Without hormones, the body’s chemical messengers affecting every human biological systems, nothing works correctly. Testosterone, in particular, is critically important for male development, starting in the embryo, through puberty and into old age.
After reaching peak levels in a man during his mid-to-late-20s, his levels begin a slow decline. From the age of about 35, it drops by about 10 percent per decade for the rest of his life, accompanied by a slight increase in estrogen levels.
While women experience physical markers when they enter menopause, there is no specific point at which men typically enter andropause, the less extreme male version of the change of life due to low hormone production. Related changes usually cause minor problems at first and then tend to become more severe.
Medical studies from Seattle’s Veterans Administration Puget Sound Health Care System, the University of Washington and Harvard University show that testosterone deficiency contributes to reduced muscle and bone mass, male breast enlargement, depression, atherosclerosis, anemia, and diabetes.
Testosterone Test First
Hormones travel the bloodstream in bound and unbound (free) forms; only the free ones activate various body functions. When evaluating a man, a doctor will typically order a blood test for total testosterone, combining both forms.
Older men often can show a normal total level, but have a low level of free testosterone. A saliva test brings clarity, because salvia only contains free hormones. Fifty-plus-year-old men with low free testosterone that show signs of hormone imbalance should consider natural supplementation, even when total testosterone is normal. It’s best to test before starting a rebalancing program an to retest after a few months. Establishing a record over time allows a man to monitor and adjust progress.
Natural Ways to Help Hormone Levels
Taking supportive steps in nutrition and lifestyle choices can make a big difference in hormone levels and men’s health.
Proper nutrition, embracing a full complement of vitamins and minerals, is essential. Eliminate red meat, cheese, fast food and processed snack foods, which can increase estrogen levels. Herbal supplements such as Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) or puncture vine; ginkgo (gingko biloba), Korean red ginseng (Panex ginseng), and maca (Lepidium meyenii or Lepidium peruvianum) can help by increasing testosterone levels, sexual libido or erectile function. Some influence testosterone levels directly; others help enhance function by indirectly providing nutrients to improve circulation and general sexual health.
Excess fat, particularly around the abdomen, stores and produces estrogen. Reducing fat tissue can help both lower estrogen and enhance testosterone.
Endocrine disruptors, called xenoestrogens, from everyday exposure to toxic estrogenic industrial chemicals, can mimic the effects of estrogen in a man’s body. These routinely appear in petrochemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dairy products, meats, canned foods, personal care products and plastics. Bisphenol-A (BPA) in the lining of metal food cans is particularly dangerous. Avoid microwaving foods in plastic containers, even when they are labeled as microwave-safe.
Dr. Eugene R. Shippen, co-author of The Testosterone Syndrome, states, “High-dose statin drugs used to lower cholesterol definitely lower testosterone levels and are high on the list of causes of erectile dysfunction.
Physically inactive people lose up to 5 percent of their total muscle mass per decade. Exercise helps to lower estrogen levels and enhance testosterone levels.
Past incorrect beliefs that testosterone replacement therapy causes prostate cancer left many medical practitioners reluctant to prescribe it. The latest scientific research shows that a healthy man does not increase the risk by raising his testosterone level to the normal biological range for his age. Renowned medical oncologist and prostate cancer researcher and survivor, Dr. Charles “Snuffy” Myers, has stated, “There is absolutely no hint that testosterone at high levels correlates with prostate cancer.” He founded the American Institute for Diseases of the Prostate, near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Natural bioidentical testosterone cream labeled USP, for United States Pharmacopeia standard, is available at compounding pharmacies. Bioidentical means that a substance has the same chemical form as that produced by the human body.
Other forms of therapy, including biweekly injections, skin patches and pills, typically employ synthetic chemicals that are similar, but not identical, to natural testosterone. Thus, such products are not completely recognizable by the body.
About 15 years ago, bestselling author and hormone balancing expert Dr. John R. Lee published his startling conclusion that synthetic hormones can cause serious side effects, including an increased risk of stroke, cancer and liver damage. His findings were subsequently confirmed by the Women’s Health Initiative study. Injections, skin patches and pills subject the body to unnatural fluctuations in testosterone and estrogen. In contrast, skin creams permit precise daily or periodic dosing as prescribed by a qualified health care practitioner.
As they age, some men strongly feel the effects of a cumulative decline in their levels and experience significant symptoms, while others barely notice it. Restoring testosterone to its biological norm can be rewarding. Remember that hormones are powerful and a little can go a long way. Beyond a prescribed amount, more is not better and can reverse benefits.
Sourced, in part, by Natural Awakenings magazine, June 2012