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Almost every major hormone will affect immunity in one or another way, directly or indirectly. Same is true for steroidal hormones; they have both direct immuno-modulating effect and indirect influence on the immune system.
Steroids ring has an anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effect. It explains the action of corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are chemically bit related to anabolic steroids, but still completely different hormones. Corticosteroids are secreted by adrenals and are anti-stress hormones.
Synthetic corticosteroids are used in medicine as a lifesaving drug due to their potent anti-inflammatory effect. However, at the same time, they are immuno-suppressive too.
Studies on animals indicate that anabolic steroids can be both immuno-suppressive and immuno-stimulant. Steroids with the intact steroidal ring that is steroids close to natural testosterone in structure suppress immunity.
On the other hand, synthetically created steroids with altered steroidal ring seem to stimulate immunity and increase the body’s ability to fight diseases.
In one of the studies, testosterone and its ester testosterone propionate were compared with synthetic anabolic steroids like testolactone, oxandrolone, and stanozolol. The research found that at higher or supra-physiological doses testosterone suppressed immunity. Whereas, synthetic steroids stimulated immunity.
Here is it worth noticing that although testosterone is not known to suppress immunity, such an effect may occur when it is taken at very high dosages.
Nonetheless, this immuno-modulatory effect of steroids must be taken into consideration. It is especially vital for individuals prone to auto-immune diseases or other diseases of the immune system. Thus in some people changes in levels of steroid hormones may lead to flares of certain auto-immune conditions.
A picture would not be complete without taking into consideration the indirect effects of anabolic steroids on the immunity. All anabolic steroids stimulate anabolic activities. They strengthen muscles, bones. In most individuals, this improved physical health may finally lead to better protection. It is the reason why testosterone can be prescribed even in HIV related wasting.
Another essential thing to understand is the amount of influence of anabolic steroids on immunity. In general, some of the steroids with intact steroidal ring may lead to reduced immunity. However, this reduction is so small that it may not have any practical clinical value. It is the reason why any studies on humans have failed to show immuno-suppressive effect. Most studies that showed the immuno-suppressive effect of testosterone were done on animals, and at very high dosages.
In conclusion, it can be said that anabolic steroids will change the way your immunity works. Fortunately, in most cases, this effect will be too little, and will not have much practical value. In most cases, it would be in the form of increased immunity. Nonetheless, this immune-modifying effect must be known to the users.
People genetically prone to autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease, and so on are often more sensitive to hormones that affect the immune system, even if such influence is minute.