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Men’s Guide to Naturally Balanced Hormones

November 18, 2014 (Updated: June 6, 2018)
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

Men, when was the last time your doctor discussed your hormones with you?

Maybe they tested your testosterone levels, but that’s just one piece of an intricate hormonal puzzle that exists in your body. Testosterone may be the largest piece of the puzzle, but without the other pieces to make it whole, you don’t have a complete picture.

The fact is, men also produce the stereotypical “female” hormones estrogen and progesterone, and others. All of these hormones work together synergistically to foster good health and well-being—and when levels of one are amiss, the levels of the others can suffer.

That’s why the best solution for all men (and women, too) begins with a comprehensive hormone test.

Raising your testosterone levels while ignoring all the other hormones is like putting air in one tire when all four are flat. It may make a slight difference, but in the end, it’s not a long-term solution.

Here, I’ll explain the importance of all the hormones that men produce, starting with the most common, testosterone…

The Main Male Hormone: Testosterone

Testosterone is the hormone that physically makes a man, a man. It’s what makes his voice deep, grows hair on his chest, builds and sustains muscle mass, and boosts his sex drive.

Around the age of 30, most men begin to experience a gradual dip in the production of testosterone. It continues to fall, about one percent per year, over the decades, and its lack can eventually lead to bothersome symptoms. Some symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Exhaustion/lack of energy
  • Irritability
  • Muscle loss
  • Feeling weak
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Depression
  • Mid-afternoon energy slump
  • Lack of ambition or drive
  • Loss of interest in sex and problems with performance, such as erectile dysfunction
  • Sleep problems
  • Bone loss

While advancing age is the most common cause of “low T,” other factors can contribute to hormone imbalance in men, including:

  • Poor diet low in essential nutrients
  • Taking certain medications, especially pain relievers, steroids, and sleeping pills
  • Exposure to phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment

The best way to determine if you actually have low testosterone is with a simple blood panel that measures levels of various hormones. If results show levels below 400 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), then you have low T. You can greatly benefit from using bioidentical testosterone therapy. Many men feel noticeable improvement within a few days of use.

Along with testosterone, be sure dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels are checked as well. About 10 percent of your body’s testosterone is converted to DHT, which is a stronger, “souped up” version of the standard hormone.

DHT plays a big role in the prostate, where it’s linked to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), as well as in hair loss and male pattern baldness. DHT interferes with your hair follicles’ ability to absorb nutrients. Eventually, weakened hair stops growing, and becomes sparser, finally turning into peach fuzz.

DHT test scores between 30 and 85 ng/dL are considered a healthy range.

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If you truly want the best health, though, you can’t start and stop with testosterone. Men’s bodies produce other hormones that also need to be tested and balanced…

The Precursor Hormones: DHEA & Pregnenolone

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is produced by the adrenal gland. It is a key player in the creation of other hormones, including the all-important testosterone.

Research shows that DHEA plays a role in slowing the aging process, naturally alleviating depression, and improving bone mineral density.

Natural production of DHEA peaks in early adulthood and slowly declines with age. A 55-year-old man should have DHEA levels between 150 and 300 ng/dL, while a 75-year-old male’s should be between 80 and 175 ng/dL. Test results lower than this indicate that DHEA replacement may be helpful.

Also produced by the adrenals, pregnenolone is considered a “grandparent precursor” because it is often converted to DHEA. Pregnenolone is important for brain and immune system function, and healthy liver, pancreas, and nervous system function. It’s also used to treat prostate problems.

By age 75, pregnenolone production in men is about 60% less than what it was at age 35. Chronic stress, infections, and trauma can also cause levels to plummet. But generally speaking, blood levels around 100 ng/dL are best.

The “Female” Hormones: Estrogen & Progesterone

Even though estrogen and progesterone are much more prevalent in women, men still need small amounts of these hormones. Healthy levels of estrogen in men enhance memory and mood and protect against heart disease. And progesterone plays a role in central nervous system activities, as well as brain function.

However, as men age and their testosterone levels decrease, their estrogen levels increase. Too much estrogen in men can raise the risk of prostate cancer, heart disease, and gynecomastia (breast enlargement). Excess estrogen also increases body fat and contributes to diabetes.

What balances out this excessive estrogen? In women as in men, it’s progesterone! As you can see, all of the sex hormones work together to create balance. And if that balance is off due to age or other external factors, it must be achieved through hormone replacement.

For men, ideal levels of estradiol (the main form of estrogen) are between 10 and 30 ng/dL. As for progesterone, 0.1 to 1 ng/mL is all men need to be in the healthy range.

Get Tested & Take Action

The only way to know for sure if you are deficient in any of these hormones is to make an appointment with your doctor for a blood test to check all your levels. Certain symptoms may shed a clue that you have low hormones, but in order to come up with the best treatment plan, your doctor will need hard numbers.

As for hormone replacement, I am a strong proponent of bioidentical (plant-based) hormones. They are better matches for your own natural hormones than synthetic, pharmaceutical options. Plus, they can be compounded to create a custom blend, based on your individual needs. You’ll need to take your prescription to a compounding pharmacy. Your local CVS or Walgreen’s won’t be able to fill these scripts. However, it is well worth the effort, because the end result is a real fix, tailored to your exact and unique hormonal needs.

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