Posts Tagged ‘estrogen’

How To Raise Your Testosterone, Naturally

September 3, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD  9/3/2016

17373-men-and-women-performing-aerobic-exercises-pv

(CDC/Amanda Mills from Public Health Image Library)

Two weeks ago, my entry was about the medication Clomid–a nice alternative to testosterone replacement therapy. What about a non-pharmacological, natural approach to raising testosterone levels?

Testosterone (T) is produced mostly in the testes, although the adrenal glands also manufacture a small amount. T has a critical role in male development and physical characteristics. It promotes tissue growth via protein synthesis, having “anabolic” effects including building of muscle mass, bone mass and strength, and “androgenic” (masculinizing) effects at the time of puberty. With the T surge at puberty many changes occur: penis enlargement; development of an interest in sex; increased frequency of erections; pubic, axillary, facial, chest and leg hair; decrease in body fat and increase in muscle and bone mass, growth and strength; deepened voice and prominence of the Adam’s apple; occurrence of fertility; and bone and cartilage changes including growth of jaw, brow, chin, nose and ears and transition from “cute” baby face to “angular” adult face. Throughout adulthood, T helps maintain libido, masculinity, sexuality, and youthful vigor and vitality. Additionally, T contributes to mood, red blood cell count, energy, and general “mojo.”

The amount of T made is regulated by the hypothalamus-pituitary-testicular axis, which acts like a thermostat to regulate the levels of T. Healthy men produce 6-8 mg testosterone daily, in a rhythmic pattern with a peak in the early morning and a lag in the later afternoon.  Low T levels can be low based upon testicular problems or hypothalamus/pituitary problems, although the problem most commonly is due to the aging testicle’s inability to manufacture sufficient levels of T. T levels gradually decline—approximately a 1% decline each year after age 30—sometimes giving rise to symptoms. These symptoms may include the following: fatigue; irritability; decreased cognitive abilities; depression; decreased libido; ED; ejaculatory dysfunction; decreased energy and sense of well-being; loss of muscle and bone mass; increased body fat; and abnormal lipid profile. A simple way to think about the effect of low T is that it accelerates the aging process.

Lifestyle factors are strongly associated with variations in testosterone (T) levels, with healthy lifestyles correlating with higher levels of T and unhealthy lifestyles with lower levels.  Some physicians regard T level as a laboratory marker of male physical health.

One of the key factors responsible for some of the decline in T that accompanies aging is excessive body fat. In fact, there is an inverse relationship between obesity and T levels, with increased body mass index (BMI) correlating with decreased T.

Factoid: Every 5-point increase in BMI translates to a 10% dip in T–an equivalent decline as would typically occur with 10 years of aging.

Fatty tissue – particularly visceral abdominal fat (the “beer belly”) – contains an abundance of metabolically active factors and hormones including aromatase, an enzyme which functions to convert T to the female sex hormone estrogen. Men with large bellies consequently are often found to have lower T levels and higher estrogen levels, which can result in “emasculation” with loss of sex drive, diminished erections, the disturbing loss of penile length and the presence of gynecomastia (man boobs)

Factoid: In addition to the decline in T, for every 35 lb. weight gain there is a 1-inch loss in apparent penile length because of the pubic fat pad that hides the penis.  

The good news is that weight loss will increase T levels and is capable of improving all of the aforementioned signs and symptoms. This has been demonstrated with all means of  weight loss, ranging from caloric restriction to bariatric surgery.

Another important lifestyle factor associated with variations in T levels is the extent of one’s physical fitness. Exercise is clearly associated with higher T levels. The degree of potential increase in T is related to both the quantity and quality of exercise. In general, the more time invested in moderate intensity exercise, the greater the increase in T.  As important as aerobic exercise is for health, resistance exercise is superior in terms of increasing T.

Bottom Line:  To optimize your T level, maintain a healthy weight and engage in an exercise program emphasizing resistance training.  If you are obese and sedentary, it is likely that you have low T, a situation that can be reversed with a modification to a healthier lifestyle. 

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– and MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback edition available at TheKegelFix.com

Author page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Siegel/e/B004W7IM48

Apple iBook: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-kegel-fix/id1105198755?mt=11

Trailer for The Kegel Fix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHZxoiQb1Cc 

Co-creator of the comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered Private Gym/PelvicRx, a male pelvic floor muscle training program built upon the foundational work of renowned Dr. Arnold Kegel. The program empowers men to increase their pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, and endurance. Combining the proven effectiveness of Kegel exercises with the use of resistance weights, this program helps to improve sexual function and to prevent urinary incontinence: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.  

In the works is the female PelvicRx DVD pelvic floor muscle training for women.

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at http://www.UrologyHealthStore.com, an online store home to quality urology products for men and women. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount. 

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Clomid: Not Just For The Ladies

August 20, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD 8/20/2016

Gender_differences_male_female

Frank Palopoli, Father Of Fertility

Frank Palopoli, the chemist who developed Clomid (clomiphene citrate), died last week at age 94. He conceived (pun intended) Clomid in the 1950s, a medication that stimulates ovulation and became the most widely prescribed fertility drug for women, resulting in pregnancy in millions of women who otherwise would not have been able to do so. Approximately 80% of women whose fertility is due to failure of ovulation respond to Clomid enabling conception. Clomid works by increasing production of hormones that spur egg ripening and release.

What’s Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander

Clomid is not just for the ladies! In urology we have used it for many years to stimulate sperm production in infertile men with low sperm counts. But here is a little secret: it also raises testosterone levels nicely. It does so by stimulating the testes to secrete natural testosterone, as opposed to the other testosterone replacement products on the market that are external sources of testosterone that actually shut down testes production of sperm and testosterone. No shrunken testicles that have their function turned off, but respectable family jewels, happily churning out sperm and testosterone, as nature intended.

Clomid Biochemistry In A Nutshell (no pun intended!)

Clomid is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). It works by increasing levels of the pituitary hormones that trigger the ovaries to produce eggs and the testes to produce sperm and testosterone. It blocks estrogen at the pituitary, so the pituitary sees less estrogen and makes more LH (luteinizing hormone) that stimulates the testes to make testosterone, and more FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) that stimulates the testes to make sperm. This is as opposed to external testosterone, which does the opposite, increasing estrogen levels that prompt the pituitary to make less LH and FSH, which causes the testes to cease production of sperm and testosterone.

Clomid usually works like a charm in increasing testosterone levels and maintaining sperm production, testes anatomy (size) and function. Its safety and effectiveness profile has been well established and minor side effects occur in proportion to dose and may include (in a small percentage of people): flushes, abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting, headache, and rarely visual symptoms.

 One issue is that Clomid is not FDA approved for low testosterone, only for infertility. Many physicians are reluctant to use a medication that is not FDA approved for a specific purpose, requiring it to be used “off label.” However, Clomid is effective and less expensive than most of the other overpriced testosterone products on the market and has the major advantage of stimulating natural testosterone while not shutting down testicular function.

Bottom Line: By virtue of a very sophisticated biofeedback system involving the pituitary gland in the brain and the testes, the use of external testosterone to boost native testosterone results in whatever feeble function the testes might have had to virtually cease completely and the possibility of atrophied, non-functional testes that no longer produce any sperm or testosterone.

 Clomid is an oral, less expensive alternative to testosterone replacement that stimulates natural testosterone production as well as sperm production. Kudos to Dr. Palopoli, whose magic drug has not only helped millions of women get pregnant, but has also helped enable countless men to fertilize their partners as well as raise their testosterone levels. Clomid is safer and much more sensible than traditional testosterone replacement.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– and MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback edition available at TheKegelFix.com

Author page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Siegel/e/B004W7IM48

Apple iBook: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-kegel-fix/id1105198755?mt=11

Trailer for The Kegel Fix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHZxoiQb1Cc 

Co-creator of the comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered Private Gym/PelvicRx, a male pelvic floor muscle training program built upon the foundational work of renowned Dr. Arnold Kegel. The program empowers men to increase their pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, and endurance. Combining the proven effectiveness of Kegel exercises with the use of resistance weights, this program helps to improve sexual function and to prevent urinary incontinence: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.  

In the works is the female PelvicRx DVD pelvic floor muscle training for women.

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at http://www.UrologyHealthStore.com, an online store home to quality urology products for men and women. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount. 

Uterine Fibroids And The Bladder

January 9, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD   1/9/16

shutterstock_femalebluepelvic

 

Fibroids are muscular growths that develop within the womb that can put direct pressure on the next door neighbor of the uterus–the urinary bladder.  This compression can give rise to a host of annoying urinary symptoms including urinary urgency, frequency, urinary leakage and difficulty urinating.  

Although fibroids usually grow within the uterine wall, at times they do so internally into the uterine cavity or, alternatively, externally on the outside of the uterus. They are virtually always benign and much of the time they do not cause symptoms. When symptomatic they may cause the following: heavy uterine bleeding; pelvic pressure; a swollen and distended lower abdomen; urinary and bowel issues; pelvic and lower back pain; pain with sexual intercourse; as well as fertility problems, reproductive issues and complications of pregnancy (breech births, failure of labor to progress, the need for C-section, preterm delivery, and bleeding following delivery).

The most common presenting symptom of uterine fibroids is uterine bleeding, which often begins as prolonged menstruation and can be severe enough to cause a low blood count.  Fibroids are problems of the reproductive years, prevalent in women in their 30s, 40s and 50s. They can be solitary or multiple, range in size from tiny to huge and vary in location within the uterus. The largest fibroids can outgrow their blood supply and undergo degenerative changes. When extremely large, they can distort the lower abdomen, simulating pregnancy. Fibroids are “tumors”–-although benign–- that microscopically consist of interlacing bundles of smooth muscle surrounded by condensed uterine tissue. There is a genetic basis for fibroids with an increased prevalence in women with a family history. Obesity increases one’s risk for fibroids.

The growth of uterine fibroids is largely controlled by estrogen, the key female sex hormone. Fibroids tend to grow rapidly during pregnancy and regress after menopause when estrogen production ceases.

The presence of fibroids may significantly impair one’s quality of life. Because of the pressure they apply against the typically balloon-thin female urinary bladder, they often cause urinary symptoms, much as in pregnancy when an enlarged uterus compresses the bladder. Urinary symptoms most often occur when the fibroids are located closest to the bladder and/or urethra. Typical symptoms include urinary urgency, frequency and stress urinary incontinence (leakage of urine with sneezing, coughing, and exertion). Symptoms are proportionate to the size of the fibroid, with larger fibroids causing more significant symptoms. On occasion, a fibroid can cause an obstruction of the urinary tract, impairing one’s ability to empty their bladder, sometimes requiring the placement of a urinary catheter to alleviate the obstruction.

On pelvic examination, fibroids can often be recognized as pelvic masses. Thye can be further evaluated with imaging studies, including ultrasound, computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. They characteristically cause a “popcorn” appearing calcification on abdominal radiographs.

Those fibroids that do not cause symptoms or bleeding do not require treatment. There are numerous pharmacological options for symptomatic fibroids including medications that lower estrogen levels that cause suppression and shrinkage of the fibroids. Surgery may be required when there is an inadequate response to conservative measures. Surgical options include removing or destroying the uterine lining to control heavy bleeding, deliberately blocking the blood supply to the fibroid, surgical removal of one or more of the fibroids and, at times, removing the entire uterus (hysterectomy).

Bottom Line: As a urologist, I not uncommonly see women with urinary urgency, frequency, incontinence or urinary obstruction caused by one or more uterine fibroids pushing and compressing the bladder or urethra. It is usually very obvious on pelvic ultrasound or cystoscopy (visual inspection of the bladder), where the fibroid can be seen to cause extrinsic compression. The good news is that such fibroids are eminently manageable, which most often resolves the urinary issues.    

Wishing you the best of health and a very happy New Year,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: www.MalePelvicFitness.com. In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.

Eating Yourself Limp

January 2, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD   1/2/16

Central_Obesity_008.jpg

Today’s entry is on the topic of how overeating and obesity affect one’s manhood and vitality (this holds true for female sexual function as well).  While optimal sexual function is based on many factors, it is important to recognize that our food choices play a definite role. What we eat—or don’t eat—impacts our sex lives.  It’s a new  year– a fresh start–and time for many resolutions, which often involve weight loss and a healthier lifestyle.  Yet another benefit of becoming leaner and fitter is improved sexual function. 

Sexuality is an important part of our human existence. Healthy sexual function involves a good libido, the ability to obtain and maintain a rigid erection and the ability to ejaculate and experience a climax. Although not a necessity for a healthy life, diminished sexual function can result in loss of self-esteem, embarrassment, a sense of isolation and frustration and even depression.

Sexual functioning is complicated and dependent upon a number of systems working in tandem– the endocrine system (which produces hormones); the central and peripheral nervous systems (which provide nerve control); the vascular system (which conducts blood flow); and the musculo-skeletal system (specifically the pelvic floor muscles that help maintain the high blood pressures in the penis necessary for erectile rigidity).

Sexual function is a good indicator of underlying cardiovascular health. A healthy sexual response is largely about blood flow to the genital and pelvic area. The penis is a marvel of engineering, uniquely capable of increasing its blood flow by a factor of 40-50 times over baseline, this surge happening within seconds and responsible for the remarkable physical transition from flaccid to erect. This is accomplished by relaxation of the smooth muscle within the penile arteries and erectile tissues. Pelvic muscle engagement and contraction help prevent the exit of blood from the penis, enhancing penile rigidity and creating penile blood pressures that far exceed normal blood pressure in arteries. For good reason, Gray’s Anatomy textbook over 100 years ago referred to one of the key pelvic floor muscle as the “erector penis.”

Blood flow to the penis is analogous to air pressure within a tire: if there is insufficient pressure, the tire will not properly inflate and will function sub-optimally; at the extreme the tire may be completely flat. Furthermore, slow leaks (that often occur with aging and failure of the smooth muscle within the penile arteries and erectile tissues to relax) promote poor function.

Just as your car suffers a decline in performance if it is dragging around too much of a load, so you penis will function sub-optimally if you are carrying excessive weight. Obesity steals your manhood and reduces male hormone levels. Abdominal fat converts the male hormone testosterone to the female hormone estrogen. Obese men are more likely to have fatty plaque deposits that clog blood vessels–including the arteries to the penis–making it more difficult to obtain and maintain good-quality erections. Additionally, as your belly gets bigger, your penis appears smaller, lost in the protuberant roundness of your large midriff and the abundant pubic fat pad.

Remember the days when you could achieve a rock-hard erection—majestically pointing upwards—simply by seeing an attractive woman or thinking some vague sexual thought? Chances were that you were young, active, and had an abdomen that somewhat resembled a six-pack. Perhaps now it takes a great deal of physical stimulation to achieve an erection that is barely firm enough to be able to penetrate. Maybe penetration is more of a “shove” than a ready, noble, and natural access. Maybe you need pharmacological assistance to make it possible.

If this is the case, it is probable that you are carrying extra pounds, have a soft belly, and are not physically active. When you’re soft in the middle, you will probably be soft where it counts.  A flaccid penis is entirely consistent with a flaccid body and a hard penis is congruous with a hard body. If your is penis difficult to find, if you have noticed man-boob development, and your libido and erections are not up to par, it may be time to rethink your lifestyle habits.

Healthy lifestyle choices are of paramount importance towards achieving an optimal quality and quantity of life. It should come as no surprise that the initial approach to managing sexual issues is to improve lifestyle choices. These include proper eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in exercise, adequate sleep, alcohol in moderation, avoiding tobacco and minimizing stress.

Eating properly is incredibly important, obviously in conjunction with other smart lifestyle choices. Maintaining a healthy weight and fueling up with wholesome and natural and real foods will help prevent weight gain and the build-up of harmful plaque deposits within blood vessels. Healthy fuel includes vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains and fish. Animal products—including lean meats and dairy—should be eaten in moderation. The Mediterranean-style diet is an excellent one for minimizing both sexual dysfunction and heart disease. Poor dietary choices with meals full of calorie-laden, nutritionally-empty selections (e.g., fast food, processed foods, excessive sugars or refined anything), puts one on the fast tract to obesity and clogged arteries that can make your sexual function as small as your belly is big.

Bottom Line: If you want a “sexier” lifestyle, start with a “sexier” style of eating that will improve your overall health and make you feel better, look better and enhance your sexual function.  Smart nutritional choices are a key component of sexual fitness. If you are carrying the burden of too many pounds, now is the perfect time to start on the pathway towards better health and reversing the sexual dysfunction that has been brought on by poor lifestyle choices. 

Wishing you a healthy, peaceful, happy (and sexy) 2016,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: www.MalePelvicFitness.com. Coming soon is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship With Food: http://www.PromiscuousEating.com

Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.

Testosterone For Females: Is There A Role?

October 31, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD   10/31/15

Many of my recent entries have been male-oriented. It’s time to give the fairer sex some equal time.

BodybuildingWoman

(Above image entitled: Mujer culturista mostrando la musculación de la espalda y los brazos, author: roonb, created November 2007, no changes to original image, creative commons license 2.0, link to license: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Female sexual dysfunction (FSD) is a common condition that may encompass diminished desire, decreased sexual arousal, difficulty achieving orgasm and pain with sexual intercourse. The most prevalent issue is decreased or lack of sexual desire, now given the formal medical title: Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), although I prefer the less formal, non-medical version: “Honey, I’m not in the mood.”

Testosterone (T)—the key male sexual hormone—has a strong role in stimulating sexual drive in both men and women and has long been used to manage diminished female libido and other sexual issues, despite it not being approved by the FDA for this intent. It has been shown to improve libido, arousal, sexual pleasure and overall sexual satisfaction.

Testosterone In Women

Although T is the major male sex hormone, it is also vital in females, similarly to how estrogen is the key female sex hormone, but has important functions in males as well.  In pre-menopausal women, the ovaries and adrenals (those paired glands that sit atop each kidney) each produce about 25% of T, with the other 50% produced by muscle and fat cells. The two biggest factors leading to a decrease in blood T levels are aging and menopause.

Pre-menopausal women produce about 0.25 mg T/day. (Men produce 6-8 mg T/day, about 25 times as much as females). Even after menopause, the ovaries continue to produce T.  Women who have their ovaries removed experience a dramatic decrease in T.

One of the major limitations of measuring T levels in females is the lack of reliable and accurate assays to precisely measure T levels at such low concentrations. Another shortcoming is that there is no concensus on what precisely is the lower level of T in females.

Symptoms of low T in females may include diminished libido, fatigue, lack of energy, decrease in well being, impaired concentration, depression and difficulties with arousal and orgasm. These symptoms of low T are very non-specific and have quite an overlap with the symptoms and changes that accompany normal aging, insufficient or poor quality sleep, overworking and/or an unhealthy lifestyle. Signs of low T in females are decreased muscle mass, increased body fat, thinning hair and bone wasting (osteopenia).

Decreased Female Libido

This is defined as absent or reduced interest in and arousal from sex, erotic thoughts, fantasies, or written, verbal, and visual cues.  There is usually a reduction in initiation of sex and reception to partner’s initiation attempts. When sexual activity does occur, there is often absent or reduced sensation (both genital and non-genital), excitement and pleasure. Although low T is an important cause of decreased sex drive, there are many other competing causes including other sexual issues such as pain with intercourse or inability to orgasm, medical diseases, medications, unhealthy lifestyle, fatigue, pregnancy, breast-feeding, menopause, boredom, stress, many other psycho-emotional factors and relationship issues.

Treatment Options

T has been shown to improve sexual function in both pre-and post-menopausal women. Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) should only be a consideration after other causes of diminished libido have been eliminated.  It is challenging to predict which women will respond best to T therapy. Another concern is the safety and potential side effects with the long-term use of TRT.

There are currently no FDA-approved TRT products for women in the USA, so any usage is off-label. Products designed for TRT in males are available in a variety of preparations, including skin patches, gels and creams, buccal (gum) preparation, nasal gels, injections and long-acting pellets implanted in fatty tissue. Common side effects of TRT include unwanted hair growth, acne and mood or personality changes.

Addyi (Flibanserin) is a new oral medication for diminished libido.  It is currently being marketed largely to females, but is purportedly effective for both genders. It is the first FDA- approved prescription for diminished sex drive and has been referred to as “pink Viagra.” It is not TRT, but works centrally by affecting serotonin levels. It just became available this month.

Excellent reference on this subject: Khera, M. Testosterone Therapy for Female Sexual Dysfunction. Sex Med Rev 2015;3:137-144

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: www.MalePelvicFitness.com. In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.

Her Breasts and His Prostate…So Similar, So Mysterious

July 18, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD  7/18/15

prostate breast

(Thank you, Wikimedia, for above image)

The female breasts and the male prostate are both sources of fascination, curiosity, and fear. Hidden deep in the pelvis at the crossroads of the male urinary and reproductive systems, the prostate is arguably man’s center of gravity. On the other hand, the breasts—with an equal aura of mystery and power—are situated in the chest superficial to the pectorals, contributing to the alluring female form and allowing ready access for the hungry infant, curiously an erogenous zone as well as a feeding zone.

Interestingly enough, the breasts and prostate share much in common, both serving important “nutritional” roles. Each functions to manufacture a milky fluid; in the case of the breasts, the milk serving as nourishment for infants and in the case of the prostate, the “milk” serving as sustenance for sperm cells, which demand intense nutrition to support their arduous  marathon journey traversing the female reproductive tract.

Breasts are composed of glandular tissue that produces milk, and ducts that transport the milk to the nipple. The remainder of the breast consists of fatty tissue. The glandular tissue is sustained by the female sex hormone estrogen and after menopause when estrogen levels decline, the glandular tissue withers, with the fatty tissue predominating.

The prostate—on the other hand—is made up of glandular tissue that produces prostate “milk,” and ducts that empty this fluid into the urethra at the time of sexual climax. At ejaculation the prostate fluid combines with other reproductive secretions and sperm to form semen. The remainder of the prostate consists of fibro-muscular tissue. The glandular tissue is sustained by the male sex hormone testosterone and after age 40 there is a slow and gradual increase in the size of the prostate gland because of glandular and fibro-muscular cell growth.

Access to the breasts as mammary feeding zones is via stimulation of the erect nipples through the act of nursing. Access to the prostate fluid is via stimulation of the erect penis, with the release of semen and its prostate fluid component at the time of ejaculation.

Both the breasts and prostate can be considered to be reproductive organs since they are vital to nourishing infants and sperm, respectively. At the same time, they are sexual organs. The breasts can be thought of as accessories with a dual role that not only provide milk to infants, but also function as erogenous zones that attract the interest of the opposite sex and contribute positively to the sexual and thus, reproductive process. Similarly, the prostate is both a reproductive and sexual organ, since sexual stimulation resulting in climax is the means of accessing the prostate’s reproductive function.

Both the breasts and prostate are susceptible to similar disease processes including infection, inflammation and cancer. Congestion of the breast and prostate glands can result in a painful mastitis and prostatitis, respectively. Excluding skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men (accounting for 26% of newly diagnosed cancers with men having a 1 in 7 lifetime risk) and breast cancer is the most common cancer in women (accounting for 29% of newly diagnosed cancers with women having a 1 in 8 lifetime risk). Both breast and prostate tissue are dependent upon the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, respectively, and one mode of treatment for both breast cancer and prostate cancer is suppression of these hormones with medication, e.g., Tamoxifen and Lupron, respectively. Both breast and prostate cancer incidence increase with aging. The median age of breast cancer at diagnosis is the early 60’s and there are 232,000 new cases per year, 40,000 deaths (the second most common form of cancer death, after lung cancer) and there about 3 million breast cancer survivors in the USA. The median age of prostate cancer at diagnosis is the mid 60’s and there are 221,000 new cases per year, 27,500 deaths (the second most common form of cancer death, after lung cancer) and there are about 2.5 million prostate cancer survivors in the USA.

Both breast and prostate cancer are often detected during a screening examination before symptoms have developed. Breast cancer is often picked up via mammography, whereas prostate cancer is often identified via an elevated or accelerated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test. Alternatively, breast and prostate cancer are detected when an abnormal lump is found on breast exam or digital rectal exam of the prostate, respectively.

Both breast and prostate cells may develop a non-invasive form of cancer known as carcinoma in situ—ductal carcinoma-in-situ (DCIS) and high grade prostate intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN), respectively—non-invasive forms in which the abnormal cells have not grown beyond the layer of cells where they originated, often predating invasive cancer by years.

Family history is relevant with both breast and prostate cancer since there can be a genetic predisposition to both types and having a first degree relative with the disease will typically increase one’s risk. Imaging tests used in the diagnosis and evaluation of both breast and prostate cancers are similar with both ultrasonography and MRI being very useful. Treatment modalities for both breast and prostate cancer share much in common with important roles for surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

In a further twist to the relationship between breast and prostate cancer, a recent study showed that women with close male relatives with prostate cancer are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Compared to women with no family history of breast or prostate cancer, those with a family history of both were 80% more likely to develop breast cancer.

Breast and Prostate Cancer Myths and Facts

“Only old people get breast or prostate cancer.

Fact: 25% of women with breast cancer develop it before age 50, whereas less than 5% of men with prostate cancer develop it before age 50; however, many men in their 50s are diagnosed with the disease.

“Men can’t get breast cancer and women can’t get prostate cancer.”

Fact: 1700 men are diagnosed with breast cancer with 450 deaths on an annual basis.  Women have structures called the Skene’s glands, which are the female homologue of the male prostate gland. On very rare occasions, the female “prostate” can develop cancer. The Skene’s glands are thought to contribute to “female ejaculation” at the time of sexual climax. 

“All lumps in the breast or prostate are cancer.”

Fact: 80% of breast lumps are due to benign conditions as are 50-80% of prostate “nodules.”  If an abnormality is found, further evaluation is necessary.  

“It’s not worth getting screened for breast cancer because of the USPSTF (United States Preventive Services Task Force) recommendation against routine screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years and against clinicians teaching women how to perform breast self-examination.  It’s not worth getting screened for prostate cancer because the USPSTF also recommended against prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening for prostate cancer.”

Fact: In my opinion, the USPSTF has done a great deal of harm to public health in the USA with their recommendations. The goal of screening is to pick up cancers in their earliest stages at times when treatment is likely to be most effective. Not all cancers need to be treated and the treatment can differ quite a bit based upon specifics, but screening populations at risk is a no-brainer.  For breast cancer and prostate cancer–the most common cancer in each gender–it is important to screen aggressively to obtain the necessary information to enable doctors and their patients make sensible decisions, which are individualized and nuanced, depending on a number of factors.

The reader is referred to a terrific recent article in the NY Times concerning screening for prostate cancer: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/06/opinion/bring-back-prostate-screening.html

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in your email in box go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com.  Work in progress is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Sexual, Urinary and Pelvic Health.

Co-creator of Private Gym pelvic floor muscle training program for men: http://www.privategym.com—also available on Amazon.

The Private Gym program is the go-to means of achieving pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance. It is a comprehensive, interactive, easy-to-use, medically sanctioned and FDA registered follow-along exercise program that builds upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel. It is also the first program designed specifically to teach men how to perform the exercises and a clinical trial has demonstrated its effectiveness in fostering more rigid and durable erections, improved ejaculatory control and heightened orgasms.

Testosterone: Not Just For Men; Estrogen: Not Just For Women

October 5, 2013

Andrew Siegel MD Blog # 122

What’s going on with the unrelenting direct–to-consumer television advertising for medications?  On television and radio we are bombarded with ads for drugs for the “ABC” diseases—ED (erectile dysfunction), OAB (overactive bladder), low T (testosterone).  What’s all this hubbub about T (testosterone) anyway?  Why is T suddenly so special, so hot and trendy, the hormone de jour, the “new” Viagra?  Is this for real or mere media hype?

Medicine is truly in its “infancy” with respect to its understanding of the male and female sex hormones, testosterone (T) and estrogen (E), respectively. Not too long ago it was dogma that T was solely the male hormone and that E was solely the female hormone.  As is often the case in science, “dogma” turns to “dog crap” with time, research, and progressive understanding.

Dr. Joel Finkelstein, in the September 13, 2013 New England Journal of Medicine, disrupted the endocrine status quo and provided the scientific basis for the major importance of both T and E for male health and wellness (and there is little doubt that both E and T are also equally crucial for female health and wellness). His study clearly demonstrated that muscle size and strength are controlled by T; fat accumulation is primarily regulated by E; and sexual function is determined by both T and E.

Some basics about T:

In the life of the male embryo, T is first produced during the mid-first trimester, and this hormonal surge causes the male external genitalia (penis and scrotum) and internal genitalia (prostate, seminal vesicles, etc.) to develop. In the absence of T, the fetus becomes a female, making the female gender the “default” sex. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the activated form of T required by the fetus to initiate the development of male physical characteristics. In the absence of DHT, male genitalia do not develop.  DHT is far more potent than T and is the hormone that also gives rise—much later in life—to male pattern baldness and the condition of benign prostate enlargement.

T is produced mostly in the testes, although the adrenal glands also manufacture a small amount. T has a critical role in male development and physical characteristics. It promotes tissue growth via protein synthesis, having “anabolic” effects including building of muscle mass, bone mass and strength, and “androgenic” (masculinizing) effects at the time of puberty.  With the T surge at puberty many changes occur: penis enlargement; development of an interest in sex; increased frequency of erections; pubic, axillary, facial, chest and leg hair; decrease in body fat and increase in muscle and bone mass, growth and strength; deepened voice and prominence of the Adam’s apple; occurrence of fertility; and bone and cartilage changes including growth of jaw, brow, chin, nose and ears and transition from “cute” baby face to “angular” adult face.  Throughout adulthood, T helps maintain libido, masculinity, sexuality, and youthful vigor and vitality. Additionally, T contributes to mood, red blood cell count, energy, and general “mojo.

Thanks to the advertising of Big Pharma, patients now come to the office requesting—if not demanding—to know what their T levels are. Prescriptions for T have increased exponentially over the last five years, creating a $2 billion industry with numerous pharmaceutical companies competing for a piece of the lucrative T pie, as the cost of the product is minimal and the markup is prodigious.  Little did Butenandt and Hanisch—who earned the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their synthesis of testosterone from cholesterol way back in 1939—know of what their discovery would lead to 70 years later!

Who Knew? Humans manufacture T using cholesterol as a precursor, so don’t be under the delusion that all cholesterol is bad. However, don’t get carried away consuming cholesterol-laden foods reasoning that the Big Mac with cheese will raise your T.

T can bind to specialized receptors that are present in many cells in the body and exert numerous anabolic and androgenic effects; alternatively, T can be converted to 5-DHT  (the active form of T) or can be converted to estradiol—a form of E—by the chemical process of aromatization. More than 80% of E in men is derived from T as a source. When levels of T are low, there is a decline in E levels. E deficiency is important in terms of osteopenia (bone thinning) in both men and women.

Dr. Finkelstein’s study was really a more sophisticated and quantitative take on the original study by organic chemist Professor Fred Koch at the University of Chicago in 1927, this time using humans instead of animals, and quantitating the effect of the T replacement as opposed to a qualitative assessment. Professor Koch used capons—roosters castrated surgically (having their testes removed) at a young age.  He then injected them with a substance obtained from bull testicles—readily available from the Chicago stockyards—which essentially was T.   After injecting the capons with this extraction, the capons crowed like roosters, a feat that capons are incapable of.  When the study was repeated in castrated pigs and rats, the substance was found to re-masculinize them as well.  Unlike Professor Koch, who used surgically castrated animals, Dr. Finkelstein used humans who were temporarily “castrated” via a reversible medication.

In Dr. Finkelstein’s study, as reported in the NEJM, there were 2 groupings of 5 populations of men. Both groupings had their T production blocked chemically. One population was given no replacement T, another 1.25 grams T daily, another 2.5 grams T daily, another 5 grams T daily, and the last group 10 grams T daily. The average serum T and E levels of each population were the following: no testosterone replacement: 44/3.6; 1.25 grams: 191/7.9; 2.5 grams: 337/11.9; 5 grams: 470/18.2; 10 grams 805/33. The second grouping of 5 populations had their E blocked as well.  Testing was done to see the effects of T and E levels on lean mass, muscle size and strength, fat mass, and sexual function.

By looking at the aforementioned numbers, one can see a direct relationship between T dose and serum level of both T and E.  The higher the T dose, the greater is the serum T and E.  The study concluded that lean mass, muscle size and strength were T dose-dependent, meaning the higher the T, the more the lean mass, muscle size and strength.  Additionally, fat mass was seen to be E dose-dependent and sexual function was both T and E responsive.

Dr. Finkelstein concluded that E deficiency in men is a manifestation of severe T deficiency and is remediable by T replacement. Fat accumulation seems to occur with a mild T deficiency (T measurements in the 300-350 range); muscle mass and muscle strength are preserved until a more marked T deficiency (T <200) occurs.   E was shown to have a fundamentally important role in the regulation of body fat and sexual function and evidence from previous studies demonstrated a crucial role for E in bone metabolism. Therefore, low T is not just about low T, but is also about E deficiency, which is responsible for some of the key consequences of T deficiency. Measuring levels of E are helpful in assessing sexual dysfunction, bone loss, and fat accumulation in men with low T.

The amount of T made is regulated by the hypothalamus-pituitary-testicular axis, which acts like a thermostat to regulate the levels of T.  Healthy men produce 6-8 mg testosterone daily, in a rhythmic pattern with a peak in the early morning and a lag in the later afternoon. T levels can be low based upon testicular problems or hypothalamus/pituitary problems, although the problem most commonly is due to the aging testicle’s inability to manufacture sufficient levels of T.  T levels gradually decline—approximately a 1% decline each year after age 30—sometimes giving rise to symptoms.  These symptoms may include the following: fatigue; irritability; decreased cognitive abilities; depression; decreased libido; ED; ejaculatory dysfunction; decreased energy and sense of well-being; loss of muscle and bone mass; increased body fat; and abnormal lipid profile. A simple way to think about the effect of low T is that it accelerates the aging process.

T is commonly prescribed for T deficiency when it becomes symptomatic. There are many means of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).  Oral replacement is not used because of erratic absorption and liver toxicity. Injections are not the first-line means of TRT because of wide fluctuations in testosterone levels and injection site reactions. There are a number of testosterone gel formulations that are commonly used. There are also skin patches, pellets that are injected into the fatty tissue of the buttocks, and a formulation that is placed in the inner cheek or gum. Currently in the works is a long-acting injection.

Men on replacement T need to be followed carefully to ensure that the TRT is effective, adverse effects are minimal, and blood levels are in-range. Periodic digital rectal exams are important to check the prostate for enlargement and irregularities, and, in addition to T levels, other blood tests are obtained including a blood count and PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen).  Potential complications of TRT include acne and oily skin, increased hematocrit (thicker, richer blood), worsening of sleep apnea, hair loss, and suppression of fertility.

Bottom Line: T and E levels are of vital importance to men (as well as women), greatly impacting physical development, sexuality, mood, energy levels, etc. So while T advertisements may be annoying and confusing, it is wise nonetheless to assess and monitor T levels, particularly if one is experiencing any of the myriad of symptoms associated with low T.

Reference: “Gonadal Steroids and Body Composition, Strength, and Sexual Function in Men by Joel Finkelstein, M.D., et al:  ”The New England Journal of Medicine (September 12, 2013)

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food: www.promiscuouseating.com

Available on Amazon in Kindle edition

Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health;  book is in press and will be available in e-book and paperback formats in November 2013.

Blog subscription: A new blog is posted every week.   On the lower right margin you can enter your email address to subscribe to the blog and receive notifications of new posts in your inbox.  Please feel free to avail yourself of these educational materials and share them with your friends and family.

Bone Health

September 7, 2013

Bone Health

Andrew Siegel, MD   Blog #118

Our bones are our foundation, the framework that supports the rest of our body.  If our infrastructure is “crumbling,” other organs and tissues that depend on intact structural support can be profoundly affected.  In other words, if our foundation and framework are shoddily constructed, the rest of our structures and functions are likely to be adversely impacted.

“Rickety” is a descriptive adjective meaning shaky, run down, and dilapidated.  It is derived from the disease rickets, a “softening” of the bones due to Vitamin D issues that can lead to fractures and deformities, typically seen in children suffering from malnutrition.  It is important to avoid the development of rickety bones—we do not want to be built of a “house of cards,” as we function best if our bones are “steely.”

A fundamental problem in terms of bone health and vigor is that most people do not consider their bone health early in life.  Unfortunately, it only becomes a matter of concern at a time in which it is getting late in the game to protect against loss of bone strength and fractures. The time to focus on bone health is during childhood when the achievement of bone integrity and strength begins.  This bone formative process continues through adolescence, when the body builds the lion’s share of bone mass, and peaks in our early 20’s. One-quarter of bone mass is obtained within the two-year window of time around puberty; as much bone is gained in this two-year period as is typically lost in the 30-year interval between ages 50-80.

Since children, understandably so, are not likely to consider their bone health, as responsible parents we must educate our kids and be the overseers of their diets, physical activities and sun exposure—all of which can positively contribute to healthy bone development—as well as lead by example. Helping them achieve the goal of bone health during adolescence is an investment in personal health that will pay dividends later in life, helping to prevent bone thinning and the potential for fractures.   It is important to direct our children away from computer games, television and other sedentary activities and motivate them towards the outdoors to participate in a variety of physical activities. It is equally important to encourage them to have a nutritionally sound diet rich in calcium-containing foods including dairy sources such as milk, yogurt and cheese; non-dairy sources including vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, kale, broccoli and spinach; seafood sources such as salmon and sardines; and calcium-fortified sources such as cereals, tofu and fruit juices.  It is equally as important to ensure sufficient vitamin intake.  Vitamin D is necessary in order to absorb and utilize dietary calcium; a brief amount of sunlight exposure on a daily basis is generally sufficient to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D. Children can kill two birds with one stone by participating in athletic activities outside in the sunlight.

In terms of key factors determining bone health, genetics looms large.  In other words, if bone thinning tends to run in your family, you will have a greater likelihood of suffering the same fate.  Like so many of our physical attributes, bone strength and integrity have a strong hereditary basis and there is not a thing that we can do about the genes that we inherit. Additionally, age and gender are important elements.  There is a gradual but insidious loss of bone mass that correlates with the aging process, and the older we are, the greater the likelihood for osteopenia, the medical term for bone loss. Osteoporosis is the medical term applied to severe bone loss with great risk for fractures.  Women are at much higher risk for such bone thinning and wasting processes than men.

Although genetics, age, and gender are factors beyond our control, exercise and intake of bone-building nutrients including calcium and vitamin D are modifiable factors that we have some real influence over. Thin people tend to have greater issues with osteopenia than heavy people.  One of the few advantages of being overweight is that it requires extra anti-gravitational weight-bearing effort to carry around that excess poundage; this exertion against the force of gravity helps to mineralize and fortify bones.

The male and female sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen respectively, play a health role that goes way beyond sexuality.  Both of these hormones promote bone health and mineralization. After menopause, with the precipitous drop in estrogen, there is often an acceleration of bone loss. Men often experience a gradual drop in testosterone levels correlating with the aging process.  A healthy testosterone level is correlated with bone health and low levels of testosterone are linked with osteopenia.   Men who are on medication to purposefully lower testosterone—most typically used for the management of prostate cancer—experience an accelerated loss of bone mass, akin to women at the time of menopause.  Reasons that males experience bone loss at a less accelerated rate than females include the fact that men in general weigh more than women, and thus by virtue of the fact that they have to carry around extra weight, they keep their bones mineralized; additionally, the variable changes in testosterone with aging that men experience are much more minor as opposed to the major precipitous decline in estrogen at menopause in women.

Our bones demand physical activity in order to stay well mineralized.   When our bodies are kept in a sedentary state—for example when one’s arm is in a cast because of a fracture, or when one is immobilized by a severe injury and is at bed rest—there is a rapid demineralization and thinning of our bones.  Spinal cord injured patients who are paralyzed undergo a very rapid demineralization. Astronauts who spend time in zero gravity experience a remarkably fast demineralization and run the risk not only of thinning bones—as does anybody with rapid demineralization— but also of developing kidney stones that result from the calcium mobilized from the bones.

In general, the more active the individual, the greater the bone mineral density (BMD) and the less risk for fracture.  Most any physical exercise is healthy for our bones, but there are certain exercises that are better to achieve the endpoint of achieving bone mineralization and vigor. BMD is greater in sprinters, ball sport athletes and gymnasts than in endurance sports athletes including walkers, runners, swimmers and cyclists.  Bone mineralization is promoted by stresses placed upon the bones, rest periods, and variety, as opposed to repetitive, monotonous movements.  Aerobic ball sports activities provide highly effective variable stresses on our bones that work against gravity and provide periods of rest; these include tennis, squash, football, soccer, basketball, hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, dancing, and gymnastics.   Additionally, weight training and any activity that uses resistance equipment can be a highly effective means of promoting bone mineralization.  Training that necessitates straining, versatile movements, and a high peak force is more effective in terms of bone mineralization than training with a large number of low-force repetitions. It seems that just as ones body requires a variety of different and variable nutrients to maintain its health, so ones bones require a variety of different exercises, movements, and stresses to maintain their health

Runners and swimmers have the lowest bone densities among athletes. Some studies have even shown that participants in endurance and non-weight-bearing sports have bones that are less robust and at a greater risk of fracture than the population of sedentary and inactive people.  In terms of increasing bone mineral density, when running, swimming, and cycling, it is best to shake it up and do interval training at variable speeds, intensities, and durations and not maintain a monotonous motion, since repetitive unvarying stress can actually demineralize bone and is thus not a productive means of increasing bone fortitude.

Bone mineralization is a dynamic process as opposed to a static process.  In other words, our bones are not fixed in composition like the framing and foundation of our homes.  Our bones are constantly being remodeled, restructured and refashioned in accordance with the building blocks available and in an adaptive response to biomechanical forces including gravity and musculo-skeletal stresses.

The concept of  “energy availability” is important in terms of understanding bone building versus bone destruction.  Energy availability is defined as the amount of energy taken in while exercising minus the amount expended, divided by lean body mass (consisting of bone and muscle).  Energy availability is the net amount of energy available to support all the body’s functions including new bone formation, a process that requires energy.  Low energy availability will occur if there is insufficient intake of calories, excessive burning of calories, or a combination of both.  Endurance athletes—including long-distance runners and cyclists—can burn so many calories that there is not sufficient energy remaining to fuel the dynamic process of maintaining bone health.  When there is low energy availability, the consequence can be stress fractures, fractures due to repeated stresses on a weight-bearing bone.

Bottom Line: Bone health has its critical beginnings in childhood, then continues (at a slower pace) into adulthood.  Key factors contributing to maximal bone health are proper nutrition, varied and continued physical activity, vitamin intake, and exposure to sunlight.  It is never too early to address—and take the necessary measures—to ensure the life-long health of the body’s vital skeletal framework

Reference:  “To Ensure Bone Health, Start Early,” article in New York Times by Jane E Brody, August 5, 2013

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food: www.promiscuouseating.com

Available on Amazon in Kindle edition

Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health, in press and will be available in e-book and paperback formats in the Autumn 2013.

Blog subscription: A new blog is posted every week.   On the lower right margin you can enter your email address to subscribe to the blog and receive notifications of new posts in your inbox.  Please avail yourself of these educational materials and share them with your friends and family.

Man-Oh-Pause: When Things Are Not So Good Under The Hood

September 1, 2012

Blog #73     Andrew Siegel, M.D.

 

“T”  (an abbreviation for testosterone) has become a very commonly used and in vogue term. Many of my patients come into the office specifically asking for their T levels to be checked.  The pharmaceutical industry has been responsible for direct-to-consumer advertising of testosterone replacement products, a practice that has promoted this recent grass-roots awareness of testosterone issues, a subject that was previously the domain of urologists and endocrinologists.

T is that all-important male hormone that goes way beyond male sexuality.  Testosterone has moved to the endocrine vanguard and is now regarded as a key factor in men’s health. Current evidence suggests that a man’s testosterone level might serve a function as a good indicator/marker of general male health.

Aside for contributing to libido, masculinity and sexual function, T is responsible for the physical changes that commence at the time of puberty, including pubic, axillary and facial hair, deepening voice, prominent Adam’s apple and increased bone and muscle mass.  Additionally, T contributes to our mood, bone and muscle strength, red blood cell count, energy, and general mojo.  Most testosterone is manufactured in the testicles, although a small percentage is made by the adrenal glands.

There is a gradual decline in T that occurs with the aging process—approximately a 1% decline each year after age 30.  This will occur in most men, but will not always be symptomatic.  40% of American men aged 45 or older have low or low range T.  Low T is associated with metabolic syndrome and diabetes, bone mineral loss, and altered sexual function.  Specifically, symptoms of low T may include one or more of the following:  fatigue; irritability; depression; decreased libido; erectile dysfunction; impaired orgasmic function; decreased energy and sense of well-being; loss of muscle and bone mass; increased body fat; abnormal lipid profiles. Essentially, low T can accelerate the aging process.

Belly fat is literally the enemy of masculinity and a testosterone-choker that can push you in the direction of the female gender.  Perhaps when you are standing naked in the shower and you gaze down towards your feet, all you see is the protuberant roundness of your large midriff, obscuring the sight of your manhood.  Perhaps you’re wondering where your penis is hiding.  In most cases, the abundant pubic fat pad that occurs coincident with weight gain obscures the penis—the “turtle effect.”  If your belly blocks your view of your penis, your pubic fat pad makes your penis difficult to locate, your breasts have filled out, and your libido and erections are sub-par, it may just really be time to rethink your lifestyle habits!

Abdominal obesity—an accumulation of fat in our midsections—not only is unattractive from a cosmetic standpoint, but can have dire metabolic consequences that can affect the quality and quantity of our lives. Obesity has a pivotal role in the process leading to low T and waist circumference is a reasonable proxy for low T. Fat is not just fat—it is a metabolically active endocrine organ that does way more than just protrude from our abdomens.  Fat has an abundance of the hormone aromatase, which functions to convert T to the female sex hormone estrogen (E).  The consequence of too much conversion of T to E is the potential for gynecomastia, aka man boobs.  Too much E slows T production, and with less T, more abdominal obesity occurs and even more E is made, a vicious cycle (literally a vicious circus) of male castration and emasculation.

Obesity can steal away your masculinity, male athletic form and body composition, mojo, strength, and also one of your most precious resources—the ability to obtain and maintain a good quality erection.  Remember the days when you could achieve a majestic, heaven-pointing erection simply by seeing an attractive woman or thinking some vague sexual thought?  Chances were that you were young, physically active, and had a svelte build with a hard abdomen. If those days are mere memories, it is probable that you are now carrying extra pounds, have a soft and protuberant belly, and are not physically active.  When you’re soft in the middle, the consequence is that you will probably be soft down below. The good news is that by losing the abdominal fat, the unfortunate consequences of low T can often be reversed.

How To Turn On Your Testosterone Boosters: 

  • A healthy lifestyle, including good eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in exercise, obtaining adequate sleep, moderation with respect to alcohol intake, avoiding tobacco, and stress reduction are the initial approaches to treating low T engendered by abdominal obesity.  Insufficient sleep can lower T.  Excessive alcohol increases the conversion of T to E.  Maintaining an active sex life can help maintain T.
  • It is of paramount importance to lose the abdominal fat, with the caveat that a sufficient caloric intake of quality food and nutrients is necessary to prevent the body going into “starvation mode,” which can substantially decrease T production.
  • In terms of exercise, a healthy balance of aerobic, resistance, and core training is best, but in particular, vigorous resistance exercise is crucial.  This will help the flabby abdomen disappear and build lean muscle mass, which in turn will increase metabolic rate.

If lifestyle modification fails to improve the symptoms of low T and T remains measurably low via a simple blood test, a trial of T replacement under the supervision of your doctor can provide a meaningful improvement of your quality of life.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

www.PromiscuousEating.com

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Where’s Your 6-Pack?

January 28, 2012

Blog # 43 written by Andrew Siegel, M.D.

 

I posed this question to my nurse friend Jen and she replied “in the fridge.”  She made me laugh with that reply, but in reality she has a pretty hard body, especially for a woman who has given birth to several children.  However, if your answer to the question truly is “in the fridge,” then you might just want to read on!

If you would like the short version, skip to the end of this blog where you can read “10 pearls to help your washboard abdomen emerge”—itprovides nuggets of information that if heeded, will allow your to firm up your abdomen and start the process of unveiling the 2-pack, 4-pack or 6-pack that lies obscured within.  Read the full blog if you would like to know the more detailed science.  Although vanity may be an important driving force for wanting to develop that 6-pack, it’s really about living a healthy lifestyle—in brief, the aesthetics will follow a healthy existence and our internal health often mirrors our external physiques.

Sporting a six-pack is a badge of honor emblematic of one’s discipline, restraint and tenacity.   A “hard core” can only be earned through the combined efforts of healthy eating and vigorous exercise.  Chances are if you’re wearing a 6-pack, then you are fit and healthy and that in all probability you have rejected the Western diet of processed foods, lots of added fats, sugars and loads of refined grains and instead have chosen a healthy diet consisting of real food that comes from nature, rather than from a chemistry lab.

We all have 6-packs hidden beneath our winter-weighted physiques.  We may be flabbier and less toned than desirable, but somewhere within is a sinewy, tight, and lean torso.  The question is: what can we do to bring out this svelte body?  How do we reduce our shapeless stockpile of stored energy that is shrouding our underlying sculpted physique?

Michelangelo’s “David” was at one time a mere solid block of marble.  The master artist crafted this magnificent sculpture by knowing exactly what to carve away—what did not belong. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery (author of Le Petit Prince): “Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but when there is no more to take away.”  The late Steve Jobs was a grand master at removing the unnecessary and superfluous to reveal the elegant simplicity that remains. In the words that follow, I will offer sound advice on how to peel away the nonessential to reveal your own magnficence that lies obscured.

Having some fat on our bodies is not a bad thing, as long as it is not excessive. Fat actually serves a number of useful purposes.  It functions to cushion our internal organs and as insulation to conserve heat.  Fat provides a means of storing energy and fat-soluble vitamins.  During periods of decreased caloric intake, fat reserves are broken down to release energy.  Fats are important parts of the structure of the brain and cell membranes and are used in the manufacture of several important hormones.  Fat has more than twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein.   Anybody who has barbecued any kind of meat with a high fat content and has witnessed their would-be dinner engulfed in flames realizes what a concentrated form of fuel that fats are.

As we age, many of us tend to slowly and insidiously gain weight.  A collection of fat often becomes apparent on our abdomens, particularly around our waistlines.  An accumulation of fat in our midsections not only is unattractive from a cosmetic standpoint, but also can have dire metabolic consequences.  It is important to distinguish between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.  Visceral fat—also referred to as a “pot belly,” “beer belly,” or “Buddha belly”—is internal fat deep within the abdominal cavity.  Subcutaneous fat—also known as “love handles,” “spare tires,” “muffin top,” or “middle-age spread”—is present between the skin and the abdominal wall.  Although neither type is pretty, visceral fat is much more hazardous than subcutaneous fat since it increases the risk of diabetes, cardiac issues, and metabolic disturbances.  Subcutaneous fat is inactive and relatively harmless and does not contribute to the health problems that visceral fat does.

The good news is that by losing abdominal fat, the potentially bad health repercussions can be reversed and the six-pack within can become more unveiled.  The dangerous visceral fat submits relatively easily to diet and exercise whereas the less harmful subcutaneous fat at the waist is more stubborn and resistant to reversal measures.  It is this accumulation of belly fat that masks the underlying rectus abdominis muscle that is our 6-pack muscle.

And now a few necessary paragraphs on metabolism: Dietary carbohydrates are broken down to the simple sugar glucose, which is the “energy of life” and the fuel source of every cell in our body. When it is not used immediately for energy, it is stored as glycogen. The pancreatic hormone insulin is responsible for converting glucose into glycogen. Glycogen is present in our liver and muscles; when a state of saturation has been achieved and no more glycogen can be stored in our liver and muscles, the excess glucose is converted to fat.  There is a finite limit to the amount of carbohydrate stored in the muscles and liver—it amounts to about 1600-1800 calories.

When talking metabolism, it is helpful to think of our glycogen as our “small fuel tank.”  Once the fuel in the liver and muscles is exhausted, our “large fuel tank”—our fat—needs to be tapped to provide energy.  In contrast to the limited carbohydrate storage in our liver and muscles, our bodies abundantly store fat.  Depending on how much fat we have, many days to weeks of energy can be provided.  To reveal your 6-pack, you need to have as small a “large fuel tank” as possible, since it is these stored energy reserves that are obscuring the glorious sculpted abdominal musculature that lies beneath.

There are a few important facts that are fundamental to our understanding of the science of fat. First off, our fat stores are not static, but are dynamic.  In other words, there is continuous mobilization of our fat (as fatty acids) and storage (as triglycerides).  Secondly, fat storage is largely under hormonal control.  Hormones are chemical messengers that cause specific actions in our body.  The hormones involved in fat metabolism are insulin, cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone.  Thirdly, fat is not just fat—it is a metabolically active endocrine organ that does not just protrude from our abdomens in an inert state, but has a life of its own.  Fat produces pro-inflammatory factors, hormones and immune cells.  Fat has an abundance of the hormone aromatase, which converts testosterone to the female hormone estrogen.  One consequence of too much fat in men is excessive conversion of testosterone to estrogen, creating the potential for male breast enlargement.

Insulin is the principal regulator of fat metabolism. After a sugar and carbohydrate load, insulin is released to get the fuel into our cells. When we go without food, as happens when we sleep, insulin levels decrease and fat is released to be used as fuel.  Insulin levels are determined primarily in response to our carbohydrate intake in order to keep our blood sugar regulated.

Insulin has much to do with the way our bodies store or burn fat. You can think of insulin as our fat hormone. When insulin levels are elevated, we accumulate fat; when levels are low, we burn fat for fuel.  Insulin is all about increasing fat storage and decreasing fat burning—this is why diabetics on insulin injections typically get fat.  If we have a substantial amount of belly fat, then by definition we have insulin-resistance, a condition in which our pancreas works overtime to make more and more insulin to get fuel into our cells.  This is a precursor to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all the havoc they can wreak.

Our insulin levels are determined by the carbohydrates we eat—the more carbs we eat, the sweeter they are, the easier they are to digest, the greater the insulin levels and the more that fat accumulation is driven.  Insulin secretion caused by eating carb-rich foods—flour and cereal grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes and rice, sugars and high-fructose corn syrup—is what makes us fat.  The sweeter the food, and the easier it is to digest, the fatter it will make us, and liquid carbs such as sodas, fruit juices and beer are the biggest culprits.

If we want to get leaner and reveal the 6-pack within, we must lower our insulin levels.   To lower our insulin levels requires carbohydrate restriction, meaning decreased consumption of sweets and starchy carbs.  Even if we don’t reduce our quantity of carb intake, we can improve the quality of our carb intake by eating healthier carbs—whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc.  Aside from shrinking our waistlines, there are numerous other health benefits that accrue from a lower carb diet.  If we replace a high carb diet with a diet lower in carbs and higher in healthy protein and healthy fat, the consequences are the following: weight loss; HDL (good) cholesterol rises; triglycerides decrease; glucose levels stabilize; blood pressure decreases; heart disease risk decreases; body fat reduces; energy levels surge.

The adrenal gland hormone cortisol—releasedin response to stress—can stimulate our appetites and cravings for sugar, causing fat storage and promoting weight gain and obesity. This is the very reason people on corticosteroid medications tend to have enormous appetites, gain weight and have a central distribution of body fat known as centripetal obesity, even if they were very thin prior to starting on the cortisol.  Chronic stress literally can make us soft and flabby and sabotage our efforts to achieve that chiseled 6-pack.  So what can we do about stress, because we all have it, and it’s not going away anytime soon?  Stress busters include exercise, yoga, meditation, massages, getting into a Jacuzzi, aromatherapy, chamomile or other herbal teas, sex, etc.  Sounds nice…relax to help bring forth that 6-pack!

The sex hormones estrogen and testosterone play a key role in fat regulation. One of the key reasons that women have a different physical appearance and body fat distribution than men is because of the different levels of these two hormones in each gender.  Around the time of menopause, when the ovaries stop producing estrogen, central fat deposition is promoted and many women start packing on pounds in their mid-section.  Similarly, as men age, testosterone levels often drop, contributing to a loss of muscle mass and an increase in body fat. Low testosterone is present in about half of obese men.

Believe it or not, a good night’s sleep will help us on our mission for that elusive 6-pack.  When we sleep poorly and become sleep-deprived, we are often driven to eat. Sleep deprivation results in decreased levels of leptin, our chemical appetite suppressant, and increased levels of ghrelin, our appetite stimulant, in addition to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  Furthermore, being exhausted can sabotage our exercise regimen.

Six-pack diet

Lean sources of protein including egg whites, wild salmon (or any other wild fish that is grilled or broiled), skinless chicken, turkey breast, fat-free yogurt and soy products such as tofu and edamame are money.  We need to be sparing with meat and dairy intake since they are rich in saturated fats and high in calories.  Vegetables—including nuts, avocados and olives—are a much healthier source of fat.

High fiber foods—vegetables, fruits, legumes (lentils, peas and beans) and whole-grain cereals and breads—are very filling and the fiber regulates the rate of carbohydrate absorption. Intake of a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables will ensure getting ample doses of phyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants. Dietary fiber (roughage) refers to the indigestible part of a carbohydrate.  Insoluble fiber, e.g., cellulose from plant foods, serves as plants’ armor against predatory pests and serves as humans protection against obesity.  Since we do not have the enzymes necessary to dissolve insoluble fiber, it increases stool bulk, decreases intestinal transit time, increases our satiety, reduces the rate of carbohydrate absorption and the conversion of complex carbohydrates to simple sugars, and decreases the absorption of some fats.  Soluble fiber binds cholesterol in the intestinal tract; for example, oatmeal can help lower serum cholesterol levels.

It is very important to minimize refined carbohydrates, substituting whole grain products for white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc.  Curtailing sugar intake is equally important since sucrose is a 50% fructose/50% glucose combination and fructose gets metabolized completely differently from glucose, pushing our bodies towards fat deposition.  The same is especially true for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), that gooey liquefied sweetener abundant in processed foods and beverages in a 55% fructose/45% glucose ratio. Every cell in our body can metabolize glucose, but it is primarily the liver that metabolizes fructose. Fructose, more readily than glucose, replenishes liver glycogen, and once the liver is saturated with glycogen, fats are made and stored. So, HFCS gives us a fatty liver, a fatty body and a masked 6-pack.  Fructose does not suppress ghrelin (our hunger hormone), does not stimulate insulin, and is truly a toxin to our body in immoderate doses. Let fruits be the source of fructose for our bodies, not refined sugars and HFCS.

Nature is very clever—whenever it provides us with a nutrient that is potentially bad for our health, it limits access to that nutrient by adding lots of fiber to it.  So when nature has given us fructose, it has also included the antidote.  Did you ever try to get the sugar out of a sugar cane plant?  It is literally like gnawing on a piece of bamboo stick—you can’t chew it and have to suck it out!  Processing has allowed us to cheat nature by refining sugar, permitting consumption in unrestrained, unhealthy amounts, contrary to nature’s design.  For example, it is very easy to drink 12 ounces of orange juice, to the tune of about 170 calories of fiber-free sugar.  To get that kind of caloric load from nature’s whole product—the orange—you would have to eat almost 3 of them.  Can you imagine sitting down and eating three oranges?  I sure can’t.  So go easy on anything that comes in a bottle, box, carton or can…think whole foods that resonate with nature, not refined foods that are unfaithful to nature.

While at the dinner table the other evening, I found myself staring at a colorful salad on my left and a basketful of white Italian bread (not whole grain) on the right.  I pondered the “order” of eating in terms of insulin release—would there any difference if I had salad first followed by bread vs. bread first followed by salad, vs. eating them together and would the order of eating play a role in the way calories are burned or stored?

Salad first followed by bread (bulky, fiber-rich carbs then fiber-less carbs): This gives us a gradual, low-level insulin spike followed by rapid, high-level insulin spike.  It is likely that the bolus of salad slowly digesting in the gut will modulate (regulate) the insulin spike from the bread’s fiber-less carbs, resulting in less of a tendency for fat deposition.

Bread first followed by salad: (fiber-less carbs then fiber-rich carbs):  This gives us a rapid, intense insulin spike followed by gradual, lower-level insulin spike.  It is likely that this order will result in fat deposition, since by the time the salad gets to the gut, the bread has already been digested and absorbed.

Together: The salad mixing in the gut with the bread will modulate the insulin spike from the fiber-less carbohydrate load of the bread, resulting in less of a tendency for fat deposition.

Bottom line: If you are going to eat white carbs, you can minimize the intensity of the insulin spike and thus the tendency for fat deposition by mixing in some fiber-rich foods; better yet is to ditch the white carbs completely and eat the whole-grain product. If you are going to use the strategy of using the powers of fiber-rich food like salad to lessen the “damage” from fiber-less white carbs, be sure to go easy on the croutons, cheese and excessive amounts of salad dressing that can sabotage the strategy.

A very important principle in the acquisition of a 6-pack is not to drink calories, so avoid liquid calories such as soda, juices, processed iced tea, lemonade, etc.  These are particularly bad since they are essentially pre-digested, fiber-less carbohydrates that get “mainlined” into our bodies causing a massive insulin spike and caloric storage as fat.  A “beer belly” resulting from the carbohydrate alcohol and a “soda belly” resulting from the carbohydrate fructose are substantially equivalent. The best drink is water or seltzer—it can be jazzed up with a squeeze of lemon or lime.  Water keeps us well hydrated, dampens our appetite and will quell our thirst that is sometimes confused for hunger.

It is important to be careful not to overdo sodium intake as it can cause fluid retention, high blood pressure, bloating, weight gain and a number of potential cardiac issues, aside from thwarting the emergence of our 6-packs.

Six-pack exercise regimen:

A general rule of thumb is to think “athletics” and the “aesthetics” will follow.   The key to exercise is diligence—carving out the time—and variety—strength  (resistance) training, cardiovascular (aerobic) training and core (abdominal and torso) conditioning, and perseverance.  A core synergistic exercise regimen, which is a combination of the aforementioned three types of exercise, provides a terrific overall workout. Pilates, yoga, and martial arts are three great means of obtaining a hard core, although there are many other effective exercises as well.  Pilates, in particular, is an awesome means of developing core strength.  I have been taking Pilates lessons weekly for over a year from an amazing instructor, Catherine Byron, who has been instrumental in helping me achieve a toned abdomen, core strength, better balance, posture and muscle symmetry (www.cbperformancepilates.com).  My friend and yoga instructor Ben Wisch, has also helped whip my core into shape (www.homeyogaexperience.com).  I  enjoy and have derived great benefit from home exercise DVDs from beachbody.com:  the P90x “ab ripper,” “core synergistic,” and “yoga” workouts and the P90x plus “abs-core” workout can’t be beat.

Muscles play a key role in our metabolism: they are extremely metabolically active, each pound of lean muscle burning about 50 calories/day.  With a sedentary existence and aging, there is a gradual loss of muscle mass and a resultant slowing in our resting metabolism.  By building and maintaining our muscle mass with strength training, we will raise our resting metabolic rate and burn more calories.  Additionally, exercise serves to increase the “insulin sensitivity” of muscle, which means that are muscles become more efficient at burning off carbohydrates as fuel. Exercise is also our endogenous stress reducer, lowering cortisol levels, suppressing our appetites and helping us burn carbs before they have a chance to be stored to fats.

We can measure our maximal heart rates by doing an aerobic activity, such as swimming, running or cycling full throttle until we can’t go on, and then taking our pulses.  In our workouts, if we can achieve a heart rate of 75% of our maximum rate and sustain that for 30-60 minutes daily, it is easily conceivable to burn 600 or more calories per day.   High intensity interval training—alternating between extremely intense exertion and regular “normal” exertion—can rapidly help propel us towards that sculpted body that lies within.
10 pearls to help your washboard abdomen emerge:

 1.    If you want a hard waist, you must incorporate exercise into your lifestyle, achieving balance between aerobic, resistance and core workouts.

2.    Eat high-quality, whole-grain, high-fiber carbs, lean protein sources (easy on meat and dairy) and healthy fats (vegetable and seafood-origin).

3.    Eat in accordance with nature’s design—meaning whole foods.  Avoid processed foods.  The best diet is an “anti-processed-atarian” diet.

4.    If you want to look good naked, don’t eat “naked” calories (stripped of fiber), so restrict sugar, simple white carbs, and liquid calories.  Aggressively steer clear of high fructose corn syrup.

5.    Soft foods (sugared drinks, white pasta, white rice, white bread, doughnuts, bagels, potatoes, etc., will earn you a soft core; hard foods (whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain breads, legumes, whole fruits and vegetables) will help earn you a hard core.

6.    Avoid giant meals in which the caloric load will be stored as fat; substitute with multiple smaller meals in which the calories will be used for immediate energy.

7.    Limit after dinner snacking since unnecessary calories at a time of minimal physical activity will be stored as fat.  If you restrict your evening snacking to one piece of fruit, you will wake up in the morning with less to pinch on your waistline.

8.    Drink plenty of water; use salt sparingly.

9.    Minimize stress; if you can’t eliminate it, manage it.

10. Get adequate amounts of quality sleep.

 

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

www.PromiscuousEating.com