Does masturbation help your immune system? An orgasm may have benefits

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Research suggests that multiple orgasms a week may have health benefits. Crystal Cox/Business Insider
  • An orgasm, through masturbation or sex with a partner, can reduce stress and improve sleep quality. 
  • Having minimal stress and good-quality sleep could help keep your immune system strong.
  • Masturbate or have sex as often as you like — the science is out on how much you need to stay healthy.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

A healthy sex life is beneficial for the body and mind. In fact, it can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep. 

While research is extensive on the benefits of a healthy sex life, there aren’t as many studies to determine whether the benefits of masturbation match those of sex with a partner. 

However, masturbation is the safest way to achieve sexual pleasure, and some research has suggested that solo sex can be just as healthy. Here’s what you need to know. 

An orgasm may benefit your immune system 

Older research has connected orgasms with increased immune function. In 2004, a study of 11 men found that sexual arousal and orgasms activated components of the immune system. 

Though the study was very small, the researchers found that masturbation increased the number of inflammatory mediators called leukocytes (white blood cells) and natural killer cells. Both of these fight infection as a part of the body’s immune response.

Jennifer Berman, MD, a sexual health expert, also notes that the research was focused on the male experience, and sexual arousal may affect women’s bodies differently. But overall, orgasm — whether with a partner or without — has other known health benefits. 

“Sex reduces stress,” says Britney Blair, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and founder of The Clinic, a sex therapy clinic in Northern California. Blair clarifies that when she talks about sex, she includes both sex with a partner and solo sex, or masturbation. 

“Sex can be like exercise, which is great for your heart, your lungs, and your immune system,” Blair says. “Sex is also great for improving sleep and allowing you to fall into deeper sleep more quickly, so overall, masturbation is great for health.”

How masturbation compares to sex 

There isn’t research that compares the immune benefits of masturbation versus having sex with a partner, but Blair does note that sex may have the additional benefit of boosting oxytocin — also known as the cuddle hormone — and improving bonding with a partner. 

But masturbation has also been found to stimulate the production of endocannabinoids, according to The Journal of Sexual Medicine. These neurotransmitters are a part of the endocannabinoid system, which plays a critical role in regulating the body. Stimulating the endocannabinoid system — like through an orgasm — may have positive effects on the immune system, inflammation, and stress response

Frequent orgasm can also have long-term health benefits, whether through masturbation or partner sex. Men who ejaculated between 4 and 7 times a week between the ages of 20 and 29 were at a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer, according to Harvard Health Publishing. This research included ejaculation through masturbation, intercourse, and nocturnal emissions. 

While there isn’t equivalent research for women, Blair recommends that women should masturbate or orgasm daily.

A healthy sex life, either with a partner or with yourself, is certainly good for you — but there doesn’t appear to be an exact number for staying well. Instead, Berman suggests choosing a frequency that is most comfortable for you personally. 

“It’s individually defined for the person and the couple,” says Berman. “There isn’t a number of times that you should be having sex. It’s what’s right for you.”

Insider’s takeaway

Having an orgasm, whether it’s from masturbation or sex with a partner(s), may have a positive impact on your immune system. Though, more research is needed to determine just how effective this may be and how many orgasms you need to see results. 

In the meantime, don’t replace masturbation with more proven methods of staying healthy like washing your hands, eating healthy, and exercising regularly