Aging is difficult enough for women without having to deal with declining hormones. Women of Palm Beach often complain of a diminished sense of wellbeing, chronic fatigue, and a loss of libido just to mention a few symptoms of hormone imbalance.
For many women there is a tremendous void in treatment of menopausal symptoms. Hot flashes, mood swings and low or no sex drive are just the tip of the iceberg. Some earlier hormone imbalance symptoms of estrogen deficiency are frequent waking at night. Many others are present, including “mental fogginess.” A woman’s short-term memory retention may be dwindling and her concentration and focus isn’t as good as it used to be. Frequently, women may experience some loss of energy to the point that they actually slide into symptoms of chronic fatigue.
In addition, women may experience some mood swings and irritability, and at the extreme may actually develop feelings of depression. With the loss of energy and chronic fatigue, females find themselves unable to exercise as much as in the past, or to recover as quickly when exercising. Women often find themselves increasing weight gain in spite of attempts at exercising. One hormone imbalance symptom that is not frequently discussed is the loss of sex drive and diminished libido. Not only is energy level and sense of wellbeing diminished, but anticipation and enjoyment of sexual activity is waning as well.
Weight Loss For Good - The 80-20 Rule!
Marijuana attacks your precious testosterone in almost every negative way possible. One study after another has shown that cannabis lowers testosterone. For example one research team found that "a reanalysis of existing data established that testosterone levels are depressed both after smoking one marijuana cigarette and after intravenous infusion of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, a pharmacologically active component of marijuana". The same study concluded that it would take at least 24 hours for testosterone levels to normalize after marijuana use. (NOTE: It's not just the smoke - an IV will do it.)
Another study found that not only was testosterone decreased after short term marijuana use, but leutenizing and follicle stimulating hormone were lowered as well. And just to add to the endocrinological misery, the arch-villain and stress hormone cortisol was raised as well. There are also studies in animals and humans that strongly indicate that marijuana blunts growth hormone response as well. And so it is no wonder that animal studies show that marijuana use shrinks the testes. So, if you're not happy with lowered testosterone, infertility and elevated cortisol, you can sit around enjoying the fact that you've got a little more air flow through your boxers.
You should also know that there are many reports that chronic marijuana use leads to gynecomastia, i.e. "enlarged male breasts", due to its abundant amounts of phytoestrogens. One journal writer pointed out that "given the effects of marijuana on the HPG axis in males and the possibility that noncannabinoid components of marijuana smoke have affinity to the estrogen receptor, an association with gynecomastia is plausible but has not been convincingly demonstrated". Remember that estrogen fights against testeosterone in the body as well.
Marijuana has also recently been flagged as particularly dangerous for young people because it decreases seratonin and increases norepineprine. While these are not sex hormones like testosterone, these can alter mood negatively and, through prolonged use, may permanently alter anxiety levels and reaction to stress. Again, the researchers are suggesting this may have long term, possibly lifetime anxiety and mood repercussions. I would also add that any increase in stress will also likely lower testosterone as well.
So we ask the question, "Could someone please explain again why anyone in their right mind would smoke marijuana?" The only thing we can think of is the extra hydrogen cyanide. That's right - marijuana tobaco is much higher in hydrogen cyanide - probably five times higher - than cigarette tobacco. Maybe that partially explains why habitual pot smoking is so hard on the lungs and why cannabis use has also now been linked to the most aggressive form of testicular cancer.
Not to make the bad news even worse, but there is also considerable reported evidence of erectile dysfunction among chronic marijuana users. This is undoubtedly partially due to the lowered testosterone. However, the other reason was discovered by one study that showed marijauna effected Nitric Oxide and summarized by saying, "We conclude that early endothelial damage may be induced by chronic cannabis use (and endocannabinoid system activation". Let me translate that: it may take your sex life with it. If so, decreased sexual activity is also associated with lowered testosterone levels as well.
The tragedy with marijuana is that many cultures and youth are embracing marijuana as more "natural", but this is far from being the case. One recent study found that marijuana induces just as much cell toxicity and DNA damage as cigarette smoke. The researchers were very clear that marijuana displayed just as much cancer causing power as the cigarette smoke: "In addition, when corrected for total particulate matter yield, little difference was observed in the mutagenic activity of samples smoked under the extreme vs the standard regime for both tobacco and marijuana condensates".
In summary, there is significant evidence that marijuana lowers testosterone, nitric oxide, leutinizing hormone, growth hormone and raises cortisol at the same time. Hormonally, there is no justifiable reason for cannabis use.
Treatment for Menopause
Testosterone replacement can offer great assistance to the male reproductive cycle, from boosting the sex drive to help treating erectile dysfunction, but one of the most common misconceptions about it is that it can boost sperm production. Introducing testosterone into the body by artificial means causes the body to stop producing its own, and there is a possibility that infertility can result, especially if the treatment is not done professionally. A lot of men are able to treat other testosterone-related problems with hormone replacement therapy and have great success, and only find out later that the process may have caused infertility. Being aware of the side effects and ensuring you understand what the long term consequences for your body are, is essential for you to have a positive testosterone replacement experience. What it really comes down to is why you need testosterone replacement therapy. Do you need it because your T levels are low and have a negative effective on your body's ability to produce sperm, or is it solely due to other reasons?
One of the biggest reasons that testosterone replacement is so popular with older men is that most of them have already had children, and they do not have plans to conceive again. In younger men who need help boosting their testosterone levels, they need to weigh up the benefits or relief from low testosterone side effects against the chances of them not being able to have a family.
One of the most obvious areas we see the effects of long term anabolic steroid use is in the bodybuilding world. Men who have been supplementing testosterone, and often in cases where they have been supplementing it without the right kind of medical assistance, for an extended period of time, experience fertility problems. The problems may only show up a few years later, or they may be immediate. In some cases, infertility may be temporary and stop when the person stops taking the supplements, and in other cases the effects may be permanent and irreversible.
When you start bringing testosterone into the body, you send a message to your body that it does not need to make its own, or it should be making substantially less of its own. Your body is hardwired to maintain homeostasis, or constant levels throughout each system and cell, and to conserve energy and supplementing with testosterone sends it the message that the body does not need as much. Artificial testosterone signals the pituitary gland to stop producing the hormones that stimulate the testicles to generate sperm. In some people, it can reduce sperm production substantially, while in others it can stop it completely. In some cases the testes actually shrink in size, because of their reduced functionality in the body.
In older men who experience hypogonadism as a natural response to ageing, this is not cause for concern, but in younger men whose conditions may be hereditary or caused by a trauma to the body, this is not always the best option. If you are thinking of having a family and need to have testosterone replacement, you should approach it in an informed manner and find out as much as possible about the treatment procedure and what it means for you.
Some men can take reverse hormones and other forms of treatment to encourage sperm production later on, but the process is not always successful for all men. Other men may decide to wait a little longer before having testosterone supplements and have their family first.
While testosterone therapy can improve your quality of life and relieve uncomfortable symptoms, it is a powerful process that will have effects on your body, which need to be discussed with your doctor. It can help your sex life in terms of boosting your libido and even helping with premature ejaculation, but if you want to conceive a child, you might need to investigate it further before making a decision.
Hormone Imbalance in Women
Are you one of those guys who are burning the candle at both ends and maybe only getting 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night? Are you also one of those guys having problems with his sex drive and feeling out of sorts? Well, recent studies done in the last 3 years show that these symptoms could all be due to the effect of sleep on testosterone - just how, though, may be a chicken and egg question!
While it's true that lower testosterone levels can be the cause of a sluggish sex drive and irritability it seems to be a matter of research opinion whether low sleep levels cause low testosterone or low testosterone causes lack of sleep.
Here's what we know about sleep, and testosterone to date as it relates to men:
After age 30, men's testosterone levels drop between 1 and 2% a year! By the time they reach 40 they start experiencing trouble sleeping. They complain of less deep sleep time, the period of sleep where the body repairs itself.
In fact, as a man gets older, the most recent studies assert, he can lose deep sleep time altogether! That means the older a man gets, the more his testosterone levels continue to decline, the less deep sleep he gets, the more his body's repair mechanisms decline and the higher his risk climbs for disease!
The reason for this decline in deep sleep time is thought to be due to a loss of neuron activity, which synchronizes brain activity. These neurons are responsible for about 20% of achieving deep sleep. They are intact in young men and get further scrambled as a man ages.
To further complicate things, low testosterone levels are thought to contribute to this loss of neuron activity in the brain. The take away of these studies, then, whichever perspective you come from, seem to say that restoring testosterone to healthy, youthful levels would likely help a man not only achieve deep, restorative sleep again, but also keep him healthier, re-invigorate his sluggish sex drive and keep him in a happier frame of mind.
Do You Have Symptoms of Low Testosterone?
One of the most frequent complaints I hear from my over-40 patients is that their sex drive has diminished significantly from when they were younger. One of the first things I do is to check a testosterone level and most often find that it is decreased. Interestingly, as well, is that they also often complain of not sleeping very much and are depressed!
Now whether their lack of sleep is from a too hectic lifestyle, stress, or from their decreased testosterone level, is not clear. However, when I recommend that they try to get between 6-8 hours of sleep a night their testosterone levels seem to naturally increase and their mood is brighter!
But decreased testosterone levels don't just affect men over 50, it can start as young as the 30-40's! Many men don't seek treatment because they think it's just a part of getting older and they're embarrassed to talk about it! Like menopause in women, low testosterone is not something men have to suffer through just because it's associated with getting older. Here are some other symptoms you may not associate with low testosterone levels:
•Emotional changes, like depression, irritability, "grumpy old man" syndrome
•Decreased muscle strength
•Loss of height
•Weight gain, especially belly fat
What Does Cause Low Testosterone?
Low testosterone levels can be caused or aggravated by a number of things both nutritional and environmental. For my patients who have lower than optimal testosterone levels, here are some other things I tell them to pay attention to in their diet and lifestyle:
•Xenoestrogens - in food and water supplies. These are "environmental estrogens" from soy products and plastics that get into our food and can decrease testosterone levels. Stay away from foods containing soy, most notably protein bars and soymilk. If you buy frozen foods, transfer them from their plastic container into a glass dish before heating.
•Lack of Protein - men need between 0.5 to 1 gram of high quality protein per pound of body weight per day to both build muscle strength and testosterone. Sources include pork, beef, and chicken, which also have higher levels of zinc, which is testosterone friendly.
•Lack of Cholesterol - many men over 40 are watching cholesterol intake for the sake of their arteries, but too little cholesterol will stop testosterone production. Aim for about 30% fat, mostly monounsaturated (nuts, olive oil) and some saturated (red meat, eggs) to build testosterone. Go very light, or leave out, polyunsaturated fats (fish, vegetable oils) as studies have shown they can decrease testosterone perhaps because they may contain xenoestrogens.
•Lack of Nutrition - zinc is a major building mineral for testosterone. The B vitamins, especially B1, B6, and B12 are helpful in keeping testosterone levels healthy. Be sure that your vitamin/mineral supplement includes these.
•Too Much Alcohol - alcohol increases blood sugar levels, which decreases testosterone. Limit to a few drinks per week.
•Lack of Sleep - as mentioned earlier, less than 6 hours of sleep a night can seriously rob your body of its repairing mechanisms and this includes the re-manufacturing of hormones like testosterone. See that you get at least 6-8 hours of sleep at night, more if you have been ill or under a lot of stress. Try some natural sleep aids like Valerian, calcium/magnesium supplements with some warm milk before bed. Cut back caffeine to not past 4 pm, and limit heavy meals to 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Researchers may finally decide which comes first; low testosterone then poor sleep, or poor sleep then low testosterone. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to counsel my patients that adequate sleep is at least a significant factor in low testosterone levels. However, before you start thinking dangerous steroids or prescription testosterone replacements, try the natural suggestions offered here. I believe your T-levels will be up to optimal levels and your sex drive and pleasant mood back on track in no time!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Institute For Healthy Aging
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