Does Masturbation Affect Immunity?

Masturbation has tons of health benefits—is a strong immune system one of them?

When you think of boosting your immune system, you probably think about hitting the gym and filling the vegetable drawer with fresh greens. But some scientists report that masturbating can also boost your immune system. 

In one study published in 2004, after comparing the blood levels of 11 male participants before and after achieving orgasm, researchers found an immune system boost in response to masturbation. 

Limited research has found that masturbation has several health benefits, ranging from improving your mood to relieving stress and helping you sleep. But does it also affect your immune system and protect you from illness? Here's what you should know.

What Research Suggests About Masturbation Improving Immunity

In the 2004 study, researchers examined at effects of orgasm achieved by masturbating on the participants' white blood cell counts and immune systems. The researchers recorded each participant's white blood cell count before and 45 minutes after achieving orgasm, and the post-orgasm count was higher.

On the other hand, another study published in 2014 examined a sample of 84 women and 88 men. Although the researchers could link partnered sexual activity to specific markers of immune system function among people with high levels of depression, masturbation did not apply.

Does Masturbation Affect Immunity? 

So, the research is mixed, and the question remains—does masturbating boost your immune system and protect you against bacteria and viruses? Well, due to the small sample size of the 2004 study and lack of conclusive, reaffirming evidence, it's difficult to say whether masturbation has any positive effect on benefiting your immune system.

"There have been a couple of very small studies suggesting that chemicals related to the body's immune system are impacted by sexual stimulation," Gail Saltz, MD, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York, told Health.

However, Dr. Saltz pointed out that the studies were limited, and other researchers have not replicated them to confirm their findings. 

"To my knowledge, no study says specifically that masturbation boosts the immune system in a way that prevents or helps fight off infection," noted Dr. Saltz.

Other Health Benefits of Masturbation

But that doesn't mean masturbation doesn't come with many mental and physical health benefits. Although few studies focus specifically on the perks of masturbation, some evidence suggests that orgasms reduce stress and blood pressure, increase self-esteem, and relieve pain.

There may not be solid evidence directly associating masturbation with the brain's release of endorphins (stress and pain-relieving chemicals). However, it's generally understood that physical activity helps to increase those feel-good chemicals.

Virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress-buster. And masturbation counts as physical activity, right? Orgasm, in particular, triggers endorphins release—and masturbation is a great way to get there. Moreover, those stress-relieving endorphins can help alleviate pain, such as period cramps.

Beyond health benefits, masturbation might even help your relationship. Research has found that female participants who achieved orgasm by masturbating had happier marriages and sex lives than those who did not. They also enjoyed higher self-esteem, as masturbation can help people become more comfortable with their bodies.

A Quick Review

So will masturbating stop you from getting sick? In a word, no. It would be best to start with a healthy diet and exercise to boost your immune system. 

"The most important way to keep your immune system functioning normally is the old-fashioned way that nobody likes to talk about: Diet and exercise," Timothy Mainardi, MD, a faculty member at Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York, previously told Health. 

According to Dr. Mainardi, other immunity-boosting tips include:

  • Washing your hands with soap and water
  • Using hand sanitizer when you're out in public
  • Getting plenty of sleep

Although masturbating may not be on the list, we can think of worse things to be doing.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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