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Male hormones and how they affect health

23rd January 2020

Are you wondering what’s happening to you? You used to have energy to spare when you got home from work, and now even sex has become a chore. You’re irritable, fatigued, your hair is falling out, you’ve gained weight, and you’re feeling less like the man you and others always thought you were.

Why hormones decline

What’s happening with your body? As men age, they experience a decline in hormones called andropause (or male menopause).

How hormones are produced in men

The pituitary is an important little gland in the bottom, the middle part of the brain. It, along with the hypothalamus, operates like a hormone thermostat. But instead of measuring temperature, the pituitary measures various hormones in your body, like testosterone and thyroid. As the pituitary senses that your body needs a certain hormone, it secretes a stimulating hormone that stimulates selected glands to produce more of that particular hormone. For example, when it senses the body needs testosterone, the pituitary secretes something called luteinizing hormone (or LH). Once secreted, LH flows through the blood to the testes, where it stimulates them to produce more testosterone. As testosterone levels rise, the pituitary shuts LH production down. It works the same for thyroid; but instead of secreting LH, a stimulating hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is secreted that stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormone.

Why hormones decline in men

As the body ages, the pituitary’s ability to produce stimulating hormones slows down. Likewise, the glands that respond to stimulating hormones slow down. The result is an overall decline in hormone levels. While most men will begin to feel the effects of diminished hormones when they’re in their 40s, for some men, the pituitary and other glands slow prematurely. In fact, many men are presenting with diminished hormones earlier in life in recent years. Research suggests this trend may be due to the effects of environmental pollutants like petrochemicals and insecticides. A blow to the head (particularly the back of the head) can also compromise the body’s ability to produce hormone in adequate quantities.

Thyroid in men

Thyroid affects every cell of the body. In fact, the thyroid gland and its hormones are what many physicians call the “traffic direction centre” of the hormone system. Thyroid hormones are important in their own right, but more so in relation to the function and balance of other hormones. Put simply, healthy thyroid function is critical to the healthy function of the hormone system in general. Thyroid production declines with age just like testosterone, and results in hypothyroidism—the condition in which the thyroid makes too little thyroid hormone. Read on to learn more about thyroid in men, and the thyroid problems men experience during andropause (or male menopause).

Symptoms of low thyroid

  • Fatigue
  • Weight Gain
  • Water Retention
  • Hair Loss (a major cause)
  • Dry Skin / Brittle Nails
  • Sensitivity to Cold / Cold Extremities
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • High Cholesterol
  • Mental Fogginess
  • Memory Loss

If you have an underactive thyroid, your doctor may prescribe medication such as Levothyroxine, Eltroxin or Liothyronine. These medications contain synthetic hormones and helps prevent the symptoms associated with an underactive thyroid.

  • Levothyroxine replaces hormones and prevents the systems of having an underactive thyroid.
  • Eltroxin contains synthetic hormones which help replace T3 and T4 hormone levels.
  • Liothyronine contains a synthetic thyroid hormone. It is suitable for those who cannot use Liothyronine.

Cortisol and men

Cortisol is the hormone responsible for releasing adrenalin when you’re under stress. And in small doses, that’s good. But you know the phrase “too much of a good thing can kill you”? Such is the case with cortisol.

Cortisol: the Jekyll & Hyde hormone

While your body needs cortisol to function well, too much can actually cause premature ageing, and chronic illness later in life. And what causes excess cortisol? Too much stress. To say that stress is a killer is not an exaggeration. Excess cortisol released during prolonged periods of stress leaches nutrients from your body’s tissues, lowers the immune system, and actually causes cell destruction. All of this exposes the body to premature ageing and illness.

Cortisol and stress

Stress is how our bodies respond to an emotional or physical threat, whether actual or imagined. In more practical terms, stress is the body’s response to unpleasant events over which an individual perceives they have no control. The more a man feels that he doesn’t have control over work, relationships, and other aspects of his life, the more stressed he may feel, and the more his physical health may be affected.

What happens when we’re under stress

In stressful situations, the brain tells the adrenal glands to produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is often referred to as the “fight or flight” hormone because it triggers the release of adrenalin. This important hormone evolved in the body hundreds of thousands of years ago as a mechanism to help humankind deal with threats of one sort or another. The difficulty with modern day life is that rather than being faced with the occasional big hairy animal that wants to eat us, we’re bombarded with numerous threats on a persistent and daily basis. Whether it’s at work or at home, too many of us feel threatened, overwhelmed, anxious, or like we don’t have control over what’s going on in our lives. All of this results in the excess production of cortisol, and can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue.

Some facts about cortisol

  • Cortisol is beneficial in small doses because it prepares your body for periods of short-lived stress (like taking a final exam, or delivering a presentation), and gives you the energy you need to get through your day.
  • Too much cortisol over an extended period of time, however, is not beneficial. It will age the body unlike anything else.
  • Studies have shown that excess cortisol causes loss of collagen in the skin at ten times the rate it does in other body tissues.
  • The brain is particularly susceptible to the destructive aspects of cortisol. Neurons in the brain (which connect memory cells), are particularly susceptible to the effects of cortisol. Research suggests that extended periods of exposure to excess cortisol can increase the threat of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
  • Excess cortisol robs your body of nutrients. In times of stress, your body marshals its resources to cope with too much cortisol. As a result, nutrients are leached from your body’s cells. Excess cortisol causes increased blood pressure.
  • Cortisol reduces bone formation. So excess production of cortisol over a long period can exacerbate osteoporosis.
  • Cortisol is a double-edged sword. Pressure on the adrenal glands to continually produce cortisol can result in adrenal fatigue. When the adrenal glands become exhausted, they lose their ability to produce the small amounts of cortisol your body actually needs on a daily basis to function well. The result is persistent fatigue, and feeling like it’s a struggle to get through the day. Adrenal fatigue can also mean losing the stress-response you would normally have when it’s needed (to avoid danger, to perform well while giving a presentation, etc.).
  • Most people naturally associate feeling stressed and run down with being more vulnerable to colds and flu. That’s because excess cortisol compromises your immune system. Viruses are the short term result of a lowered immune system. Susceptibility to more chronic illnesses can be the long term result.
  • Cortisol in excessive amounts can signal your body to go into storage mode when it comes to calories. In other words, when too much cortisol is released, your body thinks there’s an emergency—and it responds to that emergency by conserving calories. When your body reacts this way, it will store every calorie it can, and therefore cause weight gain (usually around the midsection). Excess (and ultimately inadequate) cortisol can be treated.

Treatment for excess cortisol

Consult with your doctor, who might suggest:

  • Taking supplements that will help to rejuvenate the adrenal glands.
  • Taking a good multiple-vitamin.
  • Removing sources of stress from your life as much as possible.
  • Learning basic stress management techniques. (We can give you some ideas that might be new to you.)
  • Ensuring that your hormones are properly balanced via an individualized hormone replacement program.
  • Eating a balanced diet.
  • Incorporating sufficient levels of activity into your life.
  • Making sure your DHEA levels are healthy.

Adrenal fatigue in men

Men experience adrenal fatigue due to unmanaged stress. The reason is due to cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone". It's a chemical produced by your body in response to being stressed. Like other hormones, your body does need some in order to function properly. Too little or too much and your body is not at its optimal health. When stressed, your adrenal glands pump out a larger quantity of cortisol. If this happens for extended periods of time, your glands tire out and eventually cannot produce the amount required for your body to function on a day to day basis. When this happens, you're experiencing adrenal fatigue. men who experience this unfortunate condition get a general sense of feeling tired and unwell, many rely on caffeine and other stimulants to replace the adrenaline their body is no longer producing in sufficient quantities.

Adrenal fatigue and cortisol

The adrenal glands are responsible for mobilizing the body’s responses to every kind of stress you can think of (whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological). These responses are initiated through hormones (particularly cortisol), and include things like energy production, immune function, and heart rate. Prolonged stress causes the adrenals to be over-stimulated, especially in the production of cortisol. The result is adrenal fatigue. During adrenal fatigue, your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain optimal levels of cortisol. Most adrenal fatigue is the consequence of ongoing daily stress. However, there are other factors that can cause you to become even more susceptible to adrenal fatigue. These include poor diet, substance abuse, inadequate sleep and rest, chronic illness, and hormone imbalance.

Some facts about adrenal fatigue

Over-stimulation of your adrenal glands can be caused by a very intense single stressor, or by chronic or repeated stressors that have a cumulative effect. Research suggests that 50-80% of men have some degree of adrenal fatigue due to stress or stress-related challenges. Cortisol plays a pivotal role in hormone balance overall. For example, proper thyroid function is dependent upon balanced levels of cortisol.

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may suffer from adrenal fatigue:

  • You feel tired for no reason (i.e. fatigue).
  • You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  • You have insomnia.
  • You feel more awake and energetic after 6 p.m. than you do the rest of the day.
  • You feel rundown or overwhelmed.
  • You’re having problems with mood instability (specifically mild depression and/or anxiety).
  • You’re struggling with frequent illness.
  • You have a difficult time bouncing back from stress or illness.
  • You crave salty and sweet snacks and are struggling with weight gain.
  • You have a low sex drive.
  • You can’t concentrate and/or you’re having memory problems (i.e. memory loss).

Adrenal fatigue treatment for men

Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc on your life. With each increment of reduced adrenal function, every organ and system in the body is more profoundly affected. As adrenal fatigue worsens, changes occur in your metabolism, your fluid and electrolyte balance, your heart and cardiovascular system, and even your sex drive. Unfortunately, this just scratches the surface. Numerous biochemical changes take place at the cellular level as your body tries to compensate for inadequate supplies of cortisol. If you suffer from adrenal fatigue, your body will do its best to compensate for under-functioning adrenal glands; but it does so at a price. The price is hormone imbalance and all its undesired consequences. To aleviate the problems associated with adrenal fatigue and other issues pertaining to decreased libido as men age, your doctor may recommend:

  • Taking supplements that will help to rejuvenate the adrenal glands.
  • Taking a good multiple-vitamin.
  • Removing sources of stress from your life as much as possible.
  • Learning basic stress management techniques.
  • Ensuring that your hormones are properly balanced via an individualized hormone replacement program.
  • Undergoing testosterone replacement with a product such as testosterone gel.
  • Eating a balanced diet.
  • Incorporating sufficient levels of activity into your life.
  • Utilising ED medication such as Viagra if you are experiencing erectile dysfunction.