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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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How do Hormone Imbalances Make us Gain Weight ? Let’s Count the Ways!

In my last post I talked about the hormonal links to unwanted weight gain and immovable belly fat. If you simply cannot figure out why you can no longer shed pounds easily like you used to even though you try to eat right, exercise, and take your vitamins every morning, you might be walking around with an undetected hormone imbalance that is sabotaging your best efforts. How does hormone imbalance contribute to weight gain? Let me count the ways!  Better still I’ll let naturopathic Dr. Amy Shah, boil it down for you here (with a few italicized notes from me in there)….read on:
These are the top areas women neglect, even when they think they’re being healthy.
1. You have an estrogen to progesterone imbalance.

Many women — especially those of child-bearing age — have an estrogen dominance problem. If you exercise daily, it’s likely that you’re using up your progesterone and estrogen is dominating. Other causes of estrogen dominance include environmental factors such as pesticides, plastics, industrial waste products, car exhaust, meat, soaps, furniture and carpet.

Diet, most importantly making sure you eat “hormone-free” (the label should clearly read “these animals were raised without hormones or antibiotics) environmental avoidance of xenoestrogens, and taking supplements can bolster your progesterone and decrease estrogen dominance. Check out the Environmental Working Group on line (www.ewg.org) for the full revelations and actions you can take!

2. You’re not getting enough vitamin D.

Possibly due to our awareness of skin cancer and the use of sunscreen, our levels of vitamin D are lower than they were decades ago. Not to mention that we are spending more time working indoors in front of computers, or exercising inside vs. in the great outdoors. Vitamin D in that is it synthesized by the action of sunlight upon the skin acts like a hormone in our bodies, and deficiency has been linked to allergies, asthma, weight gain, fatigue, food allergies and even cancer. Vitamin D levels can be tested by your healthcare provider, and supplemental vitamin D can be found in various forms.

3. You have high cortisol.

High levels of cortisol (our “stress hormone”) is another big reason we tend to store fat and keep weight on our abdominal area until the stressor is minimized or resolved.. I used to wake up very early to do a spin class or intense run, then race home to get ready for work, then deal with my young kids and chores. That increased my cortisol levels and working against my goals of having a lean body.

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If you feel like you need to be on a caffeine drip at all times, it means you’re having too many highs and lows with cortisol as a big culprit. Cortisol is associated with increased appetite, cravings for sugar, and weight gain, belly fat in particular. You need to unwind everyday with whatever it is that shuts off your hypervigilence — even if it’s for 10 minutes per day.

4. You’re eating processed “healthy.”

Excess sodium, GMOs and sugar are all hidden ingredients that are both inflammatory and causes of excess weight gain. Just because it’s at a health food store and it’s “gluten free” or “low fat” or “natural,” DOES NOT mean it’s good for you. It took me a long time to get over this, because packaging with the words “natural” and “healthy” are very enticing.

5. You’re eating too much fat.

Paleo and other higher-fat diets work for some people, but many women, such as myself, don’t do well with them. Our bodies may do well with fat — especially when added to greens — but be careful not to go overboard.

6. You’re skimping on quality sleep.

This still remains tried and true. Your hormones need it. Your muscles need it for repair, and your brain needs it. The two hormones that are key in the relationship between sleep and weight loss are ghrelin and leptin. These hormones operate on the sleep-wake cycle so when you get less than 7 hours a night appetite hormones are disrupted. Put very simply, leptin tells us when to stop eating and when you’re sleep deprived it plummets so you have less. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you’re sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin and more appetite but may never feel full.

Often when I am having sleep disturbances or jet lag, I use melatonin and magnesium (an all too common deficiency associated with sleep disturbances AND chocolate cravings) as supplements to get me on the right track.

7. You’re not eating your cruciferous vegetables.

Cruciferous vegetables from the vegetable family Brassicaceae include cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli and other similar green vegetables. Not only are they good for you because of the feeling of fullness you get from the fiber, but they’re also good for estrogen metabolism through a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C). It is a natural source of DIM (3,3-Diindolylmethane) that helps promote estrogen balance AND helps clear the body of the toxic xenoestrogens we pick up from the environment. This is the cheapest, easiest way to get your hormones — and your weight — in balance.
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http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10296/why-so-many-healthy-women-cant-lose-weight.html

 

 

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Re-woman Returns to Confess and Re-balance Her Hormone Resolutions for 2013

A scant year ago in this blog I declared my New Years aspirations to remake my post-menopausal self into a more serene, cleansed, and hormonally balanced version of me. I believe I gave myself the first 30 days of 2012 to become a new woman, a re-woman if you will. Hah! 352 plus days later I am here to report back on the past years’ effort to live up to my aspirations and practice what I preach, followed by an honest as I know how to be, no BS commentary on how I did last year with readjusted expectations for 2013.

2013  Inauguration day

Rewoman and great friend Pamela Bateman (left), founder of the Seventh Woman Foundation (www.theseventhwoman.org) for breast cancer prevention, reinaugurate their pledge to stay (warm) and  balanced at the reinauguration of our 44th President in D.C.!

1) Get into that bed one hour earlier every single night.

Ooops! Well maybe not a total flop …. if you’re a night owl like me you know that getting to bed before midnight is a major feat.  Rewoman confession: I did not live up to the every night part of the aspiration, but did manage to get in bed with a book around 11ish a couple nights of the week. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Lights out by midnight every other night of the week. The earlier bedtimes will lower my cortisol stress hormones to resting levels sooner rather than later, leading to that much coveted deeper sleep and satisfied appetite hormones, thus reducing overeating, cravings and the dreaded result – belly fat!

2) Rise one hour earlier to a cup of green tea instead of coffee.

Green tea is one of the best alternatives to coffee, get to know the different brands….Joy is introducing the Genmaicha powdered version and sharing a cuppa’ with a friend…what could be more healing or stress reducing?

Small triumph: My typical waking time before I made this resolution was 9ish…I now get up about 30 minutes earlier most days, without an alarm clock, now that is progress.  Rewoman confession: I did not convert to the green tea in the morning until just last month when following Kyle’s group cleanse. Good thing I did stop the coffee a week before I went on to do my annual ‘master cleanse’ a detox that can bring on killer headaches, but I never suffered a single one. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Aim for the full hour earlier each day in concert with at least 8 hours of sleep the night before. Studies at Stanford and U. of Chicago observe that “short sleepers,” (defined as 7 hours a night or less) have stress-related hormone imbalances linked to weight gain and higher body fat, a raging appetite, mood swings, memory lapse and low libido.

3) Spend at least 15 to 20 mns. morning and/or evening in stillness: no talking, no electronic stimuli, no nothing – just breathing. (This practice will help me to calm down, FOCUS, and eventually become the most serene woman I have ever met.) Thumbs up: I certainly feel more focused and balanced throughout the day when I spend that first 30 minutes stretching, breathing, sipping or gazing into the distance. Rewoman confession: Well I’m not going to claim I’m the most serene woman I know … but then I have to ask myself how many women I know who describe themselves as serene…perhaps it is the difference between feeling half-crazy and stressed-out when your hormones are out of balance, and the feeling of calm that descends once balance is restored. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Learn to meditate for once and for all, and study up on more deep breathing techniques. Make cultivating stillness my mantra for finding balance within. Also, read: QUIET: the Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.

gaing out

Gaze into the distance, quiet your mind and find balance in silence some part of every day.

4) Rev up my 40-minute walk to 1 hour a day – and walk faster. No lollygagging and no excuses, even if I have to walk in the rain and the dark.  (This will help to humidify my skin and oxygenate my brain and body so that I will live forever, or at least look and feel like I can!) Getting there! I am up to an hour every other day… and exercising on average 6 days a week; it’s become so normal now that I feel completely out of sorts if I miss a day….have so far invested in warm, absolutely waterproof (don’t settle for water resistant especially in wintry climes) pants, gloves, hat with flaps, and am so far so good, perfectly warm and dry. Not only that, by deciding to take all my exercise outdoors I’m saving 160 bucks a month in athletic club dues. Rewoman confession: I have not done strength training or weight bearing exercises consistently enough to build lean muscle, the key to reviving strength stamina and natural hormone supplies as we age. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Join the Sierra Club to get in more hill walking and hikes that will boost my muscle and bone mass, metabolism, mood, memory and even libido. Always room for improvement there!

CandaceRainGearWeb

Re-woman aspires to walking not 6 but 7 days a week, every day in the great outdoors AND stay completely warm and dry…the key is waterPROOF (as opposed to water resistant …it isn’t protective enough if you’re walking in all weather) gear: windbreaker, vest, overalls, gloves, and boots, a warm hoodie and your favorite hat with a brim (essential for rewomen who wear glasses! ) …45 minutes to an hour a day boosts natural hormone levels, mood and muscle!

5) Learn how to make Brussels sprouts taste good! (Adding way more cruciferous vegetables: kale, chard, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage) to my daily diet will help to metabolize excess and/or toxic, i.e. ‘xeno’ estrogens from my body, thus clearing my onward path to natural hormone balance.) Done! was this ever a success thanks especially to all the great recipes YOU readers sent (see Jan. 15, 2012 blog comments for recipes!) Rewoman confession: I have become addicted to Brussels Sprouts.  Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Learn how to make cauliflower mouthwatering…any recipes for this one ladies?

6) Tune out talking heads before bedtime. (This will stop the overstimulation of the 24/7 news cycles and rid my tired brain of useless chatter AND prevent me from becoming one of those people who develops ADHD in her 60s, heaven forbid!) FLOP: Pre-election addiction to the latest news from the campaign trail made me a liar on this aspiration HOWEVER I did find that after following the cleansing fast this past month (and of course after the election was finally over) I did not feel like watching the news much at all. Rewoman Confession: I still watch Washington Week in Review on Friday nights and Meet the Press on Sundays, but I follow it up with Downton Abbey, a real escape from the here and now… makes me wonder how women stuck in the British class system at the turn of the century dealt with their symptoms of menopause? Readjusted aspiration for 2013: No-TV-at-all-nights, at least twice a week. Continue to beat husband at scrabble. Learn Bananagrams. And Chess!

Mind/body balance: part of the equation for all of us

Tune out to practice  balance

7) Reject all foods that are genetically modified and/or any household or personal care products  that contain  pesticides, synthetic hormones, xenoestrogens, antibiotics, or empty calories. (This will significantly reduce my risk of getting indigestion, a fat belly, and a leaky gut, gluten-intolerance, insomnia and hormone imbalance, not to mention diseases of aging like breast cancer!) Challenge: This one is tough since we health care consumers cannot be sure what we are getting…witness the failure of Californians to pass a ballot for GMO modified foods to be labeled as such (in the face of enormous pressure from the likes of Monsanto…but that’s another blog).  At the very least we can inform ourselves to choose foods raised without (make sure the label reads that way) synthetic hormones, RBST, or antibiotics. If you do nothing else, do this! Rewoman Confession: I have on more than one occasion had my hair colored in salons that do not use plant-based dyes and products. In my defense there are not many hair colorists who do use completely non-toxic hair products. Nevertheless this cannot be an excuse. These are toxic chemicals that once slathered on my head, sink into my very tissues, putting me at risk for gawd knows what, hormone imbalance at the very least, and I let it happen! Why? because the color lasts longer. So who is gonna’ last longer if I get cancer after all these years of allowing toxic chemicals to seep into my brain, just because I am not ready to go gray!  Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Never again upon pain of bladder cancer risks, use harsh ‘endocrine disrupting’ (e.g. man-made toxins lethal to normal hormone operating systems) chemicals on my hair; seek out more hair salons that offer organic, ammonia-free, plant-based hair dyes (Google: Aveda and local colorists that use organic hair dyes, bleaches and styling products.)

8) Cancel at least one appointment a week and banish anything, anyone, and everything else in my life that is an unnecessary stressor. (This will enable me to become more authentic and the most stress-free person I could ever hope to meet!) Score: I averaged 2 cancelled appointments a week, have erased at least 3 high-maintenance soul-draining so-called ‘friends’ from my contact list, and changed jobs! Rewoman Confession: I’d been carrying a few dysfunctional relationships  against my better judgment for far too long.  Shedding them at long last feels good, a liberation! Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Choose friends who nourish one’s strengths vs. one’s weaknesses; do not allow what I do to become who I am; and for goodness sake, stop overbooking however well-intentioned!

9) Re-testing my hormones was also on the list for 2012: Check! Rewoman confession: found out through testing that I’d been over-supplementing a bit, so made the necessary adjustments – this  by the way is one of the most important benefits of testing your hormone levels at least once or twice a year, especially when using supplementation, its’ essential to get the dose right!

10) Last but not least, I aspired to redouble my efforts to educate more women and I just might get the chance as I’ve been invited to travel to China to give a talk on hormone balance this March. Evidently this is a topic of interest to women around the world! If YOU have a Re-balance plan you’d like to share, or for that matter, a great mouthwatering cauliflower recipe you can pass on PLEASE sign up to become a follower and comment right here on the blog!! We’re all ears!

Masking the menopause madness

Rewoman behind the scenes:  getting your hormones back in sync can’t be a rehearsal, its a balancing act we practice every day.

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