It’s super interesting to me that women speak so freely about their hormone issues and eagerly seek out solutions, but men tend to be more protective of the symptoms that they may be experiencing. Trust me, I get it. No one wants to talk about symptoms that impact their sexual performance or masculinity. However, this topic is one that needs to be addressed because of 2 things:
- Women and men want men to feel good about themselves and function optimally. It keeps everyone happy.
- Low testosterone impacts more than sexual function and traits of masculinity, it increases the risk of prostate cancer.
So, we are putting all embarrassment aside for the moment, and we are going to talk freely here.
Healthy testosterone levels in men require a few things:
- Proper enzyme function
- Management of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)
- Leydig cell health (the cells in the testicle that make testosterone)
- Optimal Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis function
If any of those things are not present, and a man is not producing enough testosterone, he may experience the following symptoms:
- Breast tissue development
- Small testes or penis (yes, there are measurements for what is normal)
- Spattered hair growth patterns
- Low libido
- Decreased energy
- Lack of spontaneous erections
- Decreased muscle mass and increased fat mass
- Poor sleep
- Poor concentration
- Joint and muscle pain post-workout
Why would someone’s testosterone levels be low?
- Certain drugs such as spironolactone, corticosteroids,
alcohol, and opiates all decrease testosterone production
- Even hair growth (Propecia) or prostate growth (Cialis) medications that are alpha reductase inhibitors can loss of sexual functionality. So, you end up keeping some hair, but losing some testosterone. Pick your poison.
- Endocrine disruptors in hygiene care products like lotions, creams, and fragrance
- Age: Men start to lose testosterone production starting at age 30; 10% of men in their 40s and 25% of men in their 70s have definitive diagnoses for low testosterone
- Decreased levels of SHBG due to hypothyroidism, liver disease, or obese men due to higher insulin levels. It’s not uncommon for men with thyroid problems to gain weight, call me, and in the consult confess to having symptoms of low testosterone. If SHBG is too high, you can see bone density loss. You want SHBG to be not too high or too low.
- Use of licorice or stinging nettles supplements
- Stress: Stress causes the release of cortisol and cortisol is the enemy of testosterone production. According to one expert, “cortisol castrates.” Come on. That’s pretty catchy.
What can someone do to optimize testosterone production or increase libido?
- Optimize their blood sugar with diet. Low carbohydrate is a good place to start.
- Exercise. Specifically lifting weights for big muscle groups (think squats and deadlifts) and NOT doing prolonged cardio activity.
- Supplement with Horny Goat Weed. It’s a PDE-5 inhibitor just like Viagra. (message me for a link to a brand I like)
- Use adaptagens like maca, rhodiola, ashwaghanda to help balance cortisol levels
- Sleep! Sleep increases testosterone production and is a major player in the world of hormone balance in general.
- Optimize vitamin D levels with supplementation, liver intake, and/or sun exposure. You want your Vitamin D levels to be between 40-70ng/dL, and normal testing ranges allow for less than that. Look at the test and do something if it’s less than 40ng/dL.
In all seriousness, this is an issue that many men experience at some point in time, and it doesn’t need to be something that they try to manage. It can be corrected, and should be corrected not only for quality of life purposes, but to minimize the risk of prostate cancer. I’m always here to help, and feel very strongly about demystifying sensitive topics!