Men, do you find yourself losing muscle mass or crying during Hallmark commercials? Are you having heart issues or a problem maintaining an erection? Are you considering ordering a “Manziniere” and/or corset? If so, you might be experiencing the dreaded “male menopause”.
What is Andropause?
Andropause involves the gradual reduction of androgen hormones like testosterone. The body needs maintains a tight balance between the amount of testosterone and estrogen. A normal ratio is approximately 50:1 but with those with andropause, ratios can drop to as low as 8:1.
Low testosterone levels affects at least 40% of men ages 55 to 65, and up to 80% of those aged 65 years or more, yet losing testosterone as we age is normal. After age 30, testes production drops annually by 1-1.5% (causing a reduction of free levels by 1-2%). Normally, it goes unnoticed as symptoms tend to lag 10 to 20 years behind the onset of hormone decline.
Regaining your vigor is not a “pipe dream”. It turns out there are many things you can do to slow the process and help get your “man” back on.
What does testosterone do?
Testosterone plays many important roles throughout the body. Although testosterone levels affect women as well (think PCOS), were are going to focus on men. In addition to the all important male libido, testosterone appears to have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. It turns out there are more cellular sites for testosterone in the heart than any other muscle in the body! Testosterone also helps to maintain lean body mass and decrease abdominal fat and…..
- Has an overall anabolic effect
- Positively effects attention, memory and spatial ability
- Improves sense of well-being and mood
- Increases bone density
- Maintains stamina and overall energy
- Protective against cancer and antagonist to estrogen
What are the health effects of low testosterone?
Low levels have been correlated with increased obesity and high waist-to-hip ratio, insulin insensitivity, sexual dysfunction, and cardiovascular risk. Since testosterone decreases as estrogen increases, this inverse relationship activates the BCL2 oncogene (onco means cancer) which increases the risk of prostate and breast cancer (if adequate amount of progesterone is not there to counteract its effect). Besides cancer risk, autoimmune diseases can result from the tax on the immune system.
What are some signs and symptoms of low testosterone levels?
Common ones include:
- decreased libido, decrease in spontaneous morning erections, fullness, and ability to maintain erections
- prostrate hyperplasia or BPH
- mental fatigue
- elevations in blood pressure
- development of varicose veins and hemorrhoids
- changes in visual acuity
- inability to concentrate
- muscle soreness and decreased physical stamina
- elevations in lipid, fibrin, and insulin levels increase causing plaque formation
What causes decreased testosterone levels?
The number one cause is increased estrogen levels due to the conversion of testosterone to estrogen via the “aromatase enzyme”. This is commonly caused by insulin resistance, high cortisol levels and issues that affects detoxification, gut, adrenal and thyroid dysfunction, and pituitary and testicular issues.
Are there other contributing factors?
A few include:
- Lack of specific vitamins and minerals
- Testosterone synthesis is dependent on zinc and essential fatty acids
- Sulfur amino acids, magnesium, or B complex vitamins remove excess estrogen
- B6 deficiency can cause testosterone to bind to estrogen receptors which keep them from doing their job
- Conversion issues
- Taking hormones, steroids, and/or alcohol may decrease testosterone levels
- Excess cortisol levels reduces the raw materials needed for testosterone production
- Testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is a weaker androgen than testosterone and is not as powerful as testosterone at inhibiting of cancer cells
- Gut issues
- The body makes estrogen water soluble so that it may be eliminated through urine, sweat, or fecal matter. But when it passes through inflamed gut tissues, it uncouples the estrogen which allows it to reabsorbed in the bloodstream instead of leaving the body.
What is the best way to test hormone levels?
Both the active and inactive testosterone levels should be tested. Blood tests are useful for determining whether the testes are producing adequate levels whereas free testosterone levels let us know how much is actually being received by the cell.
Salivary hormone testing is by far the best method since it looks at both the free hormone levels as well as interactions of all the hormones, which helps us to determine root cause. This test includes 4 cortisol measurements, DHEA, testosterone, progesterone, DHEA, androstenedione, DHT, estrogens, and LH/FHS.
Do supplements help?
Nutritional protocols can be used to regulate enzymes as well as correct metabolic imbalances. Note: It is pretty important not to shut down any conversion pathways until salivary testing has been performed. I have found men taking Saw palmetto to stop DHT production only to end up increasing their estrogen levels! Please see your healthcare provider.
- Stop the conversion of testosterone into estrogen
- Slow the production testosterone to DHT
- Enhance estrogen detoxification
- Control inflammation
- Eat an anti-flammatory diet
- Vitamin D, EFAs, and circumin may help
- Reduce inflammatory load including food allergies, bacteria, viral, and parasitic infection, chemical sensitivities, etc
What about taking testosterone in the meantime?
It is important to note that men given exogenous hormones can lead to blood clots if red blood cells count becomes too high. In addition, taking testosterone may interfere with the normal production and/or cause a down-regulation by the cell.