Healthy hormone balance is essential to men's healthNaturopath Paul Keoghexplores some common men’s health concerns and explains how Chinese herbs and essential nutrients can help restore balance.
This feature article is highlighted from the GoVita magazine - Feb 2013Healthy hormone balance is essential to men's health throughout adult life and underpins healthy prostate and reproductive function as well as optimal libido, energy levels, mood, mental performance, body composition and physical performance.Testosterone is the primary male hormone that maintains male sex organs, builds muscle mass and increases bone density. It is also crucial for mental sharpness, concentration, and memory. Testosterone promotes drive, libido, sexual potency, energy levels and physical performance including flexibility, mobility, balance and coordination. Although progesterone and oestrogen are commonly regarded as ‘female hormones’, they also serve vital functions for men. For example, progesterone is a precursor to testosterone, while oestrogen supports libido, sperm maturation and bone strength.
Relief from common men’s health concernsBenign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) is a highly prevalent condition with around 50 per cent of men experiencing symptoms by the age of 50. The incidence of BPH increases to 90 per cent by the age of 85. As men age, testosterone is converted to the potent form dihydrotestosterone (DHT) at an increased rate. Increased DHT can cause proliferaton (hyperplasia) of prostatic cells and the enlarged prostate compresses the urethra leading to typical urinary symptoms including frequency, urgency, hesitancy, nocturia, weak urinary stream, dribbling and incomplete bladder emptying. Abnormal prostate enlargement can be a sign of cancer so it is important to seek medical diagnosis if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Reproductive health is largely dependent on hormone balance. Problems with impotence, ejaculatory dysfunction, low sperm count and poor sperm motility all impact on male reproductive health. After reaching sexual peak at around 24 years of age, men begin losing potency at two per cent each year. Sperm quality and count are affected by many factors including heat, stress, lifestyle and diet. By way of example, it takes three months to improve nutritional status for healthy sperm production and function. Erectile dysfunction is often associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Stress and emotional upset can also trigger impotence and premature ejaculation. Andropause or ADAM (androgen deficiency in ageing males) is part of the normal ageing process and refers to the steady decline in testosterone production in males from their late 40s or early 50s onwards. Andropause is associated with decreased virility, libido, sexual performance, muscular strength, physical performance and energy levels. Stress resistance, memory, joint health, cardiovascular health and immune function may also be impaired. Other common symptoms of andropause include insomnia, hot flushes, sweating, sleep disturbances, mood swings and changes in body composition including increased body and visceral fat and reduced muscle and bone mass – symptoms similar to menopause in women. Excess DHT in ageing men can not only cause benign prostate enlargement but also contributes to the development of male pattern baldness. This form of hair loss has a genetic basis and is by farthe most common type of hair loss in men. Physical performance, muscle mass and strength are all supported by healthy testosterone levels, which regulates skeletal muscle growth and function. Interestingly exercise in itself actually helps to promote healthy testosterone levels, as well as the release of endorphins to help support mood and reduce stress levels.
Nutrients for men’s healthPumpkin seed oilis rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids. It promotes healthy hormone balance by inhibiting excessive conversion of testosterone to DHT and is therefore helpful in managing BPH. The essential fatty acids help reduce the urinary symptoms of BPH and promote healthy cholesterol levels. Zincis a principal nutrient for supporting male health. It is vital for healthy sex hormone production, sperm quality and motility, prostate health and immune function. Interestingly, high levels of zinc are released during ejaculation. Zinc also inhibits excessive conversion of testosterone to DHT and is therefore beneficial in preventing and treating BPH. Some forms of zinc are better quality than others. For example, zinc glycinate is very easily absorbed and exceptionally stable during digestion, so it won’t react with other nutrients or interfere with nutrient absorption as other types of zinc can do. Lycopeneis the antioxidant which gives tomatoes their rich red colour. It especially benefits the prostate and inhibits proliferation of prostatic cells. Research shows that it helps to promote healthy prostate cell growth and division. Lycopene also promotes heart health and healthy blood pressure. Seleniumis another antioxidant nutrient that encourages healthy sperm maturation and motility, testicular function, testosterone metabolism and some studies have found it has protective effects on DNA and supports healthy ageing.
Paul Keogh is the executive and technical director for Fusion Health. Paul is a qualified naturopath and medical herbalist with 25 years combined experience in clinical practice and the development of integrated Chinese and western herbal medicines.