The concept of autoimmunity is both counterintuitive and anti-paradigmatic: indeed, during the last century, the immune system has been viewed as a defence system against external microbial agents - "the" cause of illness. However, the scientific research has found out that the immune system shows a much higher complexity, similarly to the nervous system: in particular, the immune system has an outstanding ability to adapt to the environment, which is defined by all the stimuli coming from either the inside of the body or the external world. Nutrition, physical activity, pollution, psychological stress, social relationships, and microbes (both symbiotic and pathogens) can greatly influence the activation of the immune system: on the one hand, the immune cells could be induced to orchestrate efficient responses to potential threats; on the other hand, they could be induced to attack the tissues of the body. The authors, therefore, aim to briefly review the research that showed how the environment, more than genetic factors, could influence the immune system, in particular, expanding on the reasons why autoimmunity appears to be way more prevalent in women than in men.
Keywords: Autoimmunity, Epigenetics, Hormones, Environment, Women, Stress.