Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Wisdom Wednesday: Progesterone for Men?
Progesterone occupies an important position in the pathway of hormonal synthesis in both men and women. While many of us think of progesterone as being a hormone strictly for women, men need progesterone too.
Most progesterone in women is produced in their ovaries, it is also produced in the adrenal glands of both sexes and in the testes in males. In fact, after menopause, progesterone production falls dramatically in women, while the male body makes more.
Not only is progesterone found in males, but men relay on the alleged “female hormone” to preserve their masculinity. In fact, progesterone is a precursor to testosterone – the male sex hormone. As men age and testosterone begins to decline, estrogen levels steadily rise. As estrogen levels increase, progesterone levels plummet. Therefore, boosting progesterone levels can be of great benefit for men.
Hormone levels are a real balancing act – it is the ratios of all the hormone with each other that makes the system work. Hormones are cell messengers that carry signals to different cells in the body. This communication can be impaired by a multitude of factors, including: nutritional inadequacies, stress, toxicity, organ toxicity/malfunction, and mineral deficiencies.
Dr. John R. Lee coined the term estrogen dominance. He described a condition where a woman (or in this case a man) has excess estrogen in relation to progesterone. Even if a man’s estrogen levels are low, it is still possible that he will experience symptoms of estrogen dominance – if the ratio to progesterone is high.
The main cause of estrogen dominance in men is exposure to xenoestrogens, hormone-mimicking chemicals found in consumer-based products, tap water and even in the air we breathe. Other causes of estrogen dominance in men include alcoholism, obesity, chronic stress and endocrine dysfunction.
In both males and females, progesterone supports development of T helper cells, boosting immunity. Progesterone acts as a precursor to many important steroid hormones and helps to regulate a broad range of biological and metabolic effects in the body. During chronic stress, progesterone production is reduced as cortisol levels rise, potentially creating a shortage of all sex hormones.
A common problem in both men and women is impairment in the chemical pathways of the body’s conversion of cholesterol to progesterone. In addition to testing total testosterone levels, men should also test free testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, DHEA, SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) and the thyroid hormones. This broad panel will provide a clear picture of hormonal imbalance.
Symptoms of low progesterone in men include: low libido, hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, depression, gynecomastia (man-boobs), erectile dysfunction, impotence, bone loss and muscle loss. In addition, men with low levels of progesterone have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, arthritis, BPH (benign prostate hypertrophy) and prostate cancer.
Progestins are synthetic hormones that are similar but not identical to progesterone. Because a natural substance such as progesterone cannot be patented, it is generally not profitable for a pharmaceutical company to produce it as a medicine. But if that natural substance is slightly changed it can then be patented and licensed as a medication. However, such substances are no longer ‘natural’ to the body. Even a tiny change from the natural hormone can result in considerable side effects.
The Bottom Line:
Progesterone supplementation in men is a viable treatment option when the history, symptoms, and laboratory testing indicate a deficiency. However, I prefer oral supplementation with Wild Yam rather traditional HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Never allow the use of progestins in lieu of natural hormone therapy.