It has been said that 35% of men aged 35 have low testosterone, and this may be the reason that they struggle to lose weight, gain muscle and feel full of energy.
Androgens are the umbrella term for male hormones and testosterone is the main androgen that produces male characteristics. Low testosterone may be hereditary but it may also be due to lifestyle.
Stress can cause low testosterone, as well as poor diet, sleep and alcohol. Your mental state can also have a huge impact on your hormones, not to mention nutrition, because good healthy fats make cholesterol which is the building block for testosterone. Statin use may also lead to low testosterone, for example, and if you’re under lots of stress and not sleeping well, this could increase cortisol which may ‘steal’ molecules that are needed to make testosterone.
Fatty fish (omega 3 fats) can help to increase testosterone, but what can cause testosterone to decrease? Well, sugar and processed foods can. Saturated fat in small amounts may actually help to produce cholesterol, which is needed to make testosterone, but high insulin from high sugar can cause belly fat, which can cause testosterone to decrease, and this may also cause hair loss and ‘man boobs’. Belly fat is also caused by too much oestrogen, and the sex hormone binding molecule known as SBHG can cause less ‘free’ testosterone to circulate because it will be stored in the belly fat, hence further lowering testosterone. In this instance, testosterone can even get converted to oestrogen.
As mentioned, working under too much pressure, not eating or sleeping well, can impact testosterone levels, and this is how cortisol ‘steals’ from testosterone, and if your thyroid isn’t functioning well, (hypothyroidism), you could also have low testosterone. So it’s important to look at all hormones as they are all connected.
But what about alcohol? We know it can cause ‘man boobs’, belly fat and even hair loss, so if you reduce alcohol and sugar intake and increase complex fibre and your nutritional status, you could naturally increase your hormone health. Strength training will build your testosterone levels, so this could be seen as a complete lifestyle hack. Meditation can also reduce stress, and therefore cortisol levels, and you’ll also feel happier overall in your life.
In functional medicine we look at the body as a whole. The DUTCH hormone profile test looks at the total amount of testosterone and also the conversions and pathways. Over aromatising (making too much oestrogen), can be caused by increasing visceral fat, and so all aspects of hormone production and delivery is assessed.
Glucocorticoids (hormones) and insulin resistance can be impacted by stress, health, testosterone and cortisol ratio. In fact, low testosterone can cause depression, weight gain, or inability to lose weight, hair loss, poor energy and much more. The andropause is known as the male menopause, and so if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms in your mid-life it’s worth getting a full hormone panel assessed.
Aromatase inhibitors can block the body’s natural ability to turn testosterone into oestrogen. The peptide GJG1297 can also help an individual to lose fat and gain muscle. Once visceral fat is decreased, stress reductions are in place and muscle mass is increased, these can all have a synergistic effect. Certain foods can also help, such as DIM which is contained within the broccoli family, as it helps to lower the oestrogen conversion as well as biotin and calcium deglutinate. Certain nutrients and foods, such as saw palmetto, nettle root, zinc, lycopene and green tea may also be beneficial for increasing testosterone naturally.
So, unlike female hormones which have a 28 day cycle, male hormones work on a 24 hour cycle, based around cortisol and testosterone. To keep these hormones in balance it’s important to reduce visceral fat, gain muscle, reduce sugar and alcohol, get adequate sleep and manage stress. Just being more physically active and being outdoors helps to create the production of androgens, whereas a poor glycaemic load, fat deposition and immunological dysfunction feed the inflammatory load, and poor sleep will further disrupt these pathways.
There are many natural interventions that a man can take to improve hormone health. To discuss these further please feel free to book in a free session call with me here.