Hormones and Health: Testosterone

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Written By: Dr. Melissa Buches ND

The body’s hormonal changes define the stages of our lifecycle as human beings.  As children we grow and evolve into adulthood and the reproductive years, then Menopause ceases our ability to reproduce, and we carry out the final phase of the adult human being.  These transitions can be challenging times for the human body, as hormonal signals are strong, and have strong effects on the shape and size of our bodies.  Our environment can help mitigate the symptoms of the transitions of puberty, PMS, Menopause and male hormone imbalances.  As naturopathic doctors, we can help the patient understand what Is happening with their internal chemistry, and we have many treatment options to help them through this transition more comfortably.  Nutrition, lifestyle changes, exercise, diet, herbs,  bio-identical hormones and prescription medications can all be of aid during these times. 

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Male Hormone Imbalances

Male hormones reach peak levels around the age of twenty and slowly decline as men age.  Testosterone is the predominant male hormone and it is responsible for the development of muscle mass and strong bones in the male body.  Normal levels of testosterone in the blood range between 300 – 900 ng/dl.

As men age, they lose about 10 percent of their testosterone production a decade.  By the time males reach their fifties, their testosterone levels can be clinically low, much like a menopausal female.  The symptomatology of low testosterone includes fatigue, weight gain, irritability, depression, low libido, erectile dysfunction, night sweats, insomnia and gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue).  This is often referred to as andropause, or male menopause.  Often andropause is ignored as symptoms of natural aging, however men don’t have to suffer anymore.  Low testosterone levels may play a role in obesity, type two diabetes, and possibly heart disease.

Testosterone replacement was once considered very risky, possible increasing prostate cancer or cardiac disease, however recent research suggests that its benefits, far outweigh its risks.  Whether the testosterone is applied topically (cream or gel), suppository, injected pellets or injected liquid, all can be effective in increasing blood levels of hormone and decreasing symptoms.

It is very important to test the blood for total testosterone, free testosterone and PSA levels.  Yearly monitoring should begin by the age of forty.  Free testosterone can be the best indicator of need for testosterone, and monitoring levels once the prescribed amount has been utilized.  Some men experience a drastic improvement in their symptomatology, whereas others, may notice very little change.  Testosterone therapy is more effective if that patient adopts a daily exercise routine, stays well hydrated  and eats a healthy diet.  Any increase in lean muscle mass in an aging body is incredibly beneficial in disease prevention by keeping the body more metabolic and enabling more physical participation.

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