Why We Need To Be Talking About Men's Hormones, According To A Functional Medicine Doctor
When it comes to hormones, for some reason there's a pervasive female connotation surrounding the word. It makes sense, as women have that extra vital sign—their menstrual cycles—to tune into their hormones and notice when they're imbalanced.
But according to functional medicine doctor Robin Berzin, M.D., we need to start focusing on men's hormones as well. She sat down with me on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast to discuss why we need to recalibrate our view of men's hormones. In addition to how we can use the vagus nerve to calm stress, she offers her favorite, doctor-approved alcoholic drinks (and tells me why our cheeks turn red when we have one-too-many glasses of wine!).
For now, here's Berzin's take on why we should be talking about men's hormones. While men might not be able to use a menstrual cycle as an indicator, there are plenty of other signs their hormones are out of whack.
What are some signs men's hormones are imbalanced?
"If men experience weight gain, poor sleep, hair loss, low libido, high blood pressure, or poor muscle mass, oftentimes there's a hormonal root," Berzin tells me. "Brain fog and feeling out of focus are also huge indicators, and they're common for both men and women."
While men have a lot of the same indicators, Berzin tells me that the current "solution" for men's hormone imbalances is quite simplistic: They just need to supplement with testosterone.
This answer is problematic, says Berzin, because simply supplementing with testosterone doesn't answer why a man has low testosterone in the first place. There could be a host of issues going on underneath the surface, and simply supplementing with testosterone is not enough, she explains.
What's driving this decrease in testosterone?
Think of it the same way as driving a car: "If you sit in a car, and you step on the gas and the brake at the same time, you stop. You don't go anywhere. A lot of times there's plenty of gas in the body, but there is something pressing on the brake. And so the brake wins."
In the case of men's hormones, there could be various factors that could be "stepping on the brake" or driving testosterone down.
"Often the root issue is cortisol, blood sugar, and inflammation that are driving down testosterone. Chronic stress could also suppress the brain's ability to tell the body to make testosterone," Berzin explains.
By fixing those issues (sleeping well, eating whole foods, managing stress, and building muscle mass through exercise are a few ways that could help, says Berzin), your sex hormones, progesterones, estrogens, and testosterones will benefit—both for men and women.
The bottom line?
According to Berzin, we should always try to take a deeper look into what's causing a hormone imbalance—and that effort shouldn't differ for men and women. That said, simply supplementing with testosterone isn't effective in truly optimizing men's hormones. As with all things for our well-being, looking at the holistic, whole picture is key.
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