A lot of common health complaints that men have can be traced back to hormone balance. Men who suffer from low energy, low libido, weakness, and even irritability may benefit from having their hormone levels checked. Men go through hormone changes just like women do and as they get older, they may find that they need to make some changes to their lifestyle or get support for low testosterone.
Important Male Hormones
The most important male hormone is testosterone. This is the hormone that helps to bring about the physical changes that teenagers see during puberty. Testosterone affects fertility, libido, energy levels and muscle growth. Testosterone levels peak during a man’s 20s and will start to decline in their mid to late 30s1.
There are other hormones that are important for men’s health, such as Human Growth Hormone and Insulin-Like Growth Factor. HGH is something that many male athletes like to use to help promote testosterone production, boost their strength2, and improve their overall wellbeing. IGF-1 is present in the bodies of both men and women, and it has a number of benefits, including improving sleep quality3.
Male Hormones and Health
The impact that testosterone has on the body is complex, and testosterone interacts with other hormones in the body, such as estradiol4. Low testosterone can cause a number of side effects in men, including
– Low energy
– Reduced muscle mass and capacity for exercise
– Changes in fat distributions
– Difficulty sleeping
– Difficulty concentrating
– Reduced short-term memory
If these symptoms occur in a man’s 40s or 50s then they are sometimes referred to in mainstream media as being a part of the ‘andropause’ or ‘male menopause’5. This is a slightly dismissive and not very helpful way of looking at it, because while a woman experiences a sudden drop in hormone levels during the menopause, men experience a much slower and steadier decline in testosterone (less than two percent per year). This should not cause serious side effects. If a man is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it could be down to a hormone deficiency, or it could be caused by lifestyle issues (which can, themselves, impact hormones). Low testosterone has been linked to increased risk of chronic diseases, so it is worth seeking treatment if you are concerned that you may have a testosterone deficiency6.
How Lifestyle Affects Hormones
Many of the issues that men experience in their 30s, 40s and beyond can be explained as being caused by lifestyle issues, including stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, or weight issues.
Studies show that overweight men may be able to improve their testosterone levels simply by losing weight7. Obesity is known to impact upon quality of life and to shorten life expectancy, as well as being linked to a number of conditions, including diabetes8. This means that there are numerous reasons for men who are overweight or obese to consider making changes to their diet.
The type of food that a person eats is important, not just how much that they eat. For decades, men have been told that eating fat is bad. This is not necessarily true, however. Fat is important for hormone production, and studies into the impact of a low-fat diet on testosterone levels have found that men whose diet consists of 40% of calories from animal fats are put on a diet where just 25% of their energy comes from fat (with less animal fat), experience a decline in their testosterone levels9. Modern high carb, low-fat diets could be reducing the wellbeing of adult men.
Exercise is also known to boost testosterone levels. Researchers looked at the how engaging in strength training with progressively heavier weights could impact testosterone levels, and found that regular strength training did help to promote the release of both growth hormone and testosterone in people of all ages; although the impact was reduced on those who were elderly10.
Sleep is important for the production of testosterone, and studies show that disruptions to a person’s sleep pattern can reduce testosterone levels11. Simply making an effort to get good quality sleep on a regular basis can improve your overall quality of life and hormone balance.
Drug Treatments for Male Hormone Issues
Men are sometimes offered hormone replacement therapy if they have clinically low testosterone levels. Replacement testosterone can offer increases in energy levels, well-being, and libido and can help to boost bone density, muscle mass, and even insulin sensitivity. However, it must be prescribed carefully because there is some evidence that testosterone supplementation can increase a person’s risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and that it can stimulate the growth of prostate cancer if a person already has a tumor12.
If you think that you have low testosterone levels then it is a good idea to start with some simple lifestyle changes first, and if those do not help after a month or so, go to the doctor. If your doctor agrees that you have low testosterone levels then they may opt to perform a blood test first of all, and from there they will be able to give you advice about whether or not you are a candidate for testosterone replacement therapy. Depending on your family history of certain health conditions they may recommend other courses of action.
Essential Oils to Promote Hormone Balance
Essential oils are often thought of as being a feminine thing, but there are some cases where men can benefit from using essential oils. Before you start using them, though, it is a good idea to make sure that you know what each oil can do. Some oils are estrogenic, and this can cause men who are exposed to them on a regular basis to develop gynecomastia (swelling of the breast tissue). Tea tree oil and lavender oil are two oils that can be detrimental to boys who are going through puberty, because of their estrogen-mimicking effects13.
So what essential oils can men use safely? Well, there are several essential oils that can be useful for men in general, and while they won’t necessarily ‘replace testosterone’, they will help to promote an environment where the body can produce testosterone in line with its natural potential.
Rose oil has been found to help to promote better mood and improve serotonin levels. The therapeutic effect of rose oil makes it useful for men who are struggling with stress and anxiety, which could be adversely affecting their testosterone levels14.
Sage oil is a useful antioxidant and it is also a stimulant which can help to improve circulation and mental clarity. Because it is a cognitive-enhacer15 it can be useful for men who are struggling with short-term memory issues and concentration issues as they age.
Sandalwood is often touted as an aphrodisiac, and it is a popular scent that is used in male colognes. It can be relaxing and grounding. In addition, it makes a good topical treatment and can protect the skin, helping men to stave off the effects of aging16.
If you are struggling with cravings and this is making it hard to lose weight, then peppermint oil could be the answer. Researchers have found that certain scents can reduce cravings17, and this makes it easier to stick to your diet. Men who are obese would benefit a great deal from a weight loss of as little as 5 percent of their starting weight (although getting into a healthy BMI range is better). For some, that weight loss can come from something as simple as cutting out soda or skipping the chocolate bar during their break at work. Both of those decisions would be good for the pocketbook too!
Other Ways to Boost Testosterone
There are some supplements which are sold as ‘testosterone boosters’, but most of them do not work and the ones that do work offer only a very small increase in testosterone for a short period. Even some of the most popular supplements, such as D-Aspartic Acid, which many users swear by, show now real impact on testosterone in laboratory tests18. Many testosterone boosters include stimulants and ‘libido enhancers’ which can make men believe that the boosters are working, but really they are simply making someone feel better in the short term.
The most useful supplements are dietary supplements that include proteins, amino acids, and fats that are required for overall health.
If you are worried about your health, then your first port of call should be the doctor. Do not ignore sudden changes in your health, and do not accept changes as simply ‘getting old’. With the right lifestyle and nutrition, and perhaps some essential oil or pharmaceutical help, you can enjoy a significant boost to your wellbeing. Stay active and you can be that fit older guy in your neighborhood that all of the teenagers look up to and envy.
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