While we think that going gray is a sure-shot sign of aging, there might be other things that your body could be trying to tell you. A recent study shows that any severe illness or infection can make your hair turn gray. This is said to be caused due to the response of the immune system. Read on to know more:
How the Immune System Functions
The immune system in your body protects you from any dangerous virus or bacteria that enter your body, much like The Avengers protect the earth from foreign elements. When this happens, the pathogen (infectious bacteria/ virus) starts spreading through the cells in your body. This leads to interferons, that is, proteins, being produced to help in the defense. Other than this, interferons have been deemed so vital that they have also been examined as the treatment for diseases and disorders.
Gray Hair and Your Immune System
During a study of stem cells and their maintenance in our bodies at the National Institutes of Health at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, a surprising link between going gray and the body’s immune system was discovered. Melanocyte cells give our hair its natural color. Published in PLOS One, the 2018 study, examining melanocyte stem cells, i.e., the cells in our hair follicles, revealed that they work well when the interferons inside are under control. However, if they are not, melanocyte cells and stem cells start to die, making hair turn gray. If this happens, the graying might stay forever.
This new discovery shows that the immune system genes that help fight against infections also maintain the color of skin and hair. This also leads us to the conclusion that when defending against harmful bacteria, the body prioritizes, very correctly, the immune system over the hair color function. This can easily be observed when you go gray when going through an infection or illness.