Male Hormonal Assessment article modified from: www.diagnostechs.com
Traditionally, age-related male hormone changes were not considered problematic because fertility in men persists until an advanced age. In contrast, women undergo ovarian function failure and require multiple hormone replacements. More careful evaluation in males shows progressive age-related changes including:
Decreased muscle mass & strength
Decreased vigor, low energy
Nervousness & Depression
These changes usually begin in the fourth and fifth decades as androgens diminish. Androgens is the term used to describe certain hormones like testosterone that predominantly encourage masculine characteristics. Androgen deficiencies and imbalances may be considered the male equivalent of menopause, i.e. Andropause.
Testosterone production in males is mainly a testicular function. Pituitary sex hormones (FSH & LH) stimulate and regulate this function. Specifically, LH (Luteinizing hormone) stimulates testosterone production in the testicles. This process is under negative feedback, meaning that the higher the testosterone levels the lower the LH secretions and vice versa. FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and testosterone stimulate sperm production.
Measurements of hormones can be used in two general ways:
1. To estimate the body's own production-baseline test 2. To measure levels of hormones after supplementation-therapeutic monitoring
Baseline measurements will show normal and abnormal levels of six distinct hormones. If levels are too low, too high or hormone ratios are outside of expected limits, an objective treatment plan can be developed for the individual. Symptoms are not a substitute for measuring hormone levels because many symptoms may involve non-hormonal factors.
Using appropriate tests for monitoring hormone therapy is crucial in establishing the appropriate dosing regimen. This reduces the chance of undesirable side-effects and maximizes beneficial effects. For example, excessive use of androgens (testosterone, androstenedione, DHEA and testosterone derivatives) can activate subclinical prostatic tumors which are androgen-dependent. Monitoring is especially important in older males. By the age of 70, at least 50% of men have subclinical prostate cancer. These are especially susceptible to growth stimulation by androgens.
The roles of the six hormones tested through a saliva test are highlighted below:
DHEA - Is the precursor for both male and female hormones. Also, it is an anti- stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Unmonitored intake can easily alter the delicate balance between male to female hormones.
Androstenedione - Is a weak male hormone (androgen) and a precursor of both male & female hormones. Unmonitored intake in men can cause excessive female hormone production with minimal male hormone production. In women, unmonitored intake usually causes excess male hormone production with body & facial hair stimulation.
Testosterone - Is the main testicular androgen and is a precursor to the highly potent dihydrotestosterone male hormone. Excessive amounts of testosterone promote hardening of the blood vessels, aggression, prostate problems and increase in total cholesterol.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) - Is made from testosterone in certain tissues. The rate of its production is controlled by the level of free active progesterone. Excess DHT causes prostate enlargement and thinning of scalp hair.
Progesterone - This hormone is important in both sexes. It is a natural calming agent to our nervous system. It also keeps in check excessive DHT production ( a downstream hormone from testosterone) and counterbalances the effects of excessive estrone. Unmonitored intake can lead to breast enlargement, depression and weight gain.
Estrone - Is an estrogen that both sexes produce in the fat cells. The more fat, the more estrone, which itself in turn promotes fat deposits. Estrone is produced from the hormone androstenedione. Excess of estrone can cause breast enlargement and may contribute to prostate enlargement. In males, a certain low level of estrone is mandatory to balance the androgens.
The Salivary Test The regular male hormonal panel (MHP™) measures six hormones: DHEA, Androstenedione, Testosterone, Dihydrotestosterone, Estrone & Progesterone. The extended version (eMHP™) panel measures these six hormones plus FSH & LH. The hormone levels in saliva reflect the active tissue concentrations (free fractions), while blood contains mostly protein bound hormones, whose active levels can only be estimates at best. Urine contains both the active hormones and numerous metabolites and can only be used to gain gross estimate of hormone production over time. Active fraction measurements from saliva are superior to blood and urine total hormone levels in diagnosis and treatment.
Conclusion From a health and vitality standpoint, males are an overlooked population in the health care world. Much of a males continued vitality is linked to his maintenance and management of his androgenic hormones. These hormones come under attack and are imbalanced by all the same things that upset female hormones such as stress, refined foods, adrenal gland exhaustion, infections from intestinal microorganisms, inflammatory reactions and more. Measuring a male's hormones through saliva testing and then correcting the problems that led to the detected imbalances are the necessary healthy steps to restoring his optimal function.