Men’s Health Week: What’s Robbing Your Testosterone

National Men’s Health Week kicks off Monday, June 11. During this week, we need to work to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems as well as encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. Many individuals, families and communities are involved. As we saw during Women’s Health Week, most of the focus needs to be put on eating healthy, getting check ups, managing stress and getting exercise. We talk a lot about women’s hormone issues in this newsletter, so I’d thought this would be a good time to focus on our men and their hormone issues as they age.

Testosterone is considered the “life force hormone.” It supports sex drive and sexual function, helps to maintain lean muscle mass, protects against bone loss and is associated with overall sense of well-being. In studies of men, low levels of testosterone have been associated with depression, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer.

Although testosterone levels do drop naturally as men get older, we are now facing a new challenge. We are starting to see levels of the hormone decreasing prematurely among men in their late 30s and 40s, and decreasing more intensely than nature intended among many older men. This is a symptom of our way of life. Stress, lack of sleep and poor diet increase the demand for our stress hormone, cortisol. The same building blocks that make cortisol also make testosterone. So, if your body is busy making cortisol, it won’t make as much testosterone as you need.

Research has shown that the biggest testosterone robbers include weight gain and a large waist.  This can lead to symptoms like low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, sleep disturbances, depressed mood, lethargy and diminished physical performance. Additionally, many men experiencing erectile dysfunction don’t need medications; they just need to lose a little weight. Smoking and overall poor health also increases the risk for this condition. Since ED is associated with heart disease, researchers conclude that treating the condition with lifestyle changes, rather than medication could produce far-reaching benefits for men’s overall health.

Important diet changes include, eating lean proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates like vegetables and high fiber fruits every two to three hours. Also, it is important to avoid refined foods, artificial sweeteners and trans fats. Lifestyle changes include sleep, exercise that you enjoy, and stress management techniques such as a gratitude journal or deep breathing – anyone can fit those in!  Improvements in nutrition, stress management and exercise and reductions in toxin exposure will benefit most – if not all – men.