What Is a Hormone Imbalance in Men?

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Hormone Imbalance in MenAlthough hormonal fluctuations are common in women, hormone imbalances in men can also happen, so it’s a good idea to know how to naturally balance hormones.

Hormones are the chemical messengers that influence cellular activity and impact every function of the body. They are discharged into the bloodstream from the endocrine glands.

At different times in life, both women and men will see a shift in hormone levels. Just as older women experience menopause and a drop in estrogen, when men get older, they experience a decline in testosterone. This is better known as andropause, or male menopause.
After the age of 20, it’s thought that growth hormone levels in men drop around 14% every 10 years. That means by the time a man is 40 years old he’s lost about half of his 20-year-old growth hormones, and at 80 only 5% of the growth hormones remain. In the U.S., andropause is thought to affect about 10 million men.

That said, there are other hormonal imbalances men or women can experience, which all seem to be connected in some way. For example, adrenal fatigue is experienced when the adrenal glands fail to produce enough cortisol. A lack of hormones like cortisol is also linked with an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) as well as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

The Role of Testosterone and Estrogen in Men

Let’s talk about the importance of testosterone and estrogen levels in men. Although testosterone is considered a male hormone, estrogen also affects men. Both estrogen and testosterone need to be kept in balance for women and men. Estrogen is produced from circulating testosterone in the body by an enzyme called aromatase.

When men get older, estrogen is increased while testosterone production is decreased, and this imbalance of testosterone and estrogen in males is thought to lead to all sorts of problems.

For instance, estrogen dominance in men can lead to prostate problems. Older men have more estradiol (a type of estrogen) than free testosterone in the body, and a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009 found that men with higher estradiol levels were 133% more likely to die when compared with men with balanced estradiol. Low testosterone is linked with depression and other psychological disorders, plus various cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity and insulin resistance.

Causes of Hormone Imbalances in Men

What causes high estrogen and low testosterone levels when men get older? There are a number of reasons that chemical imbalances in men might occur.

Causes of Low Testosterone

  • Hypogonadism, in which underactive testes do not manufacture enough testosterone (low testosterone is also called low-T, or hypogonadism)
  • Chronic kidney or liver disease
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Chronic obstructive lung disease
  • Metabolic disorders like obesity or type 2 diabetes
  • Mumps, HIV/AIDS
  • Heart failure
  • Cancers such as testicular cancer, or a prolactin-secreting tumor (prolactinoma) in the pituitary gland.

Causes of High Estrogen

  • Aging is linked with high aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen
  • Metabolic disorders such as obesity or type 2 diabetes
  • Synthetic testosterone therapy

Other Causes of Hormone Imbalances in Men

  • Diet: A diet high in refined carbohydrates can increase insulin resistance and lead to sex hormone problems.
  • Stress and adrenal fatigue: Adrenal fatigue is thought to upregulate aromatase, which leads to high estrogen and low testosterone.
  • Environmental chemicals: Personal care products, plastics, and other environmental chemicals contain chemicals called xenoestrogens, which are known to cause hormone imbalances.
  • Too much exercise: Excessive amounts of endurance and cardio exercise can lead to high estrogen and low testosterone. High-intensity interval and strength training are better options to avoid hormone imbalances in men.
  • Excessive alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can lower testosterone level.

Are Your Symptoms Pointing to a Hormone Imbalance?

There are various symptoms of a hormone imbalance in men. The following symptoms are linked with high estrogen, low testosterone, and other signs:

Symptoms of Low Testosterone

  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Mood changes and depression
  • Hair loss
  • Decrease in bone mass, and osteoporosis
  • Muscle weakness and poor recovery from exercise

Symptoms of High Estrogen

A hormone imbalance in men can cause acne and rosacea, as well as:

  • Lower urinary tract symptoms linked with benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • Prostate cancer
  • Gynecomastia, i.e., enlarged male breast growth
  • Tiredness
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Emotional problems such as depression
  • Infertility
  • Increased likelihood of heart problems such as stroke or heart attack

Other Symptoms of Hormone Imbalances in Men

Hormone imbalances in men and weight gain are linked, as high estrogen and low testosterone contributes to a loss of muscle mass and increased abdominal fat. Other symptoms include:

  • Sexual problems such as low semen volume, low libido, and erectile dysfunction.
  • Bloating, headaches, cold feet or hands, and sleeping or memory problems are also linked with high estrogen levels.

Are Hormone Imbalances Linked to Chronic Diseases?

As mentioned, hormones affect the body in all sorts of ways, and as a result, there are also a number of health conditions associated with hormone imbalances in men, such as:

  • Thyroid disorders including myxedema, adenoma, Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s disease, and cretinism;
  • Digestion-related disorders including celiac disease, allergies, yeast overgrowth, and irritable bowel syndrome;
  • Adrenal-related disorders including chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue, or Addison’s disease;
  • Hypoglycemia and type 2 diabetes; and
  • Other conditions such as chronic viral infections, cardiovascular disease, migraines, autoimmune diseases, insomnia, and cancer.

How to Fix Hormone Imbalances in Men Naturally

What is the best treatment for hormone imbalances in men? The replacement of testosterone is most common for men with andropause, as it’s thought to provide symptom relief and improve the quality of life in men going through hormone imbalances. However, synthetic testosterone therapy is also known to increase estrogen levels. This sets up a whole new set of symptoms like enlarged male breasts and prostate problems. Fortunately, there are also natural treatments for hormone imbalances in men.

1. Zinc

Zinc is an important mineral that is involved in nearly every part of the male reproductive system, including testosterone metabolism. A study published in the journal Nutrition in 1996 found that zinc supplementation resulted in an increase of testosterone in elderly men. Zinc has also been found to increase sperm counts.

2. Royal Jelly

Royal jelly is secreted from honeybees and is used in the nutrition of adult queen bees and larvae. Royal jelly is a natural source of a flavonoid called chrysin, which has been found to inhibit aromatase—as mentioned earlier, aromatase is responsible for converting testosterone to estrogen. Therefore, royal jelly is thought to improve testosterone levels; the recommended dosage is 50 to 100 milligrams daily.

3. Herbal Remedies

There a number of herbs that can help correct hormonal imbalances. Adaptogenic herbs in particular help support the adrenal glands, stabilize blood sugar, reduce stress, depression, and anxiety, and improve thyroid function. Some effective adaptogenic herbs include ashwagandha, holy basil, ginkgo biloba, American ginseng, astragalus root, gotu kola, chaga, reishi mushroom, rhodiola rosea, and cordyceps.

Tribulus terrestris is another adaptogen thought to increase testosterone levels in men. Other herbs used to treat hormone imbalance include fenugreek, yohimbe, valerian root, horny goat weed, fennel, suma, maca root, avena sativa, catuaba, tongkat ali, and muira puama.

4. Remove Xenoestrogens

Harmful chemicals called xenoestrogens in the environment can mimic hormones in the body and prevent it from producing real hormones. Studies have found that testosterone levels may have dropped in men gradually over a number of years, which may be due to the xenoestrogens in the environment. For instance, bisphenol A and phthalates are found in plastic products such as containers and water bottles.

Although microwaves pose several health risks, putting plastic containers in these appliances is extra-dangerous since the xenoestrogens can potentially leak into your food. Organophosphates are other xenoestrogens in pesticides and herbicides, which can be found in conventional produce. That’s why it’s a good idea to buy organic produce whenever possible. Xenoestrogens can also be found in cosmetics, shampoo and conditioners, fabric softeners, bleach, household cleaning supplies, and dairy and beef products.

5. Aromatherapy

Certain essential oils also have a gentle effect on hormone levels, including rose and geranium oils. Other essential oils that reduce stress and help improve hormone levels include bergamot, neroli, jasmine, patchouli, ylang-ylang, and chamomile.

6. Homeopathy

Homeopathy is also considered an effective treatment for male hormonal imbalances. There are several homeopathic remedies used to treat andropause, including lycopodium, agnus castus, and selenium. Lycopodium in particular is used when weight loss is evident, and the person is prone to irritability, depression, and anxiety.

7. Other Hormone-Balancing Nutrients

Other remedies that balance hormones levels in men include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, folate, choline, betaine, indole-3-carbinol, 3,3’-diindolylmethane, magnesium, selenium, quercetin, grape seed extract, DHEA, saw palmetto, and ECGC. Men with hormone imbalances should also treat related digestive issues such as leaky gut syndrome and symptoms such as bloating, gas, and food sensitivities.

Diet for Hormone Imbalances in Men

Certain foods can be eaten to help balance hormone levels, and conversely, there are foods to be avoided. Here is a hormone imbalance diet plan that men can follow if needed.

Foods to Eat

  • Healthy fats and omega-3 sources such as wild-caught salmon and trout, ground flaxseed, avocado, and extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil, another healthy fat that helps regulate blood sugar levels and promotes thyroid function
  • Fruits high in flavonoids such as grapes, citrus fruits, and berries
  • Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, and spinach
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli
  • Fresh and organic fruit, plus vegetable juices and smoothies
  • Organic eggs from free-range and grass-fed chickens
  • Quinoa, which contains phytoestrogens called lignans and other hormone-balancing nutrients including zinc, magnesium, and vitamin E
  • Nuts and seeds to help boost hormone levels
  • Organic dairy products
  • Organic produce free from pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides
  • Lean, organic, grass-fed, and free-range meats

Foods to Limit or Avoid

  • Limit caffeine intake: Too much caffeine is thought to wreak havoc on your endocrine system, which can cause hormone imbalance problems. Avoid caffeine from coffee, tea, caffeinated soda, and energy drinks.
  • Sugar and processed foods: Excessive sugar and processed foods with additives and preservatives can hinder weight-loss efforts and hormone production.
  • Animal fat sources: Avoid conventional dairy and red meat.
  • High-glycemic foods: Limit or avoid high-glycemic foods, i.e., foods with a glycemic index value of 70 or above. Some examples include chocolate bars, sweetened cereal, brown rice, potatoes, and alcohol. Refined carbohydrates such as white pasta, white rice, and white flour are also off the hormone imbalance diet plan.

Exercises for Hormone Imbalances in Men

Exercise can help balance hormones in men. While exercising, the body releases and produces estrogen, testosterone, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, but too much in the way of cardio and endurance exercises (biking, swimming, running, etc.) can produce too much estrogen and not enough testosterone. Those with thyroid and adrenal issues may also experience further hormone problems. Here are some better exercises to try out.

  • Yoga: Yoga is great for relieving many causes and symptoms of andropause and hormone imbalance in men. It can reduce blood cortisol levels and stress and has a positive effect on depression and anxiety.
  • Short-burst circuit training: Circuit training is considered effective for working multiple muscle groups simultaneously, and studies have found that circuit training can help boost testosterone levels, especially during short, intense training sessions.
  • Weight lifting: If you don’t lift weights, it might be a good idea to start. Men will benefit from an increase in testosterone when lifting heavy weights with low repetitions.
  • Food and exercise: Consuming blends of protein and carbohydrates (from whole-food sources) can promote muscle growth and stimulate hormone production.

Easy Tips to Manage a Hormone Imbalance

There are also a number of tips that can help manage and prevent hormone imbalances in men.

  • Relieve stress: Stress is highly related to hormone imbalances in men. It’s beneficial for men to relieve as much stress as possible—and for that matter, it’s a good idea for women, too! Some good stress-relieving treatments include massage therapy, meditation, tai chi, and qigong.
  • Acupuncture and acupressure: Acupuncture also helps balance hormone levels in men by focusing on certain acupressure points that can restore organs related with hormone balance, such as the liver and kidneys.
  • Get adequate sleep: Sleep is extremely important to balance hormones in men. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep every day helps maintain a proper weight and regulate blood sugar levels.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Prasad, A.S., et al., “Zinc Status and Serum Testosterone Levels of Healthy Adults,” Nutrition, 1996; doi:10.1016/S0899-9007(96)80058-X.
Jankowska E.A., et al, “Circulating Estradiol and Mortality in Men with Systolic Chronic Heart Failure.” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2009; doi:10.1001/jama.2009.639.
Rakel, D., “Optimizing Hormone Balance in Men,” American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine web site, July 16, 2012; http://www.abihm.org/optimizing-hormone-balance-in-men, last accessed April 12, 2016.
“High Estrogen in Men,” New Health Guide web site; http://www.newhealthguide.org/High-Estrogen-In-Men.html, last accessed April 12, 2016.
Jade, K., “8 Surprising High Estrogen Symptoms in Men,” Natural Health Advisory Institute web site, October 3, 2015; http://www.naturalhealthadvisory.com/daily/natural-health-101/8-surprising-high-estrogen-symptoms-in-men/, last accessed April 12, 2016.

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Jon Yaneff, CNP

About the Author, Browse Jon's Articles

Jon Yaneff is a holistic nutritionist and health researcher with a background in journalism. After years of a hectic on-the-go, fast food-oriented lifestyle as a sports reporter, Jon knew his life needed a change. He began interviewing influential people in the health and wellness industry and incorporating beneficial health and wellness information into his own life. Jon’s passion for his health led him to the certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) program at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. He graduated with first... Read Full Bio »