Men are often left out of the conversation when it comes to hormone imbalances. However, a hormone disruption in the male body can happen at any age. The following article tells you the indications that you may have a hormone imbalance, the causes, how to get a diagnosis and ways to treat hormone disruption in men.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are chemicals the body releases from endocrine glands for healthy bodily function.
The brain sends signals that trigger certain hormones to carry out functions such as cognitive development, digesting food and carrying it to the correct areas of the body, growth, sexual function, and general health maintenance.
The main endocrine glands that issue hormones into the bloodstream are the thyroid,pancreas, testes,pituitary, adrenal, and pineal gland. These hormones are perfectly balanced, which is why a minor disruption has a significant knock-on effect on the body.
Types of Male Hormone Imbalances
- Addison’s disease – Also known as adrenal insufficiency, this is when the body does not produce enough of the hormone cortisol and can be life-threatening. Early symptoms typically include tiredness, weight loss, dizziness, a drop in blood pressure and hyperpigmentation. People with this disease need hormone replacement treatment.
The disease may also be referred to as adrenal fatigue, although that isn’t a medical term or diagnosis. People with adrenal fatigue understand it to be a less severe experience of adrenal insufficiency because the symptoms are milder.
Adrenal fatigue isn’t a medical diagnosis because blood tests aren’t yet sensitive enough to recognise slight hormonal declines. However, your body can still feel the effects.
- Andropause – This is the ‘male menopause,’ however, this term isn’t accurate because it typically has less to do with hormones and is more psychological or a result of lifestyle. Signs are depression, anxiety, low sex drive, and erectile dysfunction. However, experiencing a ‘male menopause’ may be late-onset hypogonadism (explained below).
- Hypothyroidism – This is when you have an underactive thyroid gland, perhaps from an autoimmune disease or a lack of iodine. Symptoms include difficulty focusing, feeling cold and weight gain.
- Hyperthyroidism – The opposite of hypothyroidism and when your thyroid gland is overactive. You may experience extreme mood swings including anxiety and depression.
Signs You Have a Hormone Imbalance
At first, many hormone imbalances symptoms feel like tiredness from stress or low moods due to a difficult situation. However, the difference is that these hormonal symptoms intensify over time and become more problematic. Some symptoms include:
- Anxiety – Feelings of dread and panic. A consistently upset stomach, feeling nauseous, difficulty sleeping and panic attacks.
- Constant fatigue – Always feeling tired no matter how much rest you get.
- Depression – Low moods, feelings of helplessness, a lack of interest, passion or motivation.
- Difficulty focusing – An inability to concentrate or perform routine cognitive tasks. It may also show in the form of memory loss.
- Erectile dysfunction – Inability to hold or get an erection or a low or lack of sex drive. Read more about how to treat erectile dysfunction.
- Gynecomastia – This is when breast tissue grows in men. Although extra weight can cause the male breasts to grow, this is typically fat, not tissue.
- Hair loss – Noticeable and rapid bald patches (not due to male-pattern baldness) or clumps of hair falling out.
- Loss of muscle mass – A rapid and unexplained decrease in muscle could be a sign of a hormone imbalance, such as low testosterone levels.
Causes of Hormone Imbalances
Minor changes in hormones are normal as you grow, develop, and go through different stages of life or experience stress. However, if these hormones don’t regulate over time, it’s worth considering if you have a hormone imbalance. Here are some causes of hormone dysregulation:
- Diabetes – Diabetes is a chronic condition when the body cannot efficiently absorb and distribute insulin. It leads to glucose levels building up in the bloodstream, causing symptoms such as urinating too frequently, dizzy spells, and the risk of affecting significant organs. There is a difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and both are manageable with the right treatment.
- Lifestyle – Poor nutrition, lack of exercise, smoking and excessive drinking can severely impact the body and disrupt hormones.
- High or low cortisol levels – Addison’s disease (low cortisol) and Cushing’s syndrome (high cortisol) are triggered by hormone imbalances.
- Thyroid imbalance – Lifestyle or external stressors can disrupt the appropriate secretion of hormones into the bloodstream from the thyroid gland.
- Eating disorders – Extreme eating disorders such as anorexia or binge eating can put the body into a state of shock and wreak havoc on the glands that distribute hormones.
How to Diagnose a Hormone Imbalance
- Blood test – The primary way to diagnose a hormone imbalance is to take a blood test to detect the presence of certain hormones and analyse if they are in the normal range. Take a male hormone blood test.
- MRI – An MRI scan is useful for identifying abnormalities or problems in the brain and blood vessels that may be causing hormone imbalances but are not detectable in a blood test alone.
- Sperm count test – This is a particularly important test to “check your fertility levels , as an imbalance of hormones can affect the amount of sperm your body produces.
- Thyroid scan – This is effective if your doctor suspects you have an underactive or overactive thyroid because it can focus on that gland alone to pinpoint the problem.
How to Treat a Hormone Imbalance
- Manage stress – Telling someone, ‘Don’t get stressed,’ rarely works, but you can do things to navigate yourself through stressful situations. For example, mindfulness practices like meditation release endorphins and calm the body when it’s in fight or flight mode.
You can also keep a worry journal, practice gratitude and look after your body through exercise and diet. Talking to someone can help during stressful situations as you can hear your thoughts out loud and work through problems in a manageable way.
- Nutrition – Often, people understand that they need to ‘eat healthily,’ but what does that actually mean? Food for your hormones isn’t just about getting your five a day (although that is crucial) but ensuring your body gets enough of the correct fuel to function.
For example, eating vegetables alone won’t give your body the power it needs. You also need enough protein and carbohydrates to remain full for extended periods of time. This is better for the body as it slowly releases energy throughout the day and minimises unhealthy choices. For instance, constantly snacking because your meals weren’t nutritious enough or grabbing something inconvenient because you need energy quickly.
- Exercise – Moving your body is a natural way to regulate your hormones because it lowers the production of cortisol or insulin to manage blood pressure.
- Testosterone therapy – Some people experience low testosterone levels, which can trigger hormone imbalances. If the body cannot produce the correct testosterone levels, hormone replacement therapy is a great way to manage the condition.
You can take hormone replacement therapy through pills, injections, and gels, to name a few. It’s a great option when you are older because men’s testosterone decreases by 2% each year around 30-40 years old.
The effects enhance bone strength, increase libido, treats erectile dysfunction and muscle loss. However, most men won’t need hormone replacement therapy unless there is a severe disruption.
Check Your Hormone Balance
Many factors can cause hormone imbalances, such as stress, lifestyle, or a disruption in glands, such as the thyroid function. However, dysregulated hormones are manageable using treatments such as exercise, healthy nutrition, lowering stress and hormone replacement therapy. If you are struggling with symptoms such as constant fatigue, loss of muscle mass, weight loss, and hair loss, then try taking are male hormone blood test to ensure you are in the best shape and as healthy as you can be.
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Written by Emma Carey. Emma is a health and wellness enthusiast who likes to know the science behind how supplements, vitamins, nutrition and exercise affect the body. She’s on a health and fitness journey to improve her lifestyle and live life to its fullest.
How do men prevent a hormonal imbalance?
Men can prevent a hormone imbalance by eating the correct nutrition (lots of fibre and protein) and minimising unhealthy fats, refined sugar and carbohydrates. Exercise can regulate the production of hormones and keep men healthy, as carrying excess weight can cause hormonal dysregulation.
Managing stress is also integral to preventing a hormone imbalance. The body releases cortisol when under pressure, and too much over an extended period of time will alter other hormones in the body. A fundamental way to ensure you look after the body during stressful times is getting a good amount of sleep (between 7-9 hours is recommended).
If men want to keep hormones at a good level, then avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation is essential. Not only can smoking or too much alcohol disrupt hormones, but it can lead to severe issues such as liver and kidney disease.
What happens when hormones are low in men?
Low hormones can cause medical conditions such as diabetes, erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, low libido, hair loss, change in pigmentation and weight loss. It can also lead to more serious health complications from high or low blood pressure that can affect the major organs in the body.
How can I boost my testosterone fast?
If you need to boost your testosterone quickly, start with your eating habits and consume enough protein to enhance testosterone and fibre to regulate blood sugar, so the effects from the protein circulate in your body easily. Strength training is another good place to start (although nutrition is also crucial), as it uses cardio.
Reducing stress will help increase testosterone as too much cortisol produced from stress can cause imbalances. Ensure you are getting good quality sleep so your body can function healthily.