Hormones rarely receive the attention they deserve when it comes to our health, particularly men’s health. Even though many men discount their impact on the body, an increasing number of people are recognizing that hormone imbalance has a significant effect on health.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that are responsible for relaying critical information throughout the body. In other words, they are one of the main ways our cells communicate with each other. Therefore, when hormone function declines with age, it compromises the health of our bodily systems, and we are left with wide-ranging symptoms such as:
- Low energy
- Low libido
- Weight gain
- Hait loss
- Brain fog
- Prolonged athletic recovery time
- Mood instability
- And more
Hormones Critical to Male Wellness
Cortisol has earned the nickname the “stress hormone” because it is often connected to a stress response.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands, which are no bigger than a walnut and they sit on top of the kidneys.
Cortisol is involved in a wide range of metabolic processes like:
- Mobilizing and increasing amino acids, the building blocks of protein, in the blood and liver.
- Stimulating the liver to convert amino acids to glucose, the primary fuel for energy production.
- Stimulating increased glycogen in the liver (the stored form of glucose).
- Mobilizing and increasing fatty acids in the blood (from fat cells) to be used as fuel for energy production.
- Counteracting inflammation and allergies.
- Preventing the loss of sodium in urine and thus helps maintain blood volume and blood pressure.
- Maintaining resistance to stress (e.g., infections, physical trauma, temperature extremes, emotional trauma, etc.).
- Maintaining mood and emotional stability
- Maintaining sleep-wake cycle (cortisol increases to wake us up in the mornings, then gradually declines throughout the day)
When we are stressed, our adrenals produce extra cortisol, which activates the body’s stress responses. When stress, which can be physical, mental, or emotional, continues over a long period of time, the adrenals become unable to keep up with the increased demand, and cortisol levels can drop.
Low cortisol levels can cause a variety of symptoms such as severe fatigue, hypoglycemia, muscle aches, sugar or salt cravings, and shakiness that is relieved by eating.
Low cortisol can also bring on symptoms such as moodiness, low blood pressure, allergies, recurrent infections, decreased ability to handle stress, brain fog, and swollen ankles that are worse at night. Patients often complain of muscle weakness, difficulty getting out of bed in the mornings, being wiped out and taking longer to recover from exercise, and being unable to tolerate thyroid hormone replacement.
When the adrenals continue to produce inadequate levels of cortisol, it is considered a form of adrenal dysfunction known as adrenal fatigue or burnout. This is actually incredibly common as many health experts estimate that upwards of 80% of the population suffers from some level of adrenal insufficiency.
Learn more about the importance of cortisol here
Thyroid disease is predominantly discussed in regards to women’s health, but it is an increasingly prevalent issue among men.
There are many symptoms that can occur with thyroid disease, but one of the more common symptoms among men is loss of libido or decreased sex drive.
Thyroid health is important for a healthy libido. Studies show that even slightly reduced thyroid levels, even considered still in the “normal” range can dramatically decrease libido in women as well as causing fatigue, weight gain, and depression.
Patients more often reporting a loss of libido are those with hypothyroidism. With hypothyroidism, the metabolism is slowed down, which means the reproductive organs are slowed down as well. The adrenal glands that produce hormones that convert into the sex hormones are also slowed down. Both men and women can see decreased testosterone and estrogen levels.
The good news is that when thyroid hormone imbalances are corrected, the result is a normalizing of all bodily functions, including the sex drive.
Learn more about the thyroid & libido here
In the United States, there are few health issues quite as common as obesity. With nearly 40 percent of American adults being obese the severity of the issue is apparent.
Hormonal dysfunction, particularly relating to leptin, is an exceptionally common and influential element of unhealthy weight regulation.
Leptin is a hormone that informs the body when it should be storing or burning fat. As the body acquires fat the amount of leptin circulating in the bloodstream increases.
Unsurprisingly, many obese individuals suffer from increased leptin levels due to the excess fat that they carry. In a healthy system, an increase in leptin promotes sensations of fullness and informs the body that it should not store fat. However, when levels of leptin are maintained at a high level for an extended period the body can develop a resistance to leptin. This can result in weight-related dysfunction.
Learn more about leptin and leptin resistance here
Last but certainly not least, testosterone is one of the most important hormones when it comes to supporting long-term health and vitality yet approximately 84% of men over the age of 40 suffer from suboptimal levels.
This predominantly male hormone is produced in the adrenal glands and testes (women produce a small amount in the ovaries). Testosterone is the primary androgen produced in the testes. This substance provides benefits to both men and women, such as improved muscle mass, endurance, and a greater sense of well-being.
It is well-documented that men have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality when compared to women. Recent research suggests that this is likely due to the gender-specific qualities of hormones such as testosterone. Numerous studies have found that optimal testosterone levels may be a leading factor in maintaining male longevity, physical ability, and well-being.
Widespread decline in testosterone has been recognized by multiple studies. Researchers in the U.S. have found that average testosterone levels in the male population has decreased 15% to 20% over the past fifteen years. Similar values have been reflected in Scandinavia where men have presented testosterone levels up to 20% lower than the previous generation at the same age. Depending on the individual, they may experience severe hormonal deficiencies, not just testosterone.
Learn more about testosterone here
Balancing & Improving Your Hormone Levels
At Holtorf Medical Group, we empower you to give your hormonal health the attention it deserves with in-depth hormonal testing.
Book your appointment today to receive comprehensive testing in order to make informed decisions when it comes to your health.