In this blog it's the men's turn!
And yes, estrogen will still be an important topic…even for you men…but let’s start with the male hormone that you are most familiar with, Testosterone.
Yes, “Low T” is a very prevalent issue. In a stat that I have from 2011, an estimated 13 million men in the US had Low T issues. I’m sure that stat is much larger today.
Yet, only a handful (5-10%) of men typically seek treatment for low testosteronesymptoms.
A lot of men take Viagra, but Viagra is prescribed specifically to address erectile dysfunction only…it doesn’t address low testosterone issues. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is just one symptom of Low T, and in fact, ED can also be caused by other things, such as medication.
While Low T is known for causing erectile dysfunction, a lower sex drive and reduction in sperm; low testosterone is a risk factor for many other health conditions and diseases, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Low T may also be a risk factor for cognitive decline and possibly for Alzheimer’s type dementia.[i]
Testosterone has many beneficial health functions as the following chart illustrates.
As free testosterone peaks in a man’s 20’s and gradually declines (declining 1% per year after age 30), he may start to see a wide variety of symptoms (anyone think they look a lot like the key symptoms seen in menopause?).
These are all symptoms men can experience with low testosterone, and are considered part of “andropause” (yes, male menopause does exist!).
Testosterone is a hormone found in both men and women (surprise!). In men it is primarily made by the testicles. In both men and women it is made in a much smaller amount by the adrenal glands, and in women, it is also made by the ovaries.
Testosterone is important to sexual function in both men and women. In boys going through puberty testosterone causes the boy to become more muscular, to grow facial and body hair, develop a deeper voice, and to make sperm.
Most of the testosterone in the blood is bound to a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). There is also something called “free testosterone”, which is testosterone that is not bound. Your doctor can get measures of both of these – and many more health markers such as estrogen levels – in a simple blood test. Here is an example of a test you can take, my Elite hormone test panel.
In general, a diagnosis of low testosterone is made if a man’s hormone level is below 300 ng/dL. Normal range is considered 500-1000 ng/dL. I typically optimized male testosterone levels at 600-800 and rarely above or below those numbers.
Your testosterone measurement is only part of the equation. Your sexual hormone health isn’t just the amount of testosterone you have!
As men get older their levels of free testosterone decline but their estrogen levels (primarily estradiol) tend to increase.
Yes, men have estrogen just like women. I actually have a scary stat that is now a few years old, but the stat is that the average 60 year old man has more circulating estrogen in his blood than the average 60 year old woman.
Let that sink in!
There are many factors that contribute to an increase in estrogen as men age…
One factor is likely the result of the increasing number of hormone disruptors in the environment; many of them mimic estrogen. And by the way, hormone disruptors are blamed for total testosterone levels in men dropping about 22% between 1987 and 2004 as well![ii] So reducing one’s exposure to these can help reduce their effect. You can learn more about hormone disruptors found in your food, environment and personal care products here.
Another factor? Estrogen hormones such as estradiol in our food, such as with our meat and dairy. This is why I tell the men in my life to eat grass fed beef that are also given no hormones.
Is your dinner giving your man, man-boobs?
And a final – most significant factor – is the activity of enzymes in the body called aromatase enzymes. These enzymes, found in fat tissue, convert testosterone into estrogen. It is a natural process for a man’s body to create estrogen (which in small amounts is important to bones and other processes).
But as many men age and pile on the belly fat, aromatase enzyme activity increases. This is where the problem occurs. There is a health measurement called the Testosterone to Estrogen (T/E) ratio, and with increased aromatase enzyme activity this ratio is significantly altered. More and more of the already diminishing testosterone is converted to more and more estrogen. This results in all of the typical “Low T” symptoms but also impacts a man’s underlying health partly due to the increase in estrogen.
Fat tissue also loves to store estradiol.
As our population has become more obese and our diet unhealthy and full of insideous sugars, white foods, grains and unhealthy fats, we will likely see increased aromatization (which results in more estrogen!) in men.
To re-emphasize the point: aromatase enzymes are found in fat tissue. Obese men are more likely to have low testosterone. And men with low testosterone are more likely to become obese.
Again, fat cells (containing aromatase enzymes) metabolize testosterone (into estrogen) lowering testosterone levels and increasing estrogen levels. And obesity also reduces the levels of SHBG. SHBG’s job is to carry testosterone in the blood, so reduced levels of SHBG means less testosterone as well.
Research has shown the high estrogen raises diabetes risk[iii] and also increases the risk for prostate cancer and autoimmune diseases.[iv]
There are conflicting views on whether low T and/or high estrogen increases heart disease in men, but my dear friend Dr. Steven Masley, author of several books on heart health, wrote an article about a study that focused on the health benefits of increasing testosterone to healthy levels; find it here.[v]. He found that in men who had “low T” (less than 300 ng/dL), when their testosterone levels were increased to normal levels (500-100 ng/dL) had the following results:
The American Urological Association has shown there are many linkages between weight-related diseases and low testosterone. Men with certain health problems tend to have low testosterone (it is not necessarily causal, but they are very established links)[vi]:
With diabetes for example, men having diabetes are more likely to have low testosterone. But also, men with low testosterone are more likely to develop diabetes. Consider that testosterone helps the tissues in the body take up more blood sugar in response to insulin. Men with low testosterone often have insulin resistance.
In animal studies, high alcohol intake showed increased aromatization and limited the liver’s ability to get rid of the excess estrogen. And in studies involving men, heavy alcohol intakes boosted estrogen levels in the liver.[vii]
So what’s a man to do?
And that is clearly the lifestyle choices we make about diet, exercise (high intensity/burst training and strength training are best), stress management, sleep, environmental toxin avoidance (minimize endocrine disruptors, stop using plastics around your food!) and healthy living (not smoking, drinking caffeine and alcohol in moderation, etc.). Lose body fat! I recommend a Keto-Alkaline® Diet. Here’s a video I did on the “3 things a gynecologist (ME) want men to know!”
I have been prescribing bio-identical testosterone for men (and women) for decades. Consider discussing this option with your doctor. It has been shown to:
There are many ways to supplement with it, my preference has been small weekly injections, because creams and gels tend to get on those we love.
Bio-identical hormones are made from natural compounds and identical to our body’s own natural hormones, which mean they are more easily metabolized and utilized by the body without the negative side effects often associated with synthetic hormones.
There are prescription-based bio-identical hormones that are FDA approved, and there are “custom-compounded” bio-identical hormone solutions. This is true for male and female hormone replacement and requires physician supervision.
WARNING – MUST READ
Be cautious though. My biggest disappointment in the age of anti-aging medicine is when practitioners and clients choose to allow testosterone go above physiologic levels mentioned above and when the male is treated without the spouse involved in the treatment plan. This invariably may lead to novelty seeking behavior, or grazing outside their relationship. This is a result of physiology driving behavior. It is the exact opposite of the initial goal of increasing intimacy, love and passion.
Many of these clinics have high divorce rates. I learned early on in my practice to caution clients if they start having any thoughts, feelings or behaviors that aren’t in their nature. I clearly remember one client, I was treating him and his wife, and during his follow up he stated he was having thoughts about women, not his wife, that he didn’t want or need to be having. We stopped the T for a few days and reduced the amount and he felt his devoted self joyfully again.
I have also recommended DHEA supplementation with great success (to both male and female patients). For men it has been found to:
Generally I recommend 25-50 mg for men depending on tested levels (this needs to be tested/monitored by your physician!).
I used DHEA to help my 79 year old father feel better…it can really be helpful. Talk with your physician as levels should be monitored!
We also currently have men (with very solid egos) using Julva because of its effectiveness!
Along with being an adrenal adaptogen…maca has been clinically proven to improve male erection and sperm production and motility. Boosts strength and stamina, and boosts libido. Improves athletic performance, fatigue issues and memory!
Maca also has a high concentration of histidine, which aids in orgasm and ejaculation.
The most important hormone we have is Oxytocin. The hormone of love, bonding and connection which add to the feeling of a peaceful life well lived and loved. I want that for all of you.
Read this article about natural ways you can increase your oxytocin! (and cuddling, loving...and enjoying your partner are on the list!)
The important thing is to talk with your doctor about your testosterone and estrogen hormone levels, get tested and determine what options would be best for you and your overall health!
Print out this article and discuss it with your doctor...there are many things you can do!
[i] Moffat SD. Effects of testosterone on cognitive and brain aging in elderly men. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2005 Dec;1055:80-90
Beauchet O. Testosterone and cognitive function: current clinical evidence of a relationship. Eur J Endocrinol. 2006 Dec;155(6):773-81
[vii] Purohit V. Can alcohol promote aromatization of androgens to estrogens? A review. Alcohol. 2000 Nov;22(3):123-7.Colantoni A, Emanuele MA, Kovacs EJ, Villa E, Van Thiel DH. Hepatic estrogen receptors and alcohol intake. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2002 Jul 31;193(1-2):101-4.
Cohen PG. The hypogonadal-obesity cycle: role of aromatase in modulating the testosterone-estradiol shunt–a major factor in the genesis of morbid obesity. Med Hypotheses. 1999 Jan;52(1):49-51.
Rebuffé-Scrive M, Mårin P, Björntorp P. Effect of testosterone on abdominal adipose tissue in men. Int J Obes. 1991 Nov;15(11):791-5.