of BPA. The unborn children are not able to build a strong brain because the hypothalamus does not have the protection and can’t function the way it’s supposed to.

The jury is still out on whether or not glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor. Either way, glyphosate is still a toxin that an expecting mom needs to be especially careful of. It has been linked to birth defects and reproductive problems. It also destroys the good bacteria in your gut that helps to fight the toxins that you are exposed to. It kills off your army that protects you and your baby. And as you pass your immunity on to your unborn child, you want it to be a strong immune system that supports good health, not one that sets up your child for autoimmunity straight out of the gate.

What can you do to prevent autoimmune conditions in women?

When your immune system recognizes a foreign agent as a toxin, antibodies begin to attack it. This chemical has bound onto a receptor, so the antibodies begin to damage the cell. When you damage the cells, your body is designed to purge them to make room for new cells.

Continued exposure to those same toxins (endocrine disruptors) that are binding to those sites repeat this scenario over and over again until the mechanism making the antibodies to the cell to get rid of the damaged cell becomes self-perpetuating. When this happens, you begin killing off more cells than you make.

Women have more estrogen receptor sites than men (which isn’t going to change). This makes them more at risk for autoimmune conditions. Exposures to chemicals are going to block many of those sites where estrogen is required. Therefore, the body produces antibodies to kill off the chemicals that damage the site. The collateral damage brings about autoimmunity. So, what’s a woman to do?

The solution is the same for both men and women. To reduce your risk of autoimmunity, reduce the number of chemicals you are exposed to.

Common Endocrine Disruptors

Bisphenol-a (BPA plastic)

Early exposure to BPA compromises the health of a baby’s brain development. A recent study reported BPA may suppress genes necessary in the early development of their nervous system, setting them up for neurodevelopmental disorders.Because of these concerns, BPA is no longer used in making baby bottles, but it can still be found in many of the toys children play with and stick in their mouths.


The single word “fragrance” can hide a multitude of dangerous toxins. Unfortunately, the majority of personal care products out there that people use daily contain phthalates. Women tend to use more personal care products that contain phthalates. Levels are highest in women and children between 6 and 11 years old. Research indicates that higher levels of phthalate exposure to young children increases their risk of allergies.

Fire retardants

Do you like that new car smell? Try not to breathe it in. It’s the off gassing, and it is loaded with endocrine disruptors. You can also get this same off-gassing from fire retardants used in furniture and carpeting. Due to the health concerns over these fire retardants, some have been discontinued; however, they do not break down easily. Off-gassing happens slowly over years.


The top three foods that expose you to higher levels of arsenic are common: rice, factory-farmed meats, and vegetables with high sulfur content like brussels sprouts. Rice soaks up arsenic and is grown in flood areas that often contain arsenic. You can minimize this risk by choosing organic rice, but there is no guarantee it’s free of it. Factory-farmed meats contain more chemicals, including arsenic, from the feed. The animals are what they eat, so choose wisely. Lastly, Brussels sprouts seem to attract arsenic through inorganic soil. It is the sulfur that appears to draw it in. Long term consumption of arsenic has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, as well as increased autoimmune markers.


Mercury can be found in the silver fillings used to treat dental cavities, fluorescent light bulbs, and the silver-tipped thermometers with the red line that rises or falls with the temperature. Seafood has always been a great source of Omega-3. However, growing concerns over high levels of methylmercury found in seafood has led to lowering the recommendation to consuming fish only twice a week to minimize risk of mercury toxicity. The general rule of thumb is that wild-caught fish are considered generally the healthier choice; however, larger species of fish like swordfish tend to contain more mercury due to accumulation. Consider taking an Omega-3 supplement to ensure you are getting enough of your daily recommended amount. Pregnant women should avoid eating seafood due to the deleterious effects it can have on fetal development.

Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) – This category of xenoestrogens has been associated with a higher risk of cancer and a higher risk of miscarriages. PFCs refer to a family of chemicals, not an isolated element or molecule. You find PFCs in items that resist staining or sticking, like teflon pans or stain-resistant textiles, including stain-resistant carpeting and clothing.

Where are you on the spectrum of autoimmunity?

The best way to know where you stand is to get tested. I recommend the blood test Cyrex Array 11. It identifies the loss of immune tolerance associated with xenobiotic exposure, which may lead to autoimmune reactivity. “Xeno” means stranger and “biotic” means life. Xenobiotics are those chemicals that are foreign to your system. The Cyrex Array 11 will show whether you have elevated antibodies to a number of chemicals you may be exposed to.

It can assist in setting guidelines for avoiding specific chemicals in order to reduce your risk of igniting the autoimmune process. Prevention is key. When you see elevated antibodies, you know where to put your efforts so your body doesn’t betray you.

This test is an excellent tool to help monitor the effectiveness of how good you are at eliminating these exposures, as your body reveals the reality of your situation. When you retest, you can measure if your efforts are working.

If you have increased chemical sensitivities or intolerance to chemicals, a loss of immune tolerance and/or abnormal immune function, or a family history of autoimmunity, the Cyrex Array #11 is a great tool to find out where you fall on the spectrum.

So many ill-informed physicians have told their patients who suffer with autoimmune diseases that there is nothing that they can do. I call BS on them. Doctors are not omniscient gods who know everything, and the plain fact is that many just don’t have the facts.

We’ve lived with a broken healthcare system for a while now, and studies are showing that the functional medicine addresses chronic disease significantly better. Just listen to the patients highlighted in my 9-part docuseries, Betrayal: The Autoimmune Disease Solution They’re Not Telling You. So many lived for years without a solution. Some were told the problem was all in their head. They were told there was nothing they could do … until someone else came along and showed them how.

Autoimmune conditions follow an autoimmune mechanism. You can reverse, arrest, and/or prevent autoimmunity. It starts here with educating yourself and changing the way you view disease and health.

We’re changing lives here at TheDr website. People do not need to suffer from autoimmunity. We can greatly reduce the number of people who have autoimmune diseases. When you are ready, our Clinical Services team is waiting to help you, too.

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Purple Lapacho

Purple Lapacho, a unique and potent herb, is valued for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for its immune-boosting properties, Purple Lapacho may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, supporting digestion, and fostering vitality.

Fo Ti

Fo Ti, a revered Chinese herb also known as He Shou Wu, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Traditionally used for promoting vitality and longevity, Fo Ti may contribute to maintaining healthy energy levels, cognitive function, and immune system performance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with supporting liver and kidney health, as well as fostering a sense of overall balance


Agave, a versatile desert plant native to the Americas, is recognized for its potential to support overall wellness. Rich in natural fibers and low-glycemic sweeteners, Agave may contribute to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, digestive health, and providing a natural alternative to refined sugars.

Maral Root

Maral Root, a potent adaptogenic herb native to Siberia, is celebrated for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Known for helping the body manage stress and maintain balance, Maral Root may also promote healthy energy levels, endurance, and cognitive function. This exceptional herb has been associated with supporting the immune system, fostering vitality, and enhancing physical performance.

  • Antioxidant and DNA Repair Stimulating Effect of Extracts from Transformed and Normal Roots of Rhaponticum carthamoides against Induced Oxidative Stress and DNA Damage in CHO Cells:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27034736/


NotoGinseng, a distinct variety of Panax ginseng native to the Changbai Mountains, is esteemed for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Renowned for its adaptogenic properties, Noto Ginseng may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This exceptional herb has been linked to supporting cognitive function, promoting healthy energy levels, and boosting immune system performance.


Baicalin, a potent bioflavonoid derived from the Scutellaria baicalensis plant, is appreciated for its potential to promote overall wellness. With its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Baicalin may help protect cells from oxidative stress and maintain a balanced response to inflammation. This remarkable compound has been associated with supporting liver health, promoting cardiovascular function, and fostering a sense of vitality.

Coriolus Versicolor

Coriolus Versicolor, a remarkable mushroom, is esteemed for its potential to contribute to overall wellness. Known for its immune-supporting properties, Coriolus Versicolor may help strengthen the body’s natural defenses. This extraordinary mushroom has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, supporting digestion, and fostering vitality.


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Gotu Kola

The main group of components in gotu kola is the triterpenes including asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic acid, and madecassic acid, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are shown to positively influence brain plasticity which means a much sharper you.

  • Exhibits significant wound healing ability, Improves microcirculatory parameters, Sedative and anxiolytic properties, Antidepressant, Re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration and combat aging: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116297/


Guarana, a powerful plant, is celebrated for its potential to support overall wellness. Rich in natural caffeine, Guarana may help promote mental alertness, focus, and healthy energy levels. This remarkable plant has also been associated with supporting endurance and enhancing physical performance.


Catuaba, a potent herb, is appreciated for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Catuaba may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and fostering a sense of vitality.

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi Mushroom, a highly-regarded fungus, is esteemed for its potential to enhance overall wellness. With adaptogenic properties, Reishi Mushroom may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This extraordinary mushroom has also been linked to promoting immune system support, healthy energy levels, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation.

Astragalus Root

Astragalus Root, a powerful herb, is respected for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Renowned for its immune-supporting properties, Astragalus Root may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. Additionally, this remarkable root has been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, heart health, and supporting the body’s ability to adapt to stress.

Asian Licorice Root

Asian Licorice Root, a versatile herb, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Known for its adaptogenic properties, it may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable root has also been linked to promoting healthy digestion, respiratory function, and supporting the immune system.

American Ginseng

American Ginseng, a revered herb, is prized for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. With adaptogenic properties, it may assist the body in managing stress and maintaining harmony. American Ginseng has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and supporting the immune system.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea, a robust herb, is admired for its potential to support overall wellness. As an adaptogen, Rhodiola Rosea may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has been linked to promoting mental clarity, healthy energy levels, and increased endurance.

Peruvian Maca

Peruvian Maca, a nutrient-packed root, is celebrated for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Maca may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This powerful root has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, endurance, and supporting hormonal balance.

Schisandra Fruit

Schisandra Fruit, a unique berry, is renowned for its potential to contribute to overall wellness. Boasting adaptogenic properties, it may help the body adapt to stress and maintain equilibrium. Schisandra Fruit has also been linked to promoting healthy energy levels, mental clarity, and supporting the body’s natural defense


Acai, a nutrient-dense berry, is recognized for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Rich in antioxidants, Acai may help support the body’s defenses against environmental stressors, while promoting healthy energy levels and vitality.

Himalayan Goji

Himalayan Goji, a nutrient-rich fruit, is valued for its potential contribution to overall wellness. This superfood is believed to support the immune system, promote healthy energy levels, and aid in maintaining balance within the body. With its antioxidant properties, Himalayan Goji may help protect cells from environmental stressors.

Holy Basil

Holy Basil has been found to protect organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals, and physical stress from prolonged physical exertion. It has also been shown to counter metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels.

Mikania Guaco

“Guaco” is Sun Horse Energy founder Dan Moriarty’s favorite herb, and the reason why he’s still alive. Traditionally, it’s a well-known herb for snake bites, scorpion stings and other venomous creatures. Guaco acts as a non-steroidal bronchodilator, meaning it opens up the airways without steroids. As a result of guaco opening up the airways, the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) are better able to accept oxygen transfer and get rid of carbon dioxide. In Brazil, Guaco syrup is one of the most popular herbal medicines used to treat the symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis, cough and hoarseness.

Pine Bark Extract

Many studies have shown that pine bark possesses anti-aging properties. It’s very similar in nature to the well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, resveratrol, which is abundant in red wine and grapes. Pine bark has a proven beneficial effect on lipids, the cardiovascular and immune systems.

Osha Root

A traditional Native American herb, Osha is also known as “Bear Root”. Native Americans noticed that when bears emerged from hibernation, the first thing they did after being in a state of torpor for 4 months was not feast on salmon or drink water, but rather, dig up osha and eat it. Why? It decongests and wakes up the lungs. Native Americans who used Osha were able to run further, and treat their colds and congestion. Modern research studies suggest Osha may support the immune system by offering protective effects against oxidative damage.

I want to thank you for your existence. I want you to know that functional medicine has changed my life, well the life of my autistic son. So much so that I plan on taking the Functional Medicine Health Coach Certificate and work with my new friend who is now a Functional Medicine Doctor from the Institute of Functional Medicine and spread the word on GI testing and how finding the underlying issues will help eliminate autistic traits. 

I hope to be able to meet you one day so I can share this great news with others. Changing my son’s diet has changed him. Food is medicine!! By the way, I’m cooking my rutabaga. I’m Italian and never grew up with these. With love.

Rita Mastrangelo

I found you on YouTube a couple of weeks ago and I’m hooked. I listen to you a couple of hours every morning. I am being tested for celiac disease and have been gluten-free for a couple of weeks. Thank you for all of your insight.

April Renee

Just wanted to tell you that you’re amazing! You are helping so many people all over the world! Including me! Thank you so very much, Dr. Tom O’Bryan!

Patricia Puddle

Good morning Dr. Tom, Would just like to say thank you! This time last year I was going through a hell of a time with my gut. Terrible indigestion on a regular basis, feeling as if I had eaten a boulder and the tiredness was doing my heed (scottish for head) in! With two young girls being tired is not an option!

I went to the doctors on a number of occasions and they decided to prescribe omeprazole to mask the problem, sorry help my problem. I decided taking these drugs was not an option for me! So I started googling the life out of it!! Low and behold you started popping up!! Oh and Gluten intolerance! 

Your advice has been second to none! You have in my case really simplified what gluten does to my body and now that I have cut it out (which as it appears in lots of foods, some I can’t understand) I have found that my symptoms very quickly reduced and now I’m a year down the line they have gone for the vast majority of the time!! For that I’m truly grateful. I now follow you on YouTube and Instagram, which continues to educate me and the importance of gut health. I look forward to your future advice. Yours faithfully,

Gary Christie

Black Ant Extract

A Chinese medicine tonic, Black Ant is used to support energy levels. (In traditional Chinese medicine, Black Ant is given to increase vital Qi.) Research studies demonstrate that Black Ant supports the function of the thymus gland, which plays a crucial role in the immune system, producing and activating lymphocytes.

Siberian Ginseng

This well known adaptogen has been proven to reduce cardiovascular stress, lower and stabilize blood sugar to healthy levels, and encourages a more efficient lipid metabolism.

Green Tea Extract

Healthy energy producer and one of the more researched and promising supplements. It upregulates fat metabolism at rest and during exercise. In recent years the consumption of Green Tea Extract has shown to help prevent lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease because of it’s preventative effects on chronic inflammation.

  • Helps with weight loss by increasing a protein hormone which is involved in regulating glucose levels as well
    as fatty acid breakdown:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26093535/
  • Decrease cholesterol absorption and plasma levels, has strong free radical-scavenging
    activity inhibiting LDL oxidation, reduce the adhesion molecule expression, has antitrombotic activities by inhibiting platelet aggregation:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15969262/ 


This is an enzyme/protein that speeds up biochemical reactions and helps to prevent and dissolve the formations of blood clots (thrombi); addresses the problem of blood hyperviscosity, thereby preventing thick and sticky blood, which is not conducive to overall cardiovascular health.

Water Hyssop

Best known as a neural tonic and memory enhancer this powerful herb increases cerebral blood flow and neurotransmitter modulation.


Referred to as the women’s ultimate power herb, by some herbal enthusiasts. Used in India for at least 3,000 years, Shatavari, is structurally similar to estrogen produced within the body. Some researchers have concluded shatavari can be a highly effective alternative to synthetic hormone replacement therapy for peri- and menopausal women.

Chaste Tree Berry

Improve female libido, mitigate PMS, reproductive health

Horny Goat Weed

Increase para-sympathetic nervous activity, mitigate osteoporosis, improve libido, enhance smooth muscle tissue function

  • Treatment for erectile problems and nerve injuries in human patients:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551978/
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Bulgarian Tribulus

Enhance athletic performance, improve circulation, improve sexual performance, more efficient rates of protein synthesis


Cordyceps, a genus of mushroom, gained lots of attention after Chinese long-distance runners performed impressively at international competitions in the 1990s and early 2000s. Along with high-altitude training, supplementing with cordyceps was part of their intense training program. A research study concludes that cordyceps improves tolerance to high-intensity exercise after supplementation with it because the fungus is thought to increase blood flow, enhance oxygen utilization; it also acts as an antioxidant. It also has powerful anti-tumor properties, the ability to regulate the endocrine system, enhance your immune function, and protect the kidneys, lung, liver, and other organs.

  • Immunomodulatory, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities, promotion of endurance capacity, and learning-memory improvement, can be used to treat conditions such as hyposexuality, night sweats, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, asthenia, arrhythmias, and other heart, respiratory, renal and liver diseases: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924981/
  • Various pharmacological actions, including nephroprotective, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antiapoptotic effects:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4849494/

Ginkgo Biloba

In recent decades, an extract of the leaves of the tree Ginkgo biloba L. has been used to improve memory in disorders like Dementia disorders that affect memory and intellectual functioning, and are caused primarily by Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disorders.

  • Potent antioxidant properties and ability to enhance peripheral and cerebral circulation, ginkgo’s primary application lies in the treatment of cerebrovascular dysfunctions and peripheral vascular disorders:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11565403/
  • Experimental results showed extracts of G.Biloba to upregulate protein expressions of BDNF:
  • The effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on cognitive functions in aged female rats;
  • The role of oxidative stress and brain-derived neurotrophic factor: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25446810

Lion's Mane

A very yummy and medicinal mushroom is a well established candidate for brain and nerve health because it triggers neurite outgrowth and regenerates damaged nerves. Lions Mane has been extensively studied for its neuro-health properties.


Jiaogulan, a versatile herb, is celebrated for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic properties, Jiaogulan may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, boosting endurance, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation.