This month, it’s Men’s Health Week. Male hormones often get overlooked – although they’re relatively similar to (and no less important than) women’s hormones, they’re far less widely discussed. Often they are even regarded as a slightly taboo subject. Since men also don’t experience either periods or the menopause (both of which are reasonably commonly talked about), opportunities to discuss men’s hormone health may be few and far between.
However, keeping a healthy hormone balance is an integral part of anyone’s health. Keep reading for an in depth guide on the key male hormones, how to keep them in check, and importantly, how to tell if you’re suffering from a hormone imbalance.
What hormones do men have?
The difference between male hormones and female hormones is actually relatively small – the key distinction is in what they affect. Men and women have lots of hormones, all contributing to different bodily functions and systems. Some of the main ones that contribute to men’s hormone health are:
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
How do male hormones work?
Hormones are the body’s main chemical messengers. They’re produced in various different parts of the body by specialist cells, and are then released into the bloodstream where they travel to another part of the body to ‘send a message’. Hormones communicate in two main ways – between two endocrine glands, or between an endocrine gland and a target organ.
Each hormone also works for your body in different ways, and are responsible for different bodily functions.
Arguably the most famous, the major male sex hormone is testosterone. Primarily produced in the testes, and controlled by the pituitary gland in the brain, testosterone is typically associated with the development and maintenance of male characteristics.
Although present from birth, testosterone levels drastically increase during puberty, and are responsible for the subsequent physical changes that occur, such as growth of facial and body hair, muscle development, and genital development. Testosterone can also impact your bone health, mood, and sex drive.
Testosterone levels can be influenced by lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, and subsequent weight increase or obesity, poor diet, stress, depression, or other mental illnesses, heavy smoking, alcoholism, or drug use. These behaviours can also have an impact on your other hormones, as well as metabolic health, general wellbeing and self-esteem.
In men, oestrogen is converted to oestradiol, which is also responsible for regulating libido, erectile function, and the normal production of sperm.
Another key hormone for men is prolactin, which is produced and controlled by the pituitary gland. Overly high prolactin levels can impact the male endocrine system, and have been linked to issues such as erectile dysfunction and low sex drive. Increased levels of prolactin can be caused by a myriad of things, such as liver or kidney disease, drug use, chest surgery or trauma, seizures or excessive exercise.
The thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is also produced in the pituitary gland, and it regulates the function of the thyroid, which is responsible for regulating metabolism. Since hormones are all relatively interlinked, thyroid problems can impact the production of testosterone.
The other main contender is cortisol, more commonly known as the stress hormone. Cortisol is responsible for key reactions such as fight-or-flight. Some research has shown a correlation between high levels of cortisol, and low levels of testosterone, which comes with its own set of complications.
How do I know if my hormones are balanced?
Hormone health is a vital part of overall health, but it can be difficult to spot, because many of the symptoms of poor hormone health can also be attributed to other causes or conditions. Some level of hormone fluctuation is also to be expected, especially as you age.
Signs of a hormone imbalance may include:
- A drastic change in sex drive.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Sudden or inexplicable changes in weight, whether loss or gain.
- Changes in heart rate and / or blood pressure.
- Mood changes such as irritability, anxiety, or depression.
- Unexplained, prolonged tiredness or fatigue.
You can help keep your hormones in check by ensuring you lead a healthy lifestyle – avoid too much stress, ensure you’re eating a healthy diet. This includes getting enough protein, avoiding too many carbohydrates and refined sugars, and ensuring you are getting enough healthy fats. For some tips and recipes on foods that have a healthy impact on your hormones, take a look at the blog section of our website. Regular physical exercise is also a great way to keep your hormones (and the rest of your body) healthy and balanced.
How can the Marion Gluck Clinic help?
Our doctors are experts in hormone health. If you’re unsure about exactly what’s wrong, but the symptoms we’ve discussed feel familiar, then it’s worth booking a consultation so we can figure out exactly what’s wrong. Depending on how old you are, it’s also possible you are experiencing andropause – while a normal part of ageing, it can cause some troubling symptoms.
Contact us today to book a consultation, and start your journey back to hormone health.