How Men Can Address Hormone Changes And Lead Better Lives
For our continuing coverage of hormones and health in the month of April, we sat down with our founder Dr. Zac Watkins to have him share some thoughts on men’s hormones and how they change over time.
Question 1: When was the first time you realized that your body was changing and wasn’t quite the same as it had always been?
ZAC: A few years ago, I was attending a college football game with my son. As we were lightly jogging to the stadium, there were some college kids playing catch with a football. I playfully lifted up my arm to signal to one of the guys to throw it my way…like a receiver running after a pass in stride. I was a fast runner in high school and have always been athletic.
But as I ran after this kid’s pass, my quickness was nowhere to be found and I bumbly ran after the ball in the air and proceeded to trip and fall flat on my face.
I got up and returned the ball to the kid thinking, “Wow, I really can’t do that anymore”. It was then that I learned that although I still felt athletic in my mind, my body was not responding like it once did before.
I felt kind of defeated. Like, “Well, I guess it’s finally hit me. I’m officially not a kid.’
It’s sobering to admit that you’re not the youthful person you thought you were anymore. And for men, I think that’s a hard pill to swallow and admit.
Question 2: What are some of the common markers for men that their sex hormones might be decreasing or out of balance?
ZAC: Obviously total and free testosterone can tell a lot – like if a man’s hormone activity is what it should be or if it’s decreasing. But also, DHEA in the blood is a good marker.
DHEA is more of an anti-aging hormone that tells how well a man is fighting the body’s stress response. Cortisol is the stress hormone, and DHEA the anti-stress…like a tug of war. When Cortisol pulls one way, DHEA fights back. The more tugging that goes on, the more DHEA (anti-aging) loses, and the effects of aging can set in sooner – things like a decrease in testosterone which impacts muscle growth, weight, and energy.
Question 3: Why is it so hard for men to talk about that with their doctors or each other?
ZAC: There is a pride issue. Men like to know that they are always in charge and ‘have things under control’. It also can be a sense of shame…to admit that your youthful side has gone and you’re not who you were once.
I joke with patients that men typically won’t go to a doctor unless 1) they can’t golf or 2) they can’t have sex. Other than that, they say they’re fine and without problems.
Question 4: What steps should men be taking in order to best utilize or take advantage of their sex hormones at 40? 50? 60?
ZAC: Learning to manage all areas of stress in their lives. Men typically think they can juggle a lot and just because they are without symptoms that they are ‘healthy’.
What I’ve learned is that men need to not only be men in how they take care of their families, but also in how they take care of themselves. This means being attentive to their health and bodies as much as they give attention to other things in their lives.
Men need to focus on consistently exercising – this promotes healthy muscle growth which boosts testosterone. Getting massages too can help with muscle recovery, soreness, and also counteracts cortisol in the body.
Men need to work on proper sleep and restful recovery. Without recovery, testosterone drops, and this is felt with fatigue, muscle loss, and decreased brain health.
Diet too should be given attention. Focus on fuel for the body and getting the right nutrients to promote muscle growth and a healthy lifestyle.
If men are feeling symptoms of “low T”, they should ask first what changes need to be made in their daily life before thinking about extra testosterone medicines. Yes, a drop can be normal, but we can mitigate it by addressing the counter-effects from stress. Evaluate diet, movement, water intake, and nutritional supplementation where appropriate.
Question 5: Any foods, supplements, or activities that might benefit sex hormone balance in men?
ZAC: Higher intake of healthy fats from fish to help with hormone balance (Arctic Oil, or salmon), zinc for prostate (zinc glycinate), regular exercise to improve metabolism and blood sugar which helps with weight loss (excess weight contributes to making too much estrogen and lower T), along with exercise, should include some resistance (weights or body weight).
I like bodyweight activities as you can build some good muscle, but they’re also helpful for proper joint and ligament growth. Side note: weights can exacerbate bad form which causes injury. (Large biceps are nice for the ladies but are useless).
DHEA can be helpful to support stress resistance, muscle growth, and T production
If men have excess estrogen (metabolic syndrome, excess weight), Platform: Hormone Foundations can be helpful.
Question 6: What’s the future of men’s health, as it relates to sex hormones in general?
ZAC: Recently, there has been a push for quick-fix men’s health solutions. Things like easy-to-get ED medicines in the mail, and pop-up hormone treatment centers. These seem like good and quick fixes, and let’s face it, men want easy solutions fast. But these are merely band-aids for the real truth men need to face. Men need to seek how they can fight back against their natural aging and stress responses and take steps to improve those areas.
Overall, I feel the tone is shifting with men’s health to one that is more pro-active. I think women have been there for a while and understand this. Men are generally behind but are coming around. They sometimes can’t believe that real health changes and outcomes can come from simple tactics. Yet, when these simple tactics are not addressed, this is where problems can compound. (Talking about the self-care disciplines).
I think what I see with men as well is a lack of purpose. Many are stuck in a job that they hate because a long time ago they were told that this was right for them…or this is how the world works; work for the man, get your benefits, crash at night due to exhaustion.
Or they are at a job that is very important and executive-level because they had something to prove to the world.
The thing is – both of these men are exhausted. Mentally, and physically.
Prostate cancer is on the rise and I feel it has a lot to do with men ignoring the factors in their lives, along with poor diet and exercise. These things are driving the rate of chronic disease.
Question 7: What helped you develop a posture of investing in your future health?
ZAC: I think it hits the hardest when you see age affect family members. You saw them as vibrant and active at one point, but then are faced with seeing them diseased and ill. When you see how it affects their mood and outlook on the world, this is a place I don’t want to be. I want to spend the last part of my life enjoying my grandkids, traveling, being outdoors, happy, always learning.
So, it’s a constant a reminder that “Hey, I am aging”. But also, “Hey, I have choices I can make now to invest in the future”. It’s like a financial investment or bank account. You don’t really notice change or improvement at first. There are a lot of ups and downs, and even times when you feel it’s not even worth it.
But, years down the road, you wake up and notice you’ve doubled your money. I feel the same with our health account. It’s hard to radically notice change this second (which is why all the quick fixes are prevalent), but if you stick with it, it’ll be there when you need it.
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