Tag Archives: low testosterone

Hormone Balancing for the Man in Your Life – Is there a Male Menopause??

O-h-h-h yes, whether he thinks so or not! Men are no more immune than are their female counterparts to a drop in hormone production with age. The so-called “male menopause” or “andropause” (in medical speak) signifies the natural midlife retreat of the male hormones (androgens), testosterone and DHEA. Testosterone in particular, is the most potent force driving mental and physical energy in men. But the rate at which these hormones decline and how steep the descent has everything to do with work/life balance, diet, stress levels, sleep and lifestyle.

The 2006 HIM Study found that nearly 40% of US males over 45 years old had low testosterone levels (an estimated 13 million US males), however the majority of men in the study did not recognize that the weight gain, sore muscles, lack of libido, insomnia, and burnout they were experiencing could very well be tied to a hidden hormonal imbalance – instead they put their symptoms down to “just getting old.”

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Women get all the attention in menopause…but what about the men in our lives?? They too suffer the slings and arrows of declining hormone levels, but don’t always know what’s hit them!

 

 What causes declining hormones in men?

In his prime, 95% of a man’s testosterone is formed in the testes. The balance, along with DHEA, the precursor of testosterone, is supplied by the adrenal glands. As he ages, brain signals to the testes to ‘make more testosterone’ start to weaken, hence the signal is not picked up and hormone levels start to downsize. By the time the average Joe hits his 40’s, testosterone levels are down forty to 50 percent and the adrenal glands are having to pick up the slack. Sidenote: this is when it becomes more important than ever at midlife to reduce stress so that the adrenals do not become overwhelmed and unable to provide sufficient hormone supplies. Weight gain, poor diet, and lack of exercise on top of high stress demands further lower testosterone, impacting the stamina, competitive drive, and virility we commonly associate with the male of the species.

How’s a Guy to Know?

The first thing a man entering andropause generally notices is a subtle downward shift in strength and energy as hormone levels taper off.   Muscle tone and stamina are the first to go and he starts to gain weight and that “spare tire”.  He may also develop a voracious appetite and food cravings he never had before. As symptoms kick in, hormone testing can identify hidden imbalances that complicate symptoms of andropause and contribute to rapid aging . 

Got symptoms of Andropause?

–       Weight gain in the hips, thighs, waist, and/or breasts

–       Decreased muscle mass/sore muscles

–       Increased body fat

–       Decreased strength/stamina/endurance

–       Poor recovery from exercise

–       Burnout and fatigue

–       Lack of mental clarity

–       Decreased sex drive and/or competitive drive

–       Prostate problems

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Muscle tone and stamina are the first to go when male hormones are out of balance….it gets tougher to win at arm wrestling….and those six-pack abs start to slide into a “spare tire” of fat around the middle.

Men with symptoms need to test these hormones for imbalances:

Testosterone –  an anabolic hormone that builds and maintains muscle mass, bone density, strength and stamina. It is also linked to libido, mental clarity, memory and energy.  Low or suboptimal levels are a strong indicator of andropause; deficiencies are linked with loss of lean muscle, increased weight, body fat, and BMI with a corresponding drop in metabolic rate.

DHEA –  the primary source of testosterone and other hormones in the body; DHEA partners with testosterone to build and maintain lean muscle and bone mass, increase metabolism and reduce body fat. Deficiencies are linked with decreased lean muscle mass and increased adipose tissue or body fat. Low DHEA is also linked with adrenal imbalances of cortisol and adrenal fatigue.

Estrogen – promotes growth and healthy cell division; protects the heart, brain, reproductive organs and glandular function.  High estrogen hormone imbalance promotes a female pattern of fat gain in men; it also depletes testosterone levels, and inhibits thyroid to slow metabolism way down. 

Cortisol –  secreted by the adrenal glands, it has a variety of functions including: regulating the stress response, energy, blood sugar levels, and the immune system. High or low cortisol levels disrupt blood sugar and insulin levels which decreases metabolism and increases fat storage.

 

How hormone imbalances trigger weight gain in men

 Undetected hormonal imbalances can cause unwanted pounds that are difficult to shed especially as men get older. When testosterone or DHEA levels decline below optimal levels, men start to lose lean muscle mass, which is readily replaced by body fat, and those much vaunted six-pack abs start to slide into a spare tire of fat. The more body fat, the more estrogen is produced – a vicious cycle that depletes male testosterone by actually converting it to estrogen in fat cells. And it doesn’t end there. Imbalances of estrogen and related hormones like cortisol (the master stress hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels) not only suppress available testosterone, but also slow down thyroid metabolism…. while the pounds pile on.

How can men balance their hormones naturally to boost energy, stamina, libido, and lose that “spare tire” for good?

As aging and bad health habits put the brakes on hormone production,  the decline can be more precipitous in some men than others. Testing male hormone levels is the first step to understanding why, and what you can do about it. My first suggestion is to order either a Male Hormone Test kit, the new Weight Management Profile, or Advanced Plus profile (all of these comprehensive home collection kits test levels in saliva and or bloodspot) from Canary Club at www.canaryclub.org. When you get your hormone results back, (usually within 3-5 days from the time the lab receives your hormone samples) you can book a  consult with your physician (go to Find A Provider at http://www.zrtlab.com) of if you prefer a phone consult, you can book one with me, Candace at www.yourhormonebalance.com  In an hour coaching session we will review and discuss your results, and your what next options. You will also receive a follow-up personal hormone balance plan within a week of our consult.

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Back on track – Men just as much as women need to balance their hormones to maintain their moods, memory, mental clarity and mojo!

 

Men in balance do this:

-Determine their symptoms of hormone imbalance from the list above. Two or more moderate to severe persistent symptoms indicate a problem. 

– Test their hormone levels to detect and correct imbalances linked to symptoms.

– Followup with a physician or health coach.

-Losing weight is key to rebalancing hormones. Fat cells contain aromatase, an enzyme that robs available testosterone by converting it to estrogen. That is when men start to get a female pattern of fat distribution in the hips, thighs, bottom and breasts (anyone heard the term “moobs”)!

-Stick with a program!  A Mediterranean style diet that is  low glycemic, low carbohydrate, low fat, high protein, high fiber (whole grains, cruciferous vegetables, legumes, seeds, etc.)  can go a long way towards balancing your hormones to balance your weight.

-Throw out testosterone robbers like caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and unnecessary stressors like overbooking yourself, etc.

-Take up strength training or weight bearing exercise to boost testosterone and DHEA levels naturally by building up lean muscle mass.

-Counteract stress (the higher the stress levels, the lower the testosterone) with regular exercise – 45 minutes is optimal but even 10 mins. 3x a day adds up to 30 minutes and that is GOOD.

-St-r-e-t-c-h and breathe deep to release tension held in the muscles and lower stress hormones

-Hit the sack earlier – less than 7 hours sleep disrupts appetite hormones to increase cravings and feelings of hunger

-Take time to do the things you enjoy! Stress reduction is the key to normalizing cortisol levels.  

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Consider these hormone support supplements to rebalance your levels: 

  • Bioidentical* forms of testosterone (gel, patch,pellets or injections) in appropriate amounts as prescribed by a physician and/or Progesterone in low doses to keep estrogen levels in check, thereby increasing active and available testosterone supplies. NOTE: progesterone inhibits the action of “bad estrogens” as well as testosterone by-products that can lead to enlargement of the prostate gland. Note: men use less than women and should discuss dosage with a doctor.
  • DIM (an extract of cruciferous vegetables) – promotes “good estrogen” metabolism and rids the body of excess/or toxic xenoestrogens to free up available testosterone and correct imbalance
  • DHEA the precursor of male testosterone boosts levels through natural conversion in the body. It is best used along with DIM and a men’s multi-vitamin with trace minerals like zinc, selenium, etc. to promote active thyroid hormone production, and inhibit loss of testosterone through conversion in fat cells
  • 7-Keto DHEAa metabolite of DHEA acts upon lean muscle mass to reduce body fat and rev up your metabolism
  •  Chromium and adaptogenic herbs (e.g. garcinia cambogia, banaba leaf, gymnema slyvestre) formulations –  help normalize cortisol levels, regulate glucose and insulin levels, tame appetite, sugar cravings, and deflate that spare tire
  • 5HTP (the natural precursor of melatonin) – at bedtime if you have trouble sleeping
  • Cal-Mag and Vitamin Ddeficiencies are linked with increased body fat
  • EFAs (essential fatty acids, like Omega 3) and Ubiquinol (spark plugs of cellular energy) – support hormone production, reduce inflammation and protect the heart
  • Vitamins C and B-Complex (B1-12) – to boost energy, and strengthen/support adrenal function and adaptation to stressors.

 Note: all supplements to be taken as directed.  Talk to your physician or pharmacist about appropriate dosages. Retest hormone levels in 3 months to track progress.

*bioidenticals are hormones made from plant based compounds that duplicate natural hormone structure and function without the side effects of synthetic versions.

For more on this heady subject see my April 8, 2013 post on Low T ads- boosting testosterone boils down to balance

 

 

 

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Low T ads; boosting testosterone boils down to balance.

Big article in The Atlantic magazine this week http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/should-the-modern-man-be-taking-testosterone/274663/pretty much slamming the purveyors of supplemental testosterone gel as god’s gift to men. And although it can safely be said that testosterone is in fact god’s gift since without it men would not be men, there is value in raising the use vs. abuse issue when it comes to hormone replacement.

Testosterone, the hormone driver of strength, stamina and libido normally declines with age, the question is how rapidly, how steeply...that is up to how we live our lives, not on how much we supplement.

Testosterone, the hormone driver of strength, stamina and libido normally declines with age, the question is how rapidly, how steeply? Its a matter of life/work/stress balance.

The Atlantic article raises some important points: does every modern man really need testosterone? Are the drug companies having a field day warning men over 40 of their impending decline, and are we about to see a repeat in men of the bad news about HRT that raised risks for heart disease, blood clots, stroke and  cancer in women?

There is no doubt that all hormones decline with age: in women it is progesterone, then estrogen that start to fluctuate then lower; in men testosterone is the first hormone to go along with DHEA, the most abundant hormone in the body, and the precursor of testosterone. Declining hormones go with the territory of normal aging – the question is how rapid is the decline, how precipitous the drop? Lifestyle, stress levels, nutrition, weight gain, exercise, alcohol intake, etc. are all crucial to the rate of decline. Experts in the field of hormone testing and balance, like Dr. David Zava, Ph.D., owner of ZRT Laboratory (www.zrtlab.com) will tell you that supplementing with testosterone can be beneficial where the need is clearly established and monitored through testing, but rubbing in a bunch of androgel or any other form of testosterone in a tube won’t do much good if overeating/drinking, lack of exercise, smoking, high stress levels and inadequate sleep are a way of life.  At the risk of repeating myself in every blog post, it really is about balance.

Man struggling with computer

Take a deep breathing break or walk away from the computer …elevated cortisol stress hormone levels are well known testosterone thieves!

There’s no question that testosterone is the hormone that puts the macho in male: that virility, hairiness, heavier bone and muscle mass, deeper voice and aggressive competitive drive we associate with the male of the species. And there is little doubt that when muscles morph into body fat and sexual fizz fizzles out men may worry that they are becoming less than human. But the red convertible, younger gal pal and Viagra won’t bring back the man they were if an unhealthy lifestyle and hidden hormone imbalance go unaddressed. Fact is, Low-T or any measurable deficiency of testosterone generally goes along with deficient DHEA and undetected  imbalances of related hormones. For example men (and women) who are overweight or obese usually have high estrogen levels in relation to testosterone, DHEA or other hormones. That’s because fat cells are actually mini-estrogen-making factories, churning it out via the action of an enzyme called aromatase…and guess which hormone aromatase steals to make that conversion? Testosterone! That may come as a shock to the average man but vital need to know information since estrogen is a growth hormone linked with enlargement of the prostate. Having a spare tire and “moobs” (aka ‘man boobs’ or fatty tissue in the breasts) is a man’s first clue that his available testosterone is being snatched up and turned into estrogen….no wonder he is more emotional, moody, gaining weight and losing his drive. Topping up with T in this case can be very beneficial for men if and when they use it in the right amounts and in tandem with:

-an improved diet rich in high-quality protein, high fiber and dark green vegetables vs. highly refined carbohydrate foods and sugar

– a superior multivitamin that contains adequate levels of all the multis, EFAs essential fatty acids, the complete Bcomplex, and key minerals like zinc (inhibits aromatase conversion of testosterone to estrogen in fat cells), selenium (helps convert thryoxine T4 to active active thyroid hormone T3), magnesium (calms nerves and improves sleep) and other essential trace minerals

– strength training or weight bearing exercise 2-3 days a week to boost lean muscle mass, metabolism and natural testosterone and DHEA production

Regular aerobic exercise, interval training and weight bearing exercise is crucial in both men and women to boosting hormone production, strength, stamina, and metabolism.

Regular aerobic exercise, interval training and weight bearing exercise is crucial in both men and women to boosting hormone production, strength, stamina, and metabolism.

– adequate sleep which experts say is 7-8 hours minimum to ensure cell repair and to normalize stress and appetite hormone levels

-stress reduction – crucial since high cortisol stress hormone levels exponentially deplete T levels.

Last but not least topping up with T should be on an “as needed basis” after testing has established a deficiency, and then monitored. DHEA the precursor of testosterone is often a good place to start along with strength training. If you need to supplement, be sure to ask your provider for bioidentical hormones, those derived from plant substances and made to duplicate the hormones the body produces naturally. Note also that topical supplements rubbed into the skin (gels, creams) do not always show up in a serum test, and that can lead to possible OVERsupplementation, so many providers and experts in the field use saliva or dried blood spot sampling to track and adjust dosage as needed.

Do keep in mind that testosterone and Low T is not just a guy thing – women too need adequate T to maintain sexual function, strengthen bones and muscles, boost mental clarity and libido, though women’s bodies make a lot less…. Sidenote: how interesting that nearly half of women in the workforce these days make as much money or more than their male counterparts on just one-tenth the amount of testosterone…. but I digress.

Men and women both need adequate levels not only of testosterone but of all hormones...

Men and women both need adequate levels not only of testosterone but of all hormones which must work in concert with each other, just like musical instruments for us to experience the symphony of health, energy, sexual zest and longevity.

I encourage you to read the article (link is at the top), and take it with a grain of salt and the awareness having read this blog, that hormone balance, health and optimal aging never boils down to just one hormone! Its about all of the key players – estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, thyroid – working together, in sync and in harmony! Just like the symphony orchestra, if one instrument is out of tune, so goes the melody…hormones are your internal symphony.  Replacement has its place as long as it is in tune with your body’s natural rhythms and need for proper care, feeding and rest!

Looking and feeling good at any age is a combination of the right lifestyle and supplementation as needed after testing and with tracking to avoid oversupplementation and a repeat of the WHI that showed HRT was putting women users at risk.

Looking and feeling good at any age is a combination of the right lifestyle and supplementation with bioidentical hormones as needed. Make sure to test hormones first and monitor levels to avoid the risks of over-supplementation. No one wants a repeat in men of the bad news about HRT revealed by the Women’s Health Initiative Study in 2002.

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