"Low T" testosterone, hormones and natural health

As men get older, testosterone levels (along with most homrones) decline.

Symptoms associated with low testosterone in men include:

These symptoms are often attributed to a natural decline in testosterone that happens as men get older. This can go by the following labels: "Andropause," "Male menopause," "low T," and "low T syndrome."

Is it low T (testosterone)?

The last few years male hormone replacement therapy for "low t" has been getting more attention.

However, it's very misleading to say the above symptoms are only due to low testosterone, nor is low testosterone simply caused by getting older.

Yes, it is true testosterone levels decrease with age, and the above symptoms are associated with that decrease in testosterone. However, it is better to understand this as and overall hormonal imbalance, rather than a single hormone deficiency.

Testosterone, cortisol, thyroid hormone and insulin work together in balance.

This hormonal imbalance is not simply caused by aging, nor is is some type of "male menopause." Rather, symptoms of low testosterone have more to do with stress, poor diet/lifestyle, toxicity and other challenges of modern day living.

 

The three basic causes of low testosterone in men

Three basic problems that can go wrong in testosterone production:

  1. Two small glands in the brain, the hypothalamus and pituitary must release luteinizing hormone (LH) to tell the testes how much testosterone to make. If LH is low, then testosterone will be low. Even if there nothing wrong with the testes. This can be called " secondary andropause. "

  2. The testes do not respond to LH and can not make enough testosterone. This is called "primary andropause."

  3. Through a process called " aromatization," testosterone is converted to estrogen.
Testosterone and luteinizing hormone, LH

Low luteinizing hormone

What causes low LH?

  1. High levels of the inflammatory cytocine interleukin-6, can suppress LH. Natural treatment would include lowering inflammation (by changing diet, anti-inflammatory supplements and investing hidden sources of inflammation, such as toxicity or digestive disorders). Causes of inflammation vary and must be accessed on and individual basis.

  2. Stress increases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can suppress LH.

    Stress by definition is the body's response to any extra demand. Psychological stress, physical stress, and physiological stress from illness or toxicity all have the safe effect; more cortisol

  3. Cortisol is our major stress and survival hormone. It has a profound effect on the entire hormonal system. This includes thyroid hormone, insulin (blood sugar regulation) and testosterone. In fact, hypothyroidism, blood sugar disorders and low testosterone can all be caused by stress and cortisol.

    Natural steps can be taken to regulate cortisol and the stress response. This will help rebalance the hormonal system and restore the body's ability to regulate itself.

    Link to page on cortisol and adrenal fatigue.

  4. Exposure to some form of testosterone made outside the body (such as testosterone replacement therapy) can deregulate the hypothalamus and pituitary. In such a case, supplements may help to get the hypothalamus and pituitary working again.

 

Poor production of testosterone inside the testes

Testosterone is really just one of a whole family of hormones called steroids.

Underlining problems which can deregulate the whole steroid hormone family include: nutritional deficiencies, stress, toxicity, auto-immune disease, and infections.

Low testosterone is best understood as a consequence of these problems.

Men do not go through monthly cycle (such as women due), therefore, there really is not anything called "male menopause."

The term "andropause" is best used to describe a state of low androgens (androgens are the "male" hormones testosterone and DHT), much like the term hypothyroidism refers to low levels of thyroid hormone. Just like hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) is not a natural part of aging, neither is low testosterone.

At least testosterone levels declining to the point wher it is causing multiple symptoms in middle aged men (including low libido and impotence) is not a natural part of agine.

Testosterone and the family of steroid hormones
Steroid hormone pathway, testerone, testosterone, DHT, DHEA, progesterone, cortisol, pregnenolone, androstenedione, estrone, estradiol, and cholesterol


Causes of poor testosterone production

Low cholesterol

Yes, you read that correctly, low cholesterol. Despite conventional medicine's attempt to demonize cholesterol, the fact of the matter is that it is essential for life.

Cholesterol serves many vital functions. One of which is being the precursor for all steroid hormones. Cholesterol is the first thing in the above chart of steroid hormones. Without cholesterol we simply can not make steroid hormones. It is as simply as that.

Cholesterol, shouldn't be too low, or too high. When cholesterol starts getting down in the low hundreds, hormonal problems can appear.

Causes of low cholesterol:

Stress

The long, and short term effects of stress on testosterone
Short terms stress: exercise, anger aggression, etc... Increases testosterone
Long term chronic stress: caused by poor lifestyle, ongoing psychological stress, inflammation and illness Decreases testosterone

Stress will raise testosterone.

However, high stress day after day, for years on end (which today is unfortunately very common) wears out the endocrine system and over time lowers stress.

There are two basic pathways (as seen in the above chart) steroid hormone production can go. Either towards production of androgens (androstenedione, testosterone and DHT) or to stress hormones (cortisol).

Under prolonged stress the body shunts resources away from the androgens, and focus on the pregnenolone to cortisol pathway. This is sometimes called the "pregnenolone steal."

Since altered stress (and increases in cortisol) can lower testosterone in several ways (through pregnenolone steal and supressing LH), the stress responsce needs to be normalized.

This involves lifestyle and dietary interventions to reduce stress, plus supplements that nourish and rebalance the hormonal system. In addition, hidden sources of stress (toxicity, undiagnosed illness, inflammation in digestive system or systemic inflammation as seen with high homocysteine and high C-reative protein) should be identified and reduced.

Androstenedione block

Androstenedione is a direct testosterone precursor. It looks like testosterone and can block testosterone receptors, but will not activate them. Therefore too much androstenedione (and too little testosterone) can be a problem. Poor conversion of androstenedione to testosterone may be caused by high blood sugar and insulin. This can be helped with dietary interventions and supplements that normalize blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.

Conversion of testosterone to DHT

DHT is the hormone with leads to prostate cancer and male pattern baldness. it's a very powerful (10 times stronger than testosterone).

High DHT can cause male pattern baldness, enlarged prostate and symptoms of low testosterone as well.

Remember, with hormones more is not necessarily better. Too much causes cells to make less receptors and stop responding to a hormone all together. This is called hormone resistance, and is most commonly known to happen with insulin in diabetes. However it can happen with other hormones as well.

The bottom line is that too much stimulation of testosterone receptors (through testosterone drugs, or DHT) can down regulate receptors and cause symptoms of low testosterone.

High DHT can be a sign of nutrient deficiency (especially zinc, essential fatty acids and amino acids) or caused as part of a greater deregulation in the total steroid hormone balance. A holistic treatment approach would correct nutrient deficiencies and correct other problems listed on this page to rebalance the entire steroid hormone balance.

Auto immune disease

If low testosterone can not be easily resolved, it may be necessary to get tested for an auto-immune disease. Labs indicating this would be high FSH, pulse positive antibodies against leydig and sperm cells.

Other causes of poor testosterone production

Genetic diseases, alcoholism, physical injury and viral disease (i.e. mumps) can also lead to low testosterone.

 

Conversion of testosterone to estrogen

Even if everything else goes right, testosterone can still be converted to a type of estrogen called estradiol . This primarily happens in fat cells. Basically, the beer bellies some men get with age, become another endocrine gland which convert testosterone to estrogen.

Besides lab tests, a clear sign of high estrogen is gynecomastia. More commonly this is referred to as "man boobs." Men should not develop breast tissue. In such cases testosterone replacement therapy may just give fat cells more fuel to convert to estrogen.

There is a lot a man can do to get rid of excess estrogen. Normalizing cortisol and balancing blood sugar through diet and exercise is important.

In addition, today our bodies are being assaulted by "xeno-estrogens." These are fake estrogens which come from plastics, and contaminate foods stored in plastic. These xeno-estrogens are much stronger than those made in the body and disrupt the hormonal systems of men, women and children.

 

DHEA and pregnenolone as an alternative to testosterone therapy

Besides using other supplements and lifestyle interventions, the steroid hormone precursors DHEA and pregnenolone are available as dietary supplements. In cases where hormone levels are very low, these can be used (as part of an overall plan to rebalance the endocrine system) to bring up levels of testosterone.

DHEA in particular feeds right into the testosterone pathway (as seen in the above chart). In fact, DHEA works so well, there generally should be no need to jump straight to testosterone replacement therapy. Since DHEA and pregnenolone directly feed into steroid hormone production, hormone levels should be monitored before, and during and course of supplementation.

 

Conclusion: "Male menopause" (andropause) or hormonal deregulation

Low testosterone is primarily not caused by age

When we step back and look at everything, it becomes clear that blaming low testosterone on an inevitable aging process is simply wrong. This is especially true for men in there, 50's, 40's, 30's and even 20's who have low testosterone. Testosterone levels will fall with age. However, this should not happen to such a degree to cause men to run to doctor for testosterone replacement therapy.

Low testosterone is part of an overall hormonal system deregulation

Throwing testosterone drugs at the problem may help a man feel good in the short term, but over the long run will not correct the underlining hormonal imbalance.

There is no such thing as "male menopause"

The term male menopause implies that men go through an inevitable process of shifting hormones , comparable to menopause in women. In women this change is technically not brought on by age, but triggered by the brain and how the hypothalamus/pituitary glands regulate the female cycle. There is no comparable change to speak of in men whatsoever.

The term "andropause" is often used incorrectly. It refers to a hormonal imbalance brought on through various environmental factors.

Men have the power to take control over their own health

When men are told their symptoms are due to some kind of "male menopause," that's a very disempowering message. Basically it says there is nothing you can do to get better, since this is just something that happens with age. You're only choices are to do nothing, or ask your doctor to start testosterone replacement therapy.

But the truth of the matter is that the process is not inevitable, and there is an awful lot men can do to get healthy and see symptoms reversed.