The Truth About Men...
We often think of men as egotistical, impossibly untrainable and having had an early traumatic incident with anything resembling a household chore. But the fact is that men are often under severe and chronic stress, while at the same time not providing their systems with essential nutrients for years. All the while, they seldom mention the body pain, fatigue, headaches and other body symptoms that are all point to hormonal exhaustion. In fact, this is the beginning of andropause, and it can occur for men much earlier than women simply because of the stress they endure. So he may be zoning out in front of the television for a reason... We often assume that women have all the health issues, and men just coast through life, essentially dealing with nothing more serious than their prostate. Talk about simplification! In fact, men also have monthly cycles and as they approach mid-life, they go through a series of glandular and systemic changes that mimic menopause. This has inspired the new term andropause. Just as with women, men’s emotions, sexual drive, energy level and competitive edge are all tied into gland function and streams of biochemicals. Many of the emotional drives and competitive urges are simply the result of testosterone, adrenalin and serotonin. By paying attention to the symptoms men experience, the shifts in biochemicals that occur can be tracked, and glandular imbalance can be treated preventing serious illness in the future.
Men, more than women, tend to ignore symptoms and try to push through any discomfort or body issues. This is where the problems begin, because many times these are signals of imbalances that need attention immediately. When ignored, cellular damage can occur and physiological processes can shift to a point where optimal health may no longer be a viable option. When symptoms begin, it’s time to act. Treating the early signs of andropause will prevent a reduced athletic ability, less energy and a loss of muscle tone from becoming the daily norm. Interestingly, it often takes a marked loss in libido before a man will step up for help. Big surprise there...
Andropause is a phase of male development that can occur almost at any time, and over the years I am noticing younger and younger men with andropausal symptomology. Severe fatigue, muscle pain, chronic body stiffness, loss of hair, blood pressure dysregulation, sugar cravings and insomnia issues are all indicative of a body in distress. Andropause is a time when male hormonal levels drop and the body begins to distress. A life of physically demanding work, stressful family issues, lack of proper nutrition, consecutive injuries, and ignored illness are creating andropausal men in their 20’s. This issue is even affecting fertility, a fact evident in the numerous couples I see, where the male is the significant factor.
Men’s hormonal lives are complex. They even utilize many of the same hormones as women, such as Luteinizing Hormone and Follicle-Stimulating Hormone, both released by the anterior pituitary gland. The male aspects of these hormones control not only the secretion of testosterone, made from cholesterol, but also stimulate the proteins that maintain high concentrations of testosterone. Both of these aspects act indirectly to stimulate spermatogenesis. This means that both fat and protein are essential in the diet of men for healthy spermatogenesis and testosterone levels. So particularly as vegan men age, they can experience severe shifts in hormonal balance and really debilitating symptoms if their diets are not balanced exactly. Simply by increasing dietary intake and acidification of the intestinal tract for more efficient absorption, symptoms can be abated.
A second piece of the hormonal puzzle is the prostate. I can’t tell you how many men don’t even know what their prostate does, let alone think about it until they get their first prostate exam at the doctor’s office (which always brings a smile to my face when discussing it with a patient). It is also never too early to pay attention to prostate health in general. The prostate gland is a small gland the size of a chestnut that lies under the urinary bladder and surrounds the urethra. It secretes a milky, slightly acidic fluid that contains citric acid and a number of enzymes which make up about 25% of the volume of semen and contribute to sperm motility and viability. The prostate gland slowly increases in size from birth to puberty and then expands rapidly for a short time, after which it will maintain a constant stable size until late in life. Benign prostatic hyperplasia occurs in approximately 1/3 of all males over the age of 60, where enlargement of the prostate causes interruptions in urination and sexual function.
The best core treatment for prostate enlargement includes Nettle Root which acts as an antiinflammative with combinations of Saw Palmetto and Magnesium which can relax the spasming of involuntary muscle reducing the problems of frequent urination and the pressure of the prostate on the urinary system.
In addition, I have found that calcium utilization is an important key to the health of the prostate. Each gland in the endocrine system is powered by the catalystic action of minerals. The mineral compounds utilized vary with each gland’s requirements and functions. The adrenals utilize sodium and potassium, while the thyroid has a penchant for iodine. For the prostate it’s calcium. We don’t normally assume calcium to be something that men need, usually calcium is being shoved down the throats of women. But I find that once andropause symptoms begin, which can be as early as 42, men need increased amounts of ionizable calcium to maintain prostate balance.
This can often result from the loss of a vital factor in blood calcium processing, the F factor. It is suggested that this factor is an element that actually sustains mineral suspensions in the bloodstream, which is essential for minerals to actually reach target tissues. By providing exogenous amounts of the F factor, cells can more easily absorb calcium from the bloodstream to the tissues, reducing strain on the parathyroid gland. Without this essential calcium shunt, the prostate gland begins to enlarge. The trick is to identify this need as early as possible, the key sign for me being the loss of hair very early in men’s lives, even in their 20’s due to the lack of mineral absorption.
Another aspect to look at is the pituitary gland. Human growth hormone has become the rage these days, and unfortunately for many of my patients it has done exactly what it should... signaled the pituitary gland that there are high levels of HgH in the system, so the pituitary will stop producing. This pituitary atrophy then brings on a sudden surge of andropausal symptoms. This is similar to the situation I have seen with many of my male patients who are over six feet in height. Due to the imbalance of the pituitary which began during puberty with height shifts, body growth spurts and the waves of hormonal charges that occur during this time, they are experiencing prostate problems and other andropausal symptoms very early in life. For pituitary involvement, I provide a protocol of vitamin E with Manganese, ionizable calcium and my favorite complex, Standard Process Prost-X which is a cytosol extract with tillandsia to draw calcium into the prostate. Prost-X is also essential once there is a diagnosis of benign prostatic hypertrophy.
Many times, prostate enlargement goes right along with erectile dysfunction, probably one of the greatest concerns among men. There are many reasons for erectile dysfunction, including injury, stress, infection, testosterone deficiency, nitric oxide deficiency, drug use and vascular disturbances. In the herbal world, the protocol we use is actually linked to treatment of the prostate and reduction of contributing factors such as diet, drug use, stress and infection. We may select adrenal formulas to reduce the effects of stress, recommend a liver cleanse to eliminate drug or alcohol residue and provide herbal immune treatment for latent infection. Even large amounts of vitamin B12 with tillandsia extract can fortify the system and reduce months of fatigue and chronic stress response.
But the herb that has men lining up around the block is Bulgarian Tribulus Terrestris. The friend to every man, Tribulus has been traditionally used in Bulgaria for weight lifters to increase testosterone levels and enhance athletic performance. My patients love its effects on muscle development, male infertility and low libido issues, making it a core treatment in many prostate and andropause conditions. When I combine this with Coleus Forskohlii, the results can be truly amazing. Coleus helps to increase lean muscle mass while reducing body weight and body fat. It also increases bronchial respiration and circulation even helping enhance the quality of erection in men with vasculogenic impotence.
However, I think the biggest contributing factor to male andropause is stress. Men not only think of stress as inherent to their careers, they often feel that they have no choice, even telling me how they function better under stress. Our society pushes men to produce, to create, to support families and we view their craving for adventure and escape as negative weaknesses. In fact, we would say nothing about a woman going to a spa for a day, but for a man to actually lay on the beach for a day is a sin against the work ethic.
It is no wonder that men have twice the number of heart attacks as women, are taking 70% of the high blood pressure medication produced in this country and are lining up around the block for Viagra. They want to be seen as more than a provider, they want to be a man. In fact, many of my male patients exhaust themselves simply trying to inherently prove how youthful and vigorous they are. By removing the need to do this, you have half the battle won. This generally means that I have to have a discussion with the women involved in these men’s lives. Often the women are consciously or unconsciously putting great stress on the men they love by trying to control their behavior, restrict their life choices and insist on sharing significantly in daily routines, all while also working full time, mowing the lawn and fixing the garbage disposal.
In order for men to be healthy, they need to respond to the inherent characteristics of their bodies and minds. This means giving them the tools to handle stress effectively, removing daily demands and respecting their limitations. Otherwise the stress of overachievement and performance takes its toll on the balance of the endocrine system. It pounds the adrenal glands and exhausts the body’s levels of cortisol, adrenalin and the catecholamines. Our generation has seen more depression than any other in history, and the expectations we place on the men in our lives make this no surprise. So the first formula I insist on for men is Standard Process Symplex M. This is a great formula for balancing the four main sections of the endocrine system, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals and gonads. It is something I recommend for most men at a low dose for optimal health always.
For adrenal depression as a result of stress factors, I prefer to steer clear of St. John’s Wort, which acts from an antiviral aspect, and use a combination of Panax Ginseng with Damiana. Panax has a long history in Asian cultures for giving life to elderly men, even when the elderly men are in their 20’s. When I have a man who sits down and tells me how old he feels, Panax comes off the shelf. Damiana is great because it provides a modest euphoric effect which can really help to reduce the debilitating effects of adrenal depression.
Stress can also be the major factor in male fertility issues such as spermoidal rejection. Using a complex of Rehmannia, Bupleurum, Hemidesmus and Feverfew you can not only treat the adrenals for stress-induced infertility, but the strong steroidal effect can also reduce unresolved inflammation and the accompanying autoimmune aspects.
But handling the lifestyle component is crucial. Without this, everything that is accomplished is only a temporary bandage. By identifying what stressors exist and developing the strategies and tools to modify and minimize the effects of stressors, symptoms can not only be abated, but eliminated. Often the introduction of the novel concept of a vacation (or a bottle of Codonopsis) can do wonders. Following a strict eating regime beginning with breakfast within one hour of waking and the last meal within three hours of retiring, is essential. Reducing artificial stimulants and any biochemicals or drugs that will throw off the balance of the endocrine glands is also important. Monitoring the intake of sugar can help to keep the blood glucose levels constant and prevent adrenal fatigue as a reaction to hypoglycemia and insulin resistance.
But the key is to give the entire hormonal system time to heal and be nourished, both from within and without. Providing the time for self-care and relaxation allows the mind to turn towards the need for healing and to focus on the areas of the body that require attention. This really does need to be thought of as a time of convalescence. Less work, less demands and a break from the exhaustion of daily expectations are the proverbial chicken soup. This is when a man can, perhaps for the first time, give the body resolution for each assault that it has received, whether pathogenic, injurious, biochemical or emotional. Remember that every emotional assault is just as injurious as physical injury at a cellular level. And my rule of thumb is one day of healing for every incident of unresolved injury.
During this time I introduce combinations of adrenal herbs such as Rehmannia, Ashwaganda, Eleuthero and Licorice (unless hypertension is present). Hawthorn is amazing for any heart issues and Valerian can relax even the most anxious man. Whole food factors are also important such as zinc, copper and iron which can not only reduce andropausal acne, but also eliminate acid stomach problems common with stress. Orchex by Standard Process provides whole food in a combination that is perfect for the general symptoms of male mid-life such as hyperirritability, depression, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, loss of appetite and quickness to anger. It is a very powerful tranquilizer to calm and relax the mind and body. Think of it as a dart-gun for a lion...
With care, time and support, andropause can be managed and transitioned. The lessons learned will be the guideposts for the future and a life of optimal health and vitality can be assured.