Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Male Hormonal Balance and Female Sex Hormone Estrogen

Testosterone and Estrogen Balance in Men

The common knowledge is that Testosterone is a primary male sex hormone, and Estrogen is primary female sex hormone. However, there are certain amounts of estrogen found in men, and small amounts of testosterone found in women. Therefore, there is a growing need to understand the effects of estrogen in men. Like all hormones, estrogen needs to be kept in balance, and chronic health conditions are more likely to occur in men as a result of estrogen levels becoming too high.

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Hormones testosterone and estrogen are actually very closely related in the human body. A look at their chemical structure reveals only subtle differences. Yet, the differences of the effects of these two hormones on the body are substantial. Testosterone affects nearly every cell in the male body. It improves muscle mass and bone density and will also have a positive effect on the heart, brain and blood vessels. Estrogen is actually made from the circulating testosterone in the body by an enzyme called aromatase. As men age their testosterone levels will naturally start to drop (by about one percent per year). Similarly, their estrogen levels will start to increase.

Estrogen can be made in the liver, muscle and brain, as well as the fat cells. This is actually where much of the concern lies.  As obesity rates go up in this country and around the world, the production of estrogen will also increase from the fat cells. This is a bad combination of decreasing testosterone and increasing estrogen.

The benefits of testosterone for men are just beginning to be fully understood. We are learning that testosterone may help prevent heart and vascular disease in addition to its benefits with mood, muscles and aiding blood sugar levels. Diabetics tend to have higher rates of estrogen, which may correlate to a degree with their higher blood sugar levels. Lower testosterone has also correlated higher rates of depression. Too much estrogen may correlate with diabetes and heart attacks. Prostate cancer continues to be one of the most frequently diagnosed and one of the most common causes of death in men. Evidence is now pointing to estrogens playing a significant role in the etiology of prostate cancer. For years, testosterone has been blamed as the cause of prostate cancer, but a shift in thinking is pointing to an imbalance of the estrogens in the body being very important in preventing or causing prostate cancer. For men, too little testosterone and too much estrogen may play a role in nearly all chronic diseases.

Effects of Estrogen Dominance in Men

Men who have significant estrogen dominance may experience the following health, appearance, and personality effects, and not all health effects are strictly negative:

Appearance impact:
  • increased breast size
  • darkening of nipples
  • less acne
  • slower growth of facial hair
  • slower progression of baldness
  • feminization of body shape
  • more feminine complexion
  • decrease the size of testicles

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Personality impact:
  • lower interest in sex

Health impact:
  • lowered risk of prostate cancer
  • reduced chance of heart attack
  • increase risk of breast cancer
  • increase the chance of liver or gall bladder disease or tumors
  • mood or personality is altered in unpredictable ways
  • increase the chance of blood clots which can be fatal

How do we prevent too much estrogen?

Obesity is perhaps the greatest hindrance to maintaining a healthy hormone balance. Obesity decreases the production of testosterone. Extra fat cells will also increase levels of estrogen. By getting trim and building muscle through exercise, men get extra insurance against chronic disease through better hormone balance.

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The growing rates of obesity may be part of the reason behind the ever declining sperm production in men seen the past several decades. Increased use of alcohol can also increase production of estrogen in men. Chemicals in plastics may play a factor in disrupting proper hormone function as well. For this reason, extra exposure to plastic chemicals has to be limited. For example, do not microwave food in plastic and do not let plastic water bottles get too warm in the sun as the plastic may leach into the water.

Note that some medications can cause estrogen levels to rise so be on the lookout for estrogen-containing drugs, steroids, ulcer medications such as cimetidine, some antibiotics (tetracycline, ampicillin, etc.), anti-fungal medications and antidepressants. Since there are more medications that can cause this effect, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist. Using illicit drugs is another sure-fire way to cause a jump in estrogen so stay away from anabolic steroids, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs that can affect hormone levels.

Lifestyles play a major role in hormonal imbalance, especially smoking, which is considered to reduce testosterone levels.  Nicotine and other substances that are present in cigarettes, are said to increase the activity of those enzymes that deactivate testosterone and other male hormones.  Alcohol also increases the estrogen levels, while decreasing testosterone.  However, modest consumption of alcohol has not been shown to have any side effect.  

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Avoid as possible the following foods containing substances that are either potent estrogens, or act as androgen antagonists.
  • Licorice
  • Black Cohosh
  • Grapefruit
  • Soy products

Buy meat that is labeled “hormone-free” or organic. Eat fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead of canned foods, processed snack food and prepared meals. If a food has a long list of ingredients you cannot understand, it is more likely to contain xenoestrogens. Whole fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are loaded with antioxidants that are completely natural and fight disease in the body. To bolster your supply of healthy vitamins and antioxidants, consider vitamin supplements as well. Get 80-90 mg a day of zinc. Especially increase the amount of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower and flax these promote the liver to metabolize and excrete excess estrogen.

Get 80-90 mg of Zinc a day, since Zinc functions as an aromatase inhibitor for some men.

Estrogen Therapy

Some men have a genetic disorder called aromatase deficiency. The aromatase enzyme is involved in synthesis of several hormones in men, including estrogen. Deficiency of this enzyme can cause problems like weakened skeletal system, risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Aromatase deficiency also results in poor growth and low bone mass. This condition can be treated by estrogen therapy.

Sources and Additional Information:

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