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Is Masturbating While Sick Actually Good for You?

Either way, try not to use the wrong tissue

Sickness is constantly on the mind of everyone around the world these days. Whether you think COVID-19 has killed more than 800,000 people, or ya know, you’re just one of those people who chooses not to wear a mask, it’s still informing how you live. 

Most prodigiously, widespread illness has forced billions into their homes for extended periods this year, creating lots of alone time and a surge in masturbation. These people definitely could have had worse ideas, whether they were relatively safe from the coronavirus or, perhaps, even sick with it.

The benefits of masturbation for relatively healthy people have been well-documented. It feels good, relieves stress and helps us feel happy, among other positives. But similarly to what they say about apples — which is true — a self-love sesh a day could keep the doctor away.

At the very least, says Kathleen Dass of the Michigan Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center, masturbation “helps to improve the immune system.” Citing a 2017 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Dass explains, “Masturbation was shown to stimulate neurotransmitters through the endocannabinoid system, which affects homeostasis and apoptosis [programmed cell death].” Homeostasis and apoptosis aid in body regulation, leading to better overall functioning and health.  

That’s not all jacking off does for your bod, though. “We know that orgasm increases our dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin (the ‘love hormone’) to make you feel good and lead to a better sleep,” Dass continues. “Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.” 

This is all because while you sleep, your immune system releases certain proteins that help to promote sleep called cytokines. Some of these proteins are multiplied to help the body deal with an infection, inflammation or stress, but sleep deprivation interrupts that process. 

“We also know that orgasm decreases your cortisol, which lowers your stress,” Dass adds. “When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That’s why we are more susceptible to infections.” She notes that cortisol “suppresses the effectiveness of the immune system,” while psychological stress — again, reduced when a person rubs one out — can also “impair immunity and lead to an increase in cold and flu infections.”

Writer Colin Hanna has taken some of this science to heart — or at least to his dominant hand. He included info about masturbation and its immune-system assistance in a recent article of his own on the topic, fact-checked by a doctor and human sexuality expert. But Hanna also tells me that when he’s sick “or otherwise feeling poorly, I will always manage to make time for a [j.o.] session.”

More specifically, when Hanna is ill with “something non-debilitating like a cold or the flu,” or if he’s dealing with a hangover, he’s sure to masturbate. However, he adds, “I won’t even attempt to masturbate if I’m dealing with food poisoning or anything gastrointestinal.”

With masturbation, the act “alleviates head pain or at least causes my focus to be on something other than how shitty I feel,” he continues. “Post-climax, the headache I was trying to avoid will come back in full force, but [orgasming] makes sleep come easier in order to sleep through it.”

Hanna says he’d never mislead inquiring minds and tell them that “jerking off is some cure for what ails you.” But he is quick to point out that “there are no lasting effects of masturbating while sick, [and] if you’re going to be feeling bad, you may as well at least try to have an orgasm as a means of escape, however short-lived.”

More scientifically speaking, citing a small study of 11 men, published in a 2004 edition of the medical journal Neuroimmunomodulation (something you all certainly have a paid subscription to), Dass says that the subjects “showed an improvement in their white blood cell count and natural killer cells 5 minutes and 45 minutes after masturbation.” Both these cells help protect the body against infection. 

However, Dass also observes that, because that study only examined 11 subjects — all men, as is so often the case — masturbation is “not something physicians would routinely recommend as supportive therapy with a virus.” Women may respond differently, and, she continues, “In general, if you have mild cold symptoms and no fever, light or moderate exercise may help you feel a bit better and actually boost your immune system.”  

As I’ve previously noted, masturbation burns about seven or eight calories across three minutes of working yourself, which, pathetically, isn’t even as much as you’d burn while walking around the house. So that’s kind of a strike against the holy pastime in terms of it being able to really fight off COVID. 

Still, masturbation means that, in a way, you are doing your part to stop the pandemic’s spread. “With the CDC recommending social distancing six feet apart, you’re going to be your safest partner,” Dass says. “While COVID-19 hasn’t been detected in semen or vaginal fluid, you’re still at risk for transmitting COVID-19 through physical sexual contact with a partner. So again, as we keep being reminded, ‘you are your safest sex partner.’”

How do you like them apples?

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