Masturbation while being sick?

Hi, Wondering if there are any negative effects to masturbation while being sick. I hear it could be a cause of lower immunity levels, is that true? Thanks, R

Dear R, 

Research in this field is extremely limited, especially for people with vaginas, but there’s some evidence that masturbation might increase certain cells that are involved in the stress response. That said, there are also studies that show trace amounts of vital nutrients for immune function — such as zinc, copper, and some vitamins — are lost during ejaculation for people with penises. So, if you’re someone with a penis and feeling sick, it may be beneficial to take a supplement or make sure you’re eating lots of zinc, copper, or vitamin-rich foods (such as dark leafy greens), especially if you’re going to be engaging in a lot of sexual activity, either with a partner or solo. But while trace amounts of these nutrients are lost during ejaculation, there are even more benefits to be gained when engaging in the solo act. Keep on reading! 

When it comes to the health benefits of masturbation, so far the good greatly outweighs the bad. One study on the association between immune responses and masturbation found that the number of leukocytes (also known as white blood cells) and natural killer (NK) cells increased during both the sexual stimulation and orgasm stages of masturbation. This is fantastic, since leukocytes fight against foreign substances and disease in the body and NK cells play a role in the rejection of tumors and virally infected cells. Other types of white blood cells remained unaffected, but none were depleted. This is interesting since ejaculate contains a substantial amount of antibodies. 

Sadly, as mentioned, there’s no research conducted to date on nutrient loss through vaginal fluids, so there’s even less information about the immune system response for people with vaginas during masturbation and orgasm. 

What is known is that for all sexes, masturbation has a great deal of health benefits. Masturbation can be a: 

  • Muscle relaxant 
  • Sleep aid 
  • Stress-reducer 
  • Sexual educator (e.g., helping you learn what you like, how you orgasm, etc.) 
  • Mood-enhancer (via neurotransmitter-release in the brain) 
  • Self-esteem booster 
  • And yes, an immune-system enhancer (at least for those with penises, on whom this research has been exclusively conducted) 

What’s great about this strategy is that there are no side effects! If a pill could do all that, the pharmaceutical companies would be battling for the patent. Luckily all these benefits come (no pun intended) free of charge. So fear not! Your solo pastime need not be sacrificed due to illness.  

Here’s to health and hands, 

Last updated May 20, 2022
Originally published Mar 02, 2012

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