June is the month of Men’s health. As doctors we empower and teach men to reach their ultimate health and wellness. Step one on the journey to optimal health is education and open communication. We must teach our patients what it means to be healthy, and how to get there. A known fact in the medical community is that men are less likely overall to seek out medical help for all issues especially mental health concerns and often “suffer in silence”. Although this trend seems to be decreasing, the balance still tips toward a lesser tendency for support seeking behaviors from men. Why is this? There’s no conclusive evidence as to why women seek out more support but there are studies showing that men tend to live longer and with higher quality of life when coupled, as partners will often tend to their health care needs, encourage doctor visits, and book appointments for them.
The main differentiating factor between men and women, from day one of conception is sex hormones. Androgens, steroid hormones that stimulate and control the development and maintenance of male characteristics, are key in development, puberty and aging. Androgens include testosterone, DHEA, DHEA-S and DHT. Androgens, estrogens, progesterone and cortisol are all part of the same biochemical pathway and there is an intricate relationship between stress and hormone balance.
Much like women experience a drop in sex hormones (called menopause), men often go through a similar experience called andropause. With age, certain changes occur including energy decrease, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, hair loss, chronic pain, decreased muscle mass, saggy skin, stubborn weight gain in undesirable spots, mood changes, anxiety, depression, changes in prostate health, variation in libido, and changes in erectile function and quality. Many of these factors are intricately linked with either slight or massive fluctuation in hormones and often, these issues go unaddressed in men and are brushed off as a normal part of aging.
Hormone synthesis depends on many factors in the body. Cholesterol, a fat in the body with a poor reputation for causing disease, is actually a vital nutrient required for cell walls, coating nerves and as a precursor to all sex-hormones. Sex hormones are synthesized by the adrenal glands (little fat globs on top of our kidneys that are responsible for many functions in the body), sex organs (testicles/ovaries), and believe it or not, in our fat cells. Fat cells in the body will turn testosterone into estrogen which then perpetuates excess and undesirable body fat and further decreases testosterone levels.
Sub-optimal thyroid function is another contributor often seen in adults with many health concerns linked to aging. Another major player is the liver, responsible for proper elimination of hormones from the body. Lifestyle drastically affects all of these factors and ranges from stress management, adequate nutrition, exercise and in turn, hormone balance. We can’t forget about the mental-emotional component. We can help with that too and this is where men consistently fall short in their help-seeking behavior. Poor mental health as well as high stress and anxiety have a domino affect that is catastrophic to healthy hormone balance and age/lifestyle related diseases.
We encourage and invite all men to come see a naturopathic doctor and work as a team to reach your health goals, whatever that may be. There are infinite possibilities when it comes to healthy hormone balance and positive lifestyle changes to optimize your health, ranging from specific exercise routines used to boost your testosterone levels, nutrition, stress management, Chinese medicine, pain management and regenerative injections, botanicals, and pharmaceuticals.
Men – take charge of your health! Come and work with us to alleviate the signs of aging and improve your overall vitality.