Extra facial hair and the month November seem to go hand-in-hand. The Mo-vember movement has been gaining strength over the last few years promoting men’s health and the importance of screening for prostate and testicular cancer. Thanks to this movement, men are becoming more aware of their health and the importance of regular check-ups. While the health of the male reproductive tract is obviously important, there are three very common men’s health concerns that are often overlooked or placed in the ‘you’re just getting old’ category.
Many men in Alberta carry extra fat around their mid-section that they can’t seem to get rid of. They start to lose their hair at a very young age and experience mood issues like depression and low libido. These concerns are not simply related to getting older. These concerns specifically relate to hormone balance in the body. That’s right, women aren’t the only ones with wonky hormones, men can have issues too!
Fat around the mid-section, known as the ‘spare tire’, can be both a cause and a symptom of low testosterone. Testosterone gets converted into estrogen by an enzyme that lives in fat tissue. Essentially, extra body fat can steal your testosterone. When testosterone levels go down, it is more difficult to gain muscle and body fat can go up. It’s a vicious cycle. The best way to deal with your spare tire? Fix the hormones first. Stress can also steal from your testosterone, making matters worse. Managing the effect of stress on the body using nutritional and/or herbs can improve testosterone balance and body composition.
Male-pattern baldness can be caused by genetics (did your dad lose all of his hair when he was young?) and it can also be caused by issues with testosterone. This time, it’s not necessarily an issue of low testosterone, it’s that you don’t have the right kind. Male pattern baldness is associated with having too much of a stronger form of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This hormone is also responsible for the enlargement of the prostate gland known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Improving the balance between DHT and testosterone can help prevent worsening of hair loss and can even encourage hair re-growth. The difficulty is in figuring out what caused the imbalance between testosterone and DHT. Again, this could be genetics, but it could also be related to nutrition, lifestyle or hormone disruptors/toxins in the environment.
Low libido and depression are very common in men of all ages. These issues can be difficult to discuss (even though they shouldn’t be!) and are often missed by health care providers. Both depression and low libido can be caused by low testosterone. In this scenario, the building blocks of testosterone are often lacking. Testosterone is made from omega-3 fatty acids from fish or flaxseeds and cholesterol. Zinc and various B vitamins are important in healthy testosterone levels, but they require adequate stomach acid to be absorbed. Men who are taking medication for reflux or heartburn tend to have impaired absorption of nutrients that are critical for making testosterone.
If you’re carrying around a spare tire, experiencing hair loss or have issues with your mood or libido you’re not just getting older! Men of all ages have these problems and there are many natural solutions to balance hormones and improve these conditions. Visit your healthcare provider or Naturopathic Doctor to learn how your hormones might be playing a role in your health concerns.
Dr. Briana Botsford is a Naturopathic Doctor in Edmonton, Alberta. She is a primary care provider and treats conditions from high blood pressure to the common cold. As an Ironman Triathlete, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Yoga Teacher, she integrates her in-depth understanding of movement, exercise and the mind-body connection into her writing and patient care.