Hormone problems do not only affect women! In fact, hormone imbalances present in men are actually pretty common as well.
Men can also struggle with numerous negative symptoms daily, without being aware they might be directly connected to their hormone levels! Often enough, a dysfunction in male hormones means abnormal testosterone levels, the hormone responsible for “maleness.” And it’s a sad reality that during the past few decades, average levels of testosterone have been declining at a substantially fast rate. Today’s toxic environment coupled with poor nutrition is speeding up the aging process, which is also reflected by your hormone levels.
For a man to be in shape and healthy, other key hormones besides testosterone need to be balanced as well, like pregnenolone, DHEA, cortisol, progesterone and growth hormone. So the problem might be more complex than just “fixing hormone levels.” An integrative and holistic approach is often needed for true health.
Symptoms of Hormone Imbalances in Men
The changes that happen in male reproductive hormones are often but not always subtler. And they tend to occur more gradually through life, compared to the often-dramatic hormone changes in women. Some of the symptoms to watch for are: erectile dysfunction, less sex drive, feeling tired, lacking initiative, being less assertive, low energy, gaining weight, losing muscle or definition, having difficulty building muscle in spite of consistent workouts, feeling mildly depressed, enjoying life less, not performing as well at work or in sports, insulin resistance or diabetes, belly fat, depression, sleep apnea.
High estrogen can cause excess weight, especially around the breasts, hips and abdomen and is the most common male hormone imbalance in overweight men.
Causes of Hormone Imbalances in Men
One of the most important factors for men and hormonal health is the ratio between testosterone and estrogen is the aromatase enzyme. Aromatase converts testosterone to estrogen, further depleting free testosterone levels and increasing estrogen levels.
Obesity and associated hyperinsulinemia can significantly reduce circulating testosterone levels by suppressing the action of luteinizing hormone in the testis. In addition, increased belly fat mass has been correlated with increased aromatase levels.
Processed diets, high in refined carbohydrates will lead to insulin resistance and excess alcohol can lead to imbalances in sex hormones.
Personal care products can be high in chemicals, which contain xenoestrogens. Other chemicals in the environment and plastic containers also contain xenoestrogens leading to higher estrogen levels and lower testosterone levels.
Excessive amounts of cardio/ endurance exercise might also lead to a drop in testosterone and higher estrogen. Strength and high intensity interval training is a better option.
Any decrease in liver function could exacerbate hormonal imbalances and compromise healthy testosterone levels. Thus it is important that aging men also strive for optimal liver function.
How Do Testosterone Imbalances Affect Health in Men?
Recent studies have demonstrated that low testosterone in men is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and an almost 50% increase in mortality over a seven-year period.
Low levels of testosterone have been associated with depression, neurodegenerative diseases and other psychological disorders.
Testosterone affects fat cell metabolism and fat loss. Studies have found inverse associations between the severity of metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by excess abdominal fat, high cholesterol and high blood pressure that predispose one for cardiovascular disease, and low plasma testosterone.
A clinical study demonstrated that men with low testosterone levels are twice as insulin resistant as their counterparts with normal testosterone levels, and 90% met the criteria for the metabolic syndrome.
A high estrogen level in men can elevate sugar levels, increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack, and cause gynecomastia (breast enlargement), weight gain, prostate problems and sleep apnea.
What are the Options and Benefits of Treatment?
When measuring testosterone levels, it is critical to determine the levels of both free and total testosterone to understand the cause of any observed symptoms of deficiency. In addition, levels of the other sex hormones must be carefully analyzed for a comprehensive picture of your imbalances.
Optimum levels of testosterone can not only restore energy, drive and sexual health, but also extend life. Studies have shown that restoring testosterone to youthful ranges in middle-aged, obese men resulted in an increase in insulin sensitivity as well as a reduction in total cholesterol, fat mass, waist circumference and pro-inflammatory cytokines associated with atherosclerosis, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome.
Compounded medications, such as bioidentical hormones can be formulated at any dose or strength needed, with fewer fillers, and in any delivery method-oral pills, sublingual troches, nasal sprays, or transdermal creams or gels.
But not all types of testosterone are the same or created equal. For instance, a cream will mostly convert to estrogen in men who are overweight or have insulin resistance or diabetes, which can reduce its effectiveness and actually make matters worse.
You need to find a doctor who understands this and will work with you to figure out which preparation and delivery system works best for you and your unique requirements.