When testosterone levels are normal, and a man is experiencing signs of andropause, the hormonal culprit is usually estrogen (and chemicals that mimic the actions of estrogen), the female hormone. Both men and women have specific amounts of estrogen in their bodies. Young men may have a ratio of testosterone to estrogen of 50:1. The ratio drops to 20:1 or even as low as 8:1 with normal aging.
When estrogen levels in a man increase, the actions of testosterone are reduced. Even worse. While estrogens in women protect them from heart disease and osteoporosis, the effects are the opposite for men. Too much estrogen will actually increase the risk of heart attacks in men.
How Does Estrogen Occur In A Man’s Body? Within the body, there is an enzyme called aromatase. It converts certain amounts of testosterone into estradiol (an estrogen). With aging, a man’s body will produce larger amounts of aromatase. Larger amounts of aromatase mean more conversion of testosterone to estradiol. This will change the ratio of testosterone to estrogen. A man may have a normal testosterone level, but with an increased estrogen level, the effects of the testosterone are negated. The transformation is not difficult, as the chemical makeup of testosterone and estrogen is very similar.
How Do Levels Of Estrogen Become Elevated?
- Obesity Studies indicate that obesity is directly related to over-estrogenization in both sexes. All fat cells contain aromatase, so an increase in fat cell population will cause an increase in the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. This will alter the testosterone:estrogen ratios. Obesity is also known to lower testosterone levels at all ages. This may be an excellent reason to trim down and tone up!
- Zinc Deficiency Zinc inhibits the levels of aromatase in the body. If zinc levels are inadequate, the levels of aromatase rise. Zinc is also necessary for normal pituitary functions. Without zinc, the pituitary gland cannot release the luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormones that stimulate the testes to produce testosterone. An interesting note; while zinc is necessary for testosterone production, testosterone is necessary to maintain levels of zinc in body tissues.
- Liver Function One of the functions of the liver, is to aid in the elimination of chemicals, hormones, drugs and metabolic waste products from the body. There are a number of factors that will prevent or decrease this from happening. Use of alcohol will diminish liver function. Normal aging will also lessen liver function.
- Alcohol intake will assist with diminished liver function, and the elimination of excess hormones, drugs and metabolic wastes. Alcohol consumption causes dramatic rises in estrogen levels in the body. Women will have a dramatic rise in their estrogen levels after just one drink. Men will not have a dramatic rise, but levels of estrogen will increase. Heavy drinkers will have high estrogen levels, along with other related symptoms, such as “spider veins”, especially on the nose and cheeks, gynecomastia (development of breasts) and testicular atrophy (degeneration or shrinking). Alcohol decreases zinc levels in the body.
- Prescription Drugs The side effects of some prescription drugs will have a negative effect on the body, and increase the effects of andropause. One example is diuretics (water pills such as Lasix). While necessary to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, the action of the diuretic will diminish levels of zinc in the body. To counteract the effects of the diuretic, a zinc supplement should be taken.
Short-term Effects of Elevated Estrogen in Men
- Decreased strength
- Decreased endurance
- Dermatological changes
- Decreased libido
- Decreased sexual performance
- Dysphoria (restlessness)
- Loss of self-esteem
- Increased anxiety
- A decline in physical energy
- Difficulty in concentration
- Altered state of well-being
The long-term effects include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Muscle loss
Treatments There are a small number of commercial preparations that deliver testosterone. Some are injected. Others are applied as a gel. While being more acceptable because they don’t require a needle, the gels can be inconvenient because of the large amount of gel material that needs to be applied and rubbed in every day. An alternative to injections of large volumes of gels is a compounded version of testosterone. These preparations are particularly effective. The testosterone is actively transported across the skin and in the body without the need for a needle. In addition, precise doses can be ordered because the user is not limited by whatever is available from the drugstore.
Ask your local compounding pharmacist for his or her suggestions regarding testosterone replacement as the basis for correcting the problems associated with age-related andropause.