By Mike Westerdal
Testosterone is the male sex hormone that makes a man ‘a man.’ Testosterone is dominant in men. It drives the development of the male sex organs, causes the voice to deepen during puberty, stimulates the growth of facial hair and is the reason why men are stronger and more muscular than women. Likewise, estrogen–which is dominant in women–is the female sex hormone that gives women all their wonderful feminine characteristics, making them softer, more round and curvier.
Men and women each carry both hormones in their bodies–one is the primary hormone and the other just appears in small amounts. But what happens when things go haywire and levels of the non-primary hormone start to jump? In women, elevated testosterone levels cause them to take on masculine characteristics such as developing facial hair and deeper voices.
Likewise, elevated levels of estrogen in men cause them to take on more feminine characteristics. In fact, when estrogen levels in men are higher than they should be, it can bring about a whole slew of unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects.
Enlarged breasts are one of the first and most noticeable side effects to appear in men when estrogen levels are elevated. This is known as gynecomastia and a few other names in the gym too. Other side effects include loss of muscle tone, a decrease in body hair, shrinking testes, depression, fatigue, lower energy levels, poor memory, low stress tolerance, an increase in fat around the mid-section (belly fat) and erectile dysfunction. Elevated estrogen levels really do cause men to look–and somewhat act–more like women and less like men.
As disconcerting as they may be, it’s not just the outward effects that are troublesome but the unseen impact too. For instance, high estrogen levels in men can double the risk of stroke and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. Some research has also linked high estrogen levels to enlargement of the prostate and Prostate Cancer. When the rise in estrogen levels is accompanied by a decline in testosterone levels–which is typically the case–these risks are even greater.
These symptoms and health hazards appear because elevated estrogen levels in men disrupt the natural balance of the body’s hormonal systems. Men do need a certain degree of estrogen in their bodies. It actually plays an important role in regulating and optimizing sexual health and function. In particular, it contributes to healthy, mature sperm and even boosts the libido. It’s only when the estrogen levels get too high that the problems start to arise.
Elevated estrogen levels can be linked to a variety of causes and conditions. Two of the most common self-induced causes included obesity, excessive intake of alcohol and stress. Obese bodies convert fat to estrogen at significantly higher levels than fit bodies. Prolonged alcohol abuse deteriorates the liver, reducing its ability to breakdown estrogen. I know stress is not exactly ‘self-induced’ but how you manage it is. Poor stress management can cause adrenal gland fatigue, contributing to elevated estrogen levels.
Other conditions that can cause estrogen levels to spike include pituitary gland disease, testicular tumors and old age. There appears to be a growing body of evidence linking estrogen spikes in men to prolonged exposure to pesticides and a group of solvents known as xenoestrogens. These petrochemical-based compounds are found in cleaners, glues and a variety of consumer products including lotions, soaps, shampoos and cosmetics.
Some experts even say that commercially-raised cattle, poultry, fruits and vegetables–which utilize growth hormones, pesticides and fertilizers–also contribute to elevated estrogen levels in men. More research needs to be done though before any final conclusions can be drawn.
Now that you know a few of the possible causes of elevated estrogen levels in men and some of the physical changes and health hazards they bring about, let’s talk about some of the things you can do to keep your testosterone levels high and estrogen levels normal. First, eat healthy, exercise and be sure to include strength training as part of your routine. Lifting weights naturally boosts testosterone levels.
Next, watch your alcohol intake and don’t drink to excess. Third, don’t over train and be sure to get plenty of sleep. Fourth, monitor your health and get regular checkups. Also, avoid direct contact with pesticides and solvents. And lastly, until more research is done to either confirm or disprove a link, wherever possible avoid commercially-grown meats, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables. While doing all these things are no guarantee, you’ll at least know that you’re doing all you can to keep your testosterone levels high and estrogen levels normal.
Another concept you can use to battle high estrogen is to engage in Density Training.
Density Training simply means do more work with more weight in the same (or less) time. This increases fat burning overall, but ALSO leads to increased testosterone production. This in turn will help to combat ESTROGEN related fat storage in the lower body and man boobs.
If this sounds like something you are interested in you can learn more about fighting hormones with hormones in John Roman’s Final Phase workouts.