THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON MIND BODY GREEN.
What are hormones and why should men care about them? Oftentimes we associate hormones with PMS and hot flashes in women, but is that the only reason we should care? Men really only need to know about testosterone and growth hormone, right? Thyroid problems only affect women, right?
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Men have all of the very same hormones as women. We just have significantly different amounts of each. Men have estrogen and progesterone, and women have testosterone—we just have different levels than our counterparts.
Why should men (and women) care about their hormones?
Hormonal imbalances can be at the root of numerous problems plaguing many men like acne, mood swings, fatigue, and lack of energy, weight gain and fat accumulation, hair loss and male pattern baldness, decreased sex drive and erectile dysfunction… Do I have your attention yet?
Hormones are the body’s most potent chemical messengers. They are produced in organs called endocrine glands and affect your cells at the level of DNA, literally working to instruct the cells of each system in the body. They’re not just important—they’re imperative. They keep us functioning, adapting, and thriving, or not, as an imbalance or fluctuation in our hormones can cause some pretty unpleasant and undesirable side effects.
1. Hormones can be making you (or keeping you) fat.
Weight gain is often associated with thyroid problems in women. And it’s true that women are more likely to experience thyroid issues, but men can be affected too. More than 12 percent of the population will be affected by thyroid issues in their lifetime. That might seem like a low percentage, but when you’re talking about the entire population—that’s a lot of people, and a lot of men suffering from thyroid problems. Women are five to eight times more likely to develop thyroid issues, and that leads to many cases of thyroid disorder in men going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Men are also less likely to present to the doctor if they feel run-down, depressed, or are gaining weight. So if you feel like you just need to exercise more but it’s difficult because you’re so tired all the time, it might be your thyroid.
Even more commonly, however, being tired and run-down are symptoms of an issue with the adrenal glands. Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s secreted by the adrenal glands in response to any kind of stress whether it’s physical (e.g., exercise), emotional (e.g., relationship), or mental (e.g., work). You need cortisol to function under the most stressful of conditions, but when chronic stress of any kind is persistent, so is the cortisol production. High levels of cortisol raise your glucose and insulin levels, which tell your body to hold on to fat. They tell your body that, under all this stress, you may need that energy someday. So to lose the fat, you have to lose the cortisol, which means you have to lose the stress.
At Parsley Health, specialized testing helps to identify cortisol and insulin issues. The physicians work with all of our patients to identify, address, and reduce the stress in their lives. It’s part of a comprehensive, whole approach to health. We work with our health coaches to help implement special anti-inflammatory diets, less stressful fitness plans, and relaxation techniques that fit your style.
2. Hormones may be the reason you’re not sleeping and always tired.
Hormone imbalances are often responsible for sleep disturbances. Cortisol may be the culprit here, and stress can cause high cortisol levels at night, which can keep you up or make your sleep restless. Ideally, cortisol peaks in the early morning even before you awaken, getting your body revved up and prepared for the long day ahead. It drops to a low point in the evening while another hormone (melatonin) rises to make you calm and sleepy. Exercising in the evening or working late with the bright overhead lights on can trick your body into producing cortisol at the wrong times or delay or decrease melatonin production because your body thinks it’s still daytime.