Like women, men can experience changes in hormone levels as they get older, particularly fluctuations in testosterone.
It can be so subtle at first that you can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong.
For one thing, you’re always a bit tired, even when you’re getting to bed early (to sleep; an early bedtime used to mean something more active). You can’t push as hard in the gym, and those five-mile runs have morphed into quick jogs.
A lot of things can account for the way you feel, but one of the most common is low testosterone. Fortunately, there are natural ways to get the real you back.
Older men experience what is coming to be known as andropause (also called late-onset hypogonadism), the decline that often occurs with age. But while menopause has been an open topic of discussion for decades, low testosterone in older men is only starting to come to general attention.
“Men are long overdue for their own exploration into this territory because the changes that we experience are just as profound, just as life altering and just as pervasive as those experienced by women,” says herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner.
Total testosterone levels can be misleading. Most of the body’s supply is bound to protein, leaving only 1% to 3% as free testosterone; this free version is what declines as men get older.
What’s more, all men carry small amounts of estrogen, the primary female hormone, in the form of estradiol (just as all women’s bodies contain some testosterone).
“If too much testosterone is converted to estradiol, the androgen/estrogen balance is significantly altered and this can have tremendous impacts on how we feel as men,” Buhner says.
In addition to age-related hormonal shifts, the world we live in can be hard on testosterone. For one thing, environmental pollution affects production of both hormones and sperm.†
But it’s the social environment—namely temptations to eat too much and exercise too little—that plays an equally crucial role.
“The biggest factor by far in testosterone decline is the accumulation of excess abdominal fat, which secretes aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen,” explains Bernie Noe, ND, of Green Mountain Natural Health in Montpelier, Vermont. “Men with excess abdominal fat tend to have lower testosterone levels.”†
Noe adds that lower hormone levels “often coexist” with insulin resistance, a type 2 diabetes precursor in which the body cannot use insulin effectively.
Testosterone isn’t the only hormone affected by obesity; so is human growth hormone (HGH).
Besides allowing for normal development in children, HGH helps to reduce fat storage and to spur protein creation, a crucial step for building muscle mass. Aging and excessive weight both tend to slow production of HGH.†
Encouraging Hormonal Balance
The first step to feeling better is to go for a thorough workup. If reduced levels of testosterone and/or HGT are to blame, dietary changes may help.
Noe recommends “anything that can result in the loss of abdominal fat. Because of the connections to insulin resistance, a lot of what I do involves reducing sugars and high-glycemic foods.”
White bread, sweets and similar foods “spike blood sugar, which leads to fat accumulation, which in turn leads to low testosterone,” Noe explains. (These changes also support HGH production.)
Eating organic food whenever possible allows you to reduce your exposure to testosterone-trashing pollutants. In addition, excessive alcohol intake has also been linked to lower testosterone levels.†
Besides cutting back on the junk food, try hitting the weights. In one study of 13 older men, doing weight-based exercises led to increased levels of sex hormones, including free testosterone, in the men’s muscles.†
Exercise helps to ease stress and overcome insomnia, both of which can depress testosterone production; stress is also linked to increased food intake and greater weight gain. What’s more, getting adequate amounts of exercise and sleep tend to boost HGH levels as well.†
Don’t respond to hormonal shifts with an it’s-just-my-age shrug. Changing your lifestyle and employing natural solutions can help you relight your youthful fire.
†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.