How Hormone Imbalance Affects Men
Men have hormones, like women, that can become imbalanced with age. Most often I see men with low testosterone and too much estrogen.
Having low testosterone can cause symptoms such as:
Weakness, fatigue, decrease in muscle mass, erectile dysfunction, low libido and weight gain.
There are many ways hormones can become imbalanced but the three most common causes I see regularly are:
2) WEAKENED ADRENAL FUNCTION
3) DRUGS AND TOXINS
First let’s talk about stress and how it can decrease your testosterone levels.
1) STRESS HORMONES: CORTISOL AND ADRENALINE
Whether you’re running from a bear or dealing with an angry client at work, your stress response is the same. Cortisol and adrenaline are released from the adrenal glands to help the body perform physical activity and respond to injury. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus, preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.
Our bodies were designed to do this for SHORT durations. Problems arise when this is occurring multiple times per day, day after day. Elevations in these stress hormones long term cause MANY detrimental effects on the body like diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol/lipids, heart disease, digestive disorders, insomnia, etc.
Let’s talk about cortisol and its effects on the body, specifically how it leads to decreased testosterone levels.
Cortisol puts glucose (sugar) into the blood steam, which in short bursts, supplies our muscles with the energy they need to fight or flee. Multiple increases in cortisol signals an increase in blood sugar for much longer periods of time than our bodies are adapted to recover from. This increase in blood sugar signals insulin to be produced. Insulin tells the body to STORE FAT. Cortisol and its effects on men and testosterone causes fat storage particularly in the abdominal region which signals more estrogen production. When you get an elevation in estrogen, you get a relative decline in testosterone.
Next we are going to discuss weakened adrenal function and how it can lead to hormone imbalance and decrease testosterone levels.
2) Weakened Adrenal Function: Adrenal glands > progesterone > cortisol = weight gain; a relative decline in progesterone = an increase in estrogen and a decrease in testosterone
The adrenals are tiny little glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They play an important role in hormone production.
Long term stress can “wear out” the adrenal glands leading to a decrease in the amount of hormones they are able to produce.
Hormones need to stay in a delicate balance in order for our bodies to function properly and an increase in one can cause a decrease in another.
DHEA is produced by the adrenal glands and is a building block of testosterone and if the adrenal glands aren’t functioning properly, you can’t sufficiently produce the appropriate building blocks which may lead to a decrease in testosterone.
Also, when you are stressed, your adrenal glands may over-produce cortisol. As you can see in this diagram, progesterone is the precursor, or building block, of cortisol. When progesterone is being used up to produce cortisol, you may not have enough left to generate sufficient testosterone.
As you can see in this diagram, progesterone, and DHEA are all building blocks needed to make testosterone. It’s important to keep your adrenal glands happy in order to maintain a healthy balance between these sex hormones. A decrease in any one of these building blocks can in turn decrease testosterone levels.
You can also see in this diagram that all of the hormones we discussed are produced from cholesterol and next we will discuss how cholesterol lowering medication can decrease testosterone levels.
3) Drugs and Toxins
There are a number of prescription and over-the-counter drugs that decrease testosterone levels. One example is “statin” drugs like Crestor, Lipitor, and other cholesterol lowering medications. Cholesterol is a precursor or building block to testosterone. There is a certain amount of cholesterol that is needed to produce sex hormones. Often times I see patients on cholesterol lowering medications that don’t have enough cholesterol to produce adequate amounts of testosterone.
TOXINS IN OUR ENVIROMENT:
Many drugs and environmental pollutants can either mimic or block actions of some hormones leading to hormonal imbalances. These are called endocrine disruptors. One example of an endocrine disruptor is plastic. Estrogenic chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), the endocrine disruptor found in plastics and food-can linings, can act like estrogens in your body and lead to estrogen dominance. Many people drink from plastic water bottles, eat food from BPA-lined cans and microwave food in plastic containers.
There are many possible and TREATABLE causes of hormone imbalance. It’s important to address the cause so that balance can be restored.