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Men have hormones too: the unspoken impact of low testosterone





As we near the end of Men’s Health Week I want to talk about the impact of hormones on male health.


In my experience, men do not spend half as much time talking about their hormones as women.  It is a fact that men are half as likely to visit their doctor to talk about preventative healthcare.  But if they do it’s more about prostate health or digestive issues. 


Hormonal imbalance isn’t always at the forefront of conversations about men’s health.  In particular, low testosterone – considered the most ‘grrrrr’ hormone – is rarely mentioned.


BUT, low testosterone is often behind many symptoms I see in my clinic.


There are a long list of symptoms where low testosterone can be implicated:


  • Depression, anxiety, lower cognitive function, irritability

  • Fatigue, malaise, lost ‘oomph’, insomnia

  • Decreased libido, erectile dysfunction

  • Reduced exercise tolerance

  • Decreased muscle mass and bone density

  • Central weight gain

  • Hair loss

  • Nausea, constipation

  • Palpitations, increased heart rate

  • Sweating and/or chills


In reality, it’s the ‘get up and go that has got up and gone’ that I see most frequently.  An overriding malaise that is clouding mental and physical health.


SO WHAT CAN CAUSE LOW TESTOSTERONE?


In men, most testosterone is made in the testes.  So injury or operations involving the testes can impact on testosterone production. 


However, more often than not this is not the case.  More often than not, it is a combination of these things….


> IMBALANCED BLOOD SUGAR


if your body is struggling to maintain a balanced blood sugar level, often due to a diet rich in refined carbohydrates and sugars, this increases something called the 'aromatase conversion'. 


This takes testosterone and converts it into oestrogen.  Sometimes this is characterised by increased breast tissue and weight gain.  Increased oestrogen also increases another hormone called sex-hormone binding globulin.  This is like a magnetic taxi for hormones which we do need, but if we have too much of it, it keeps the testosterone locked up.


> LACK OF PARTICULAR NUTRIENTS


Many nutrients are also involved in the production of testosterone.  Numerous co-factors are required to convert the raw material of cholesterol into all of our sex hormones.  For testosterone, the most important ones are zinc, magnesium and Vitamin D.


Zinc is required to make testosterone as it promotes the enzymatic conversion of cholesterol to testosterone in the leydig cells. Magnesium influences the energy for leydig cells to make the testosterone and Vitamin D increases the effectiveness of the receptors in the leydigs to receive the signals to make testosterone.  It's a complex dance!


> STRESS


Not only does stress depress pituitary signalling to the testes, but it also whizzes through our stores of magnesium as cortisol makes us excrete more of it in our urine. 

In a vicious circle, low magnesium levels impact on our ability to cope with stress as it reduces our relaxing brain chemical GABA, putting us in a more 'fight or flight' state.


> SLEEP


Most testosterone is made when you are asleep.  So if we aren't getting enough sleep we make less testosterone.  Numerous studies have shown the direct correlation between less sleep and decreased testosterone, particularly with reference to sleep apnoea. 

 

SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?


  • Balance blood sugar…. read about how to do that here


  • Boost testosterone friendly nutrients….look at your diet and consider if it includes foods rich in zinc such as shellfish, pumpkin seeds, beans, lentils, nuts and wholegrains and foods rich in magnesium such as dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, avocados, 80%+ dark chocolate.  You want at least 10 portions of a mix of these foods each week.


  • Reduce stress….focus on what you can control in your life and find the stress-relieving things that work for you, be that gentle exercise, deep breathing techniques, social time or solitude.


  • Resolve poor sleep….get to the bottom of what’s causing your poor sleep.


  • Resolve niggling digestive issues…. Acid reflux, lumps in your throat, indigestion, bloating are all signs that your digestion could be working better for you.  Poor digestion leads to nutritional deficiencies as you aren’t absorbing nutrients appropriately from your food.


Nutritional therapy can support you with understanding if low testosterone is contributing to your symptoms and what to do about it.


Get in touch if you'd like to actually talk about male hormones, I'd be delighted to help.

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