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Testosterone- More important than you may think (for both sexes)

The older I get and the more people I interact with, the more I realize how important testosterone is. It’s not just the male hormone that makes men manly, as some people may think. It plays a vital role in female hormone balance, physiology and well-being as well. In simplistic terms, testosterone contributes to male characteristics and estrogens do the same for women.

Low testosterone can contribute to the following conditions:

  • decreased libido
  • decreased erections
  • vaginal dryness
  • decreased muscle mass
  • decreased bone density
  • decreased flexibility and strength
  • fatigue and a feeling of being burned out
  • joint pain including neck and back pain
  • thinning skin
  • rapid aging
  • aches and pain
  • lack of motivation

Testosterone levels typically peak in men in their late 20s, then gradually decline from age 30 on. Research however, suggests that male testosterone levels are declining across the board at a much higher rate than ever before. Compared to sixty years ago, middle aged men have dramatically lower T levels than their fathers and grandfathers at the same age. In women, although their testosterone levels are much lower than men, the same phenomenon seems to be occurring. There are many reasons for this. Some of those reasons include (and there is a lot!):

“Estrogenic” compounds found in many products used today. These are often referred to as estrogen mimickers, because they mimic or act like estrogen in the human body.

Plastics– Some of those include phthalates and plasticizers (they make plastics soft), such as BPA and its replacement BPS which is just as bad (BPA was removed from most plastics in the food and beverage containers),

Hormones– given to animals we eat,

Herbicides and pesticides– used on crops and in gardens

Medications– that affect testosterone levels and sexual performance. Those include but are not limited to statin drugs for cholesterol, Ketoconazole an anti-fungal drug, beta blockers for high blood pressure, anti-histamines and stomach acid blocking drugs, anti-depressants, opioid pain killers, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other illicit drugs.

Even compounds made by our own body can significantly reduce testosterone levels. One such compound is called aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme made primarily by the fat cells of the body. Because of the increasing rate of obesity today, both men and women face a challenge with maintaining optimal testosterone levels, as aromatase converts testosterone into estrogen in the body. For men, this not only reduces the availability of testosterone, but it also increases feminine characteristics and can contribute to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Men with increased belly fat are at higher risk for having low T. For women, increased aromatase production due to increased body fat not only decreases their testosterone levels, but it also increases production of potentially harmful estrogen metabolites, which can lead to fibrocystic ovaries and breasts, endometriosis, increased risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers. An increase in body fat almost always correlates with an increase in insulin production and insulin resistance (which causes calories to be stored as body fat). Insulin is antagonistic to testosterone meaning the higher your insulin levels the lower your testosterone levels. Increased stress levels result in higher productions of cortisol by the adrenal glands and cortisol is also antagonistic to testosterone levels. This graphic shows the impact of increases in estrogen, insulin and cortisol on testosterone.

Many men choose to address this problem by taking synthetic testosterone. While this may seem like a simple answer and quick fix, the unfortunate truth is that taking synthetic testosterone, poses certain potential health risks for the user. There has been growing concerns as to a possible increase in risk of prostate cancer and heart related consequences from synthetic hormones, including testosterone. A better option if one were to opt for hormone replacement, would be bioidentical hormones. Even that has some drawbacks however. One such consideration is the fact that when an exogenous hormone is taken by the body (exogenous = from the outside-in), the organ or gland that normally produces that hormone begins to shut down its production. This is called a negative feedback loop. A drawback of this process is, if somebody plans on discontinuing the hormone therapy their body may not be capable of producing sufficient quantities of that hormone again. Therefore, there is a risk that if taken long enough, it may become a permanent necessity to take it, in order to maintain healthy hormone levels. To me, it would make sense to modify the dietary, behavioral and lifestyle factors that can help you make the most of what your body will naturally provide you with BEFORE opting for something that you may need to do for the rest of your life.

 

So, what are some practical things that we can do to enjoy normal, healthy levels of this very important hormone?

Do’s

  1. EAT foods and/or take supplements that naturally boost testosterone levels

Foods

  • Healthy fats, like saturated and monounsaturated ones- coconut and coconut oil (MCT’s), salmon, halibut, fish oil, avocado, olive oil, cholesterol in general (T is made from it)..Eggs (omega 3 version)
  • Grass fed, free range beef, bison, wild game and grass-fed cow butter
  • Nuts & nut butters (esp. walnuts & macadamia nuts have a high omega 3:6 ratio, Brazil nuts have selenium which is also good for T)
  • Oysters
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage). These detoxify and help metabolize estrogen and eliminate harmful estrogens metabolites
  • Pomegranate
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)- increases cAMP > T
  • Whey protein
  • Oats
  • Very dark chocolate or pure cacao nibs
  • Parsley- contains apigening > T
  • Onions- contain apigening and quercetin
  • Garlic- increases nitric oxide

Supplements

  • Vitamin D (D3 or Cholecalciferol is the active bioavailable form)
  • Saw Palmetto (even better when taken with astaxanthin)
  • Tribulus Terrestris
  • Eurycoma Longifolia Jack extract
  • Epimedium- AKA Horney Goat Weed
  • DHEA (although it can also boost estradiol and estrogen)

 

  1. EAT foods and/or take supplements that block conversion of testosterone into estrogen by the aromatase enzyme (aromatase inhibitors)
  • White button mushrooms
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage)
  • Greens
  • Peppers
  • Blueberries, bilberries, blackberries and raspberries
  • Ginger
  • Zinc
  • Luteolin
  • Resveratrol
  • Chrysin
  • Stinging nettles
  • Grape seed extract

 

  1. Take supplements that block testosterones conversion into DHT (DHT is a testosterone by-product, that contributes to male pattern baldness, increased risk of Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy or BPH (prostate enlargement).
  • Zinc- Grass fed beef, lamb, oysters, shrimp are the highest sources, with sesame and pumpkin seeds, shitake mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, quinoa being the best vegetarian options
  • Saw Palmetto, even more effective when taken with astaxanthin
  • Stinging nettles
  • Tribulus Terrestris

 

  1. EXERCISE– especially intense resistance exercise (weights) and brief alternating periods of intense aerobic activity followed by lower intensity, following the H.I.I.T. protocol (high intensity interval training)

 

  1. LOSE WEIGHT and then maintain an optimal body composition of fat and muscle, to prevent conversion of your T into estrogen by the aromatase enzyme produced by your fat cells. Do not maintain a body fat percentage that is too low (less than 10 percent for men and 14 percent for women)

 

  1. REDUCE stress– Stress causes cortisol release (the body’s stress hormone) and suppresses T

 

  1. INCREASE sleep- Get 7-9 hours per night

 

Don’ts-

(When I say avoid, what I really mean is to decrease in the proportion that you want to increase your testosterone levels)

  1. AVOID foods that have estrogenic effects (containing phyto [plant]estrogens)-
  • Soy- strong estrogenic effects- isoflavones
  • Dairy from cows given Bovine Growth Hormones
  • Flax seed- high in lignans
  • Lentils
  • Barley & hops (yes even beer)
  • Ginseng
  • Licorice- high in glycyrrhizic acid
  • Peppermint and spearmint
  • Foods in cans almost always have plastic liners that contain BPA or BPS
  • Using Teflon cookware which can release EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals) at high temperatures
  • Any fruits or vegetables that have pesticide residues. Pesticides are common estrogen mimickers.

 

  1. AVOID foods (and beverages) that increase activity aromatase activity, thereby converting your testosterone to estrogen
  • Cheese
  • Grains
  • Alcohol
  • Yogurt
  • Soy which contains genistein and daidzein
  • Corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower oils
  • Grapefruit
  • I,3-C or DIM supplements
  • Chocolate (the processed kind high in sugar)

 

  1. AVOID other T sapping crap
  • Excess sugar- Sugar increases insulin which decreases T
  • Excess alcohol- definitely dose dependent. The more you drink, the lower your T
  • Corn and high fructose corn syrup
  • Processed food
  • “Bad” fats- i.e. hydrogenated and those heated to high temperatures which cause rancidity
  • Try to find alternatives for medications (under a doctor’s supervision), like the ones listed above
  • Fluoridated water and toothpaste

 

  1. AVOID exposure to drugs and chemicals (estrogen mimickers and EDCs, that negatively impact testosterone by acting like an estrogen or interfering with T production
  • Dioxins- A chemical used in herbicides, industrial bleaching, produced by waste incineration and became infamous from being used in the chemical Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Dioxins are persistent meaning very long lasting in the environment. In addition to reproductive and developmental problems, they can cause also cause cancer
  • Fire retardants- (mattresses, pillows, fire retardant fabrics)
  • Parabens- Propyl-, methyl- and other parabens are pseudoestrogens
  • Phthalates – Chemicals that make plastics soft, but are pseudoestrogens
  • Glyphosate- (the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup). Avoid GMO corn, wheat and soy.
  • Fragrances- Perfumes and artificial fragrances
  • Perfluorinated compounds- (PFCs)
  • Heavy metals- (mercury, lead, aluminum, etc.). These are referred to as metalloestrogens

 

The bottom line, is that it is no wonder why testosterone levels have plummeted over the last 60 years! With the increased production and use of various chemicals and medications that we are exposed to commonly in our everyday life. In addition, the increased rates of sugary and high carbohydrate foods that have contributed to dramatic increase in obesity, this downward trend makes perfect sense. The good news is, that by having an awareness of and making conscious decisions on what we use in our environment, on and in our bodies and how we sleep and exercise, we can create dramatic improvements for our benefit. Use the lists I’ve given you for grocery shopping and food preparation and I believe that you will be very happy with the results.

Action Steps- Circle the areas that you need to improve on from the article and then transfer into action steps that you fill into these blanks:

 

  1. __________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. __________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. __________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. __________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. __________________________________________________________________________

 

Just say NO to Wheat!

Why? I’ll give you 6 great reasons

  1. Glyphosate- Because the commercial wheat supply is so extensively contaminated with glyphosate, it is my recommendation to avoid wheat products entirely. Life glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. Genetically modified wheat is actually called “Roundup ready wheat”, because it tolerates large amounts of this weed killer without destroying the wheat kernel. Therefore, farmers can spray copious amounts on their fields to kill weeds and accelerate the drying out of the crops without negatively impacting the yield for harvest. Unfortunately, significant amounts of glyphosate make it through processing and into the food that we consume.

Glyphosate has been implicated in many serious health conditions including kidney and liver damage and a variety of cancers including colon, pituitary, thyroid, thymus, mammary glands, testes, kidney, pancreas, liver, melanoma and lung cancer. It also is considered an endocrine disrupting chemical. It has estrogenic effects on the body, contributing to reproductive and fertility problems including low testosterone in men and hyper-estrogenic disorders in women. It also negatively affects the human microbiome especially bifidobacterial. The microbiome is the term used for the collective healthy bacterial organisms that live in our body. The incidence of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis has paralleled the increase use of glyphosate in the U.S.

Glyphosate also binds to manganese, which is an important catalyst for making MnSOD, an important and powerful anti-oxidant enzyme, involved in protecting mitochondria from oxidative DNA damage. Mitochondria are the tiny organelles in all of our cells that produce the energy that drives cell functions.

As of August 2016, 26 countries have already banned Roundup and glyphosate containing herbicides. Unfortunately for Americans, special interest groups like the chemical industry (including Monsanto, the maker of Roundup), have much influence over our political process. The use of glyphosate has increased exponentially over the last 20 years.

For more on glyphosate, read my post found on my web site at http://www.wellnessdoc.com/2017/07/glyphosate-danger-lurking-pantry/

 

  1. Gluten- Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. It’s what gives bread and pasta its stickiness. Have you ever wondered why gluten free bread falls apart so easily? It’s lacking the glue (gluten), that helps it stick together. Gluten can cause celiac disease, the most extreme form of gluten reactivity by the body. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction that can trigger severe inflammation throughout the body. Research has linked gluten to other autoimmune diseases, ADHD, mood disorders, autism, weight gain, schizophrenia, dementia, digestive disorders, nutritional deficiencies, insulin resistance, diabetes, cancer and more. Approximately 1% of the population have been diagnosed with celiac disease. But, according to the Beyond Celiac Organization, for every 1 person that has been diagnosed there are an estimated 5 people with the condition that have not been diagnosed.

Beyond celiac disease (pun intended), it is estimated that approximately 18 million Americans (approximately 8%), have what’s called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). This is where the body’s immune system recognizes the gluten protein as foreign and mounts an antibody attack against it. The problem lies with the fact that because gluten is so prevalent in the standard American’s diet, it creates a relentless immune system response that can eventually go rogue. When the immune system recognizes a particular protein as foreign and mounts an attack against it, it can often begin to misidentify the proteins within normal body tissues as that same foreign protein it has been aggressively trying to destroy (gluten in this case). When this happens, it can trigger an autoimmune response against that particular part of the body.

 

  1. Gliadin- Another reason to just say no to wheat is gliadin. Gliadin is a component of wheat gluten that can activate inflammatory NF-kappa beta proteins, the ones involved in a myriad of acute and chronic inflammatory disorders, including autoimmunity and infectious diseases.

 

  1. Lectin- A third reason is the fact that the whole or shell of the wheat kernel contains a lectin called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). Lectins such as WGA can cause a myriad of problems with health, including interfering with the production of leptin (not lectin). Leptin is the hormone secreted by fat cells that tells your brain when you are full, satisfied and to stop eating. It has been found that lectins can prevent leptins from binding to cell receptors, therefore the brain does not receive the signals to tell you to stop eating. This can cause us to keep eating leading to the extra calories being stored as body fat. Like when insulin receptors become resistant from too much insulin floating around in the blood, leptin receptors on cells can also become leptin resistant. Like insulin resistance, leptin resistance can be a primary contributing factor to obesity.

Another problem with lectins from grains, seeds and beans is that they can become a primary source of gastrointestinal irritation and food sensitivity reactions by the immune system because they bind to the cell walls of the intestinal lining. In binding to the cells lining the intestinal tract, lectins can interfere with absorption of vital nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Therefore, lectins are often coined “anti-nutrients”, because they can cause nutritional deficiencies.

One of the effects of genetically modifying crops, is that it raises lectin levels in shell of the seeds (like in wheat kernels, other seeds, bean and legumes), which is where the lectins are found. This is purposeful on the part of the scientists, because lectins naturally act as toxins to birds and insects that may want to eat those crops. As a result of the toxicity to birds and insects, those crops yield a higher return. That is great for the farmer. Unfortunately however, the increased lectins in GMO crops can also wreak havoc in the consumer’s gastrointestinal tract. As mentioned, this can result in a whole host of health problems, including immune and autoimmune conditions, nutitional deficiencies and increased systemic inflammation.

 

  1. Higher in sugar content- Wheat has been genetically modified to be higher in Amylopectin A, which has a very high glycemic response (it turns into large amounts of sugar very rapidly in the blood stream). Norman Borlaug PhD., was a highly acclaimed scientist and researcher who was instrumental in developing what is called the Agricultural Green Revolution. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 and is credited for saving millions from starvation worldwide. Dr. Borlaug, developed a strain of wheat that was capable of delivering more calories than its non-genetically modified version because it was high in the starch or carbohydrate amylopectin A. It is estimated that the amount of amylopectin A in two slices of wheat bread will raise your blood sugar more than 2 tablespoons of table sugar. For Third World countries facing drought and starvation on a large scale, it provided a lifeline for people in need. That lifeline was more calories per ounce eaten. The problem is, that this GMO strain of wheat is the same one that is being produced and utilized in industrialized countries over the last 50 years. And what is happened to the weight of the populations in the Western industrialized world over that period of time? That’s right, obesity has become epidemic! And, it is contributing to the major rise of diabetes, heart disease, dementia and certain forms of cancer.

 

  1. Highly addictive- Not only does today’s wheat contain toxins like glyphosate, lectin, high levels of gluten, gliadin, and the super starch amylopectin A, it also contains what are termed gluteomorphins, coined from the words gluten and morphine. When wheat is digested, it breaks the proteins down into shorter chains called polypeptides, AKA exorphins. Exorphans are highly addictive as they interact with the opiate receptors on the brain just like cocaine, heroin and the opioid pain drugs that are responsible for the opioid epidemic in our country. From Wikipedia, “Exorphins are exogenous opioid peptides, distinguished from endorphins (or endogenous opioid peptides). Exorphins include opioid food peptides like Gluten exorphin…” The term exogenous means from the outside…and endogenous means from the inside. Just like other addictive substances, it is always better to just say NO to wheat!

 

Over the past couple of years, I have really enjoyed the modified paleo diet I have been on. Cutting out the starches and simple carbs is one of the best things a person can do to lose weight, improve energy levels and reduce pain and inflammation throughout your body. Eating moderate levels of protein, higher levels of healthy fats and complex carbohydrates from low glycemic vegetables, gives you all of the energy and stamina you need to feel great and perform at your highest level!

What AGEs us?

What AGEs us?

AGE stands for Advanced Glycation End Products and are also known as glycotoxins. The process of creating these harmful compounds is often referred to as glycosylation. AGEs cause oxidant reactions that can damage normal proteins, tissues and cells. A common oxidant reaction you may recognize is when you cut an apple in half and let it sit for a few hours. The apple turns brown due to oxidation.

AGE’s are implicated in the development of many chronic diseases including the aging process. Hence the title, What AGEs us? AGEs are created through a reaction between sugars and free amino groups of proteins, lipids, or nucleic acids (like RNA and DNA), within the body. This reaction is also known as the Maillard or browning reaction. Caramelizing a food in cooking is a real world visible form of this reaction between the sugar, fats and proteins. The sugars in our bloodstream form cross-links with proteins and make them crusty. This damage to the proteins renders them unusable. Some sugars create much more AGEs than others. It is estimated that fructose is 20 – 30 times more glycating than glucose. That is one of the reasons that high fructose corn syrup is so harmful. Consequently, diets high in sugar not only promote excess insulin eventually resulting in insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease. Essentially, it AGEs us more rapidly. Not only does it age us, it also contributes to the epidemic of obesity. Body fat cannot be burned efficiently in the presence of insulin. According to Ron Rosedale MD, “If there is a known single marker for long life, as found in the centenarian and animal studies, it is low insulin levels.”

In addition to promoting oxidative stress, AGEs cause inflammation by binding with cell surface receptors and cross-linking with body proteins, altering their structure and function. This is especially problematic because when proteins are damaged in this way, they can no longer work as designed. Since the activity of proteins relate to thousands of body processes, this wreaks havoc with normal health and function.

According to Nora Gedgaudas, the author of Primal Body, Primal Mind and more recently Primal Fat Burner, “Aging is now being understood by people researching longevity as essentially a gradual process of glycation of all tissues, including the brain.”

Another factor causing AGE production in our bodies, are the types of foods we eat and even how they are prepared. Certain foods other than sugars cause much greater production of these damaging compounds. The highest food by far is fried bacon. For a complete list of these foods and their ratings for AGE production, see http://www.wellnessdoc.com/educational-portal/ , then select the folder titled Food, the Good the Bad and the Ugly.

There are other things that can be done to reduce the production of AGEs when cooking. Some of those include curcumin from turmeric, garlic, onions, certain spices like rosemary and thyme, lemon juice and flavonoids. Flavonoids are a group of phytonutrients often found in the pigments in a wide range of plant sources including berries, tea, citrus, bell peppers, fruits and greens. Preparing foods, especially meats at high temperatures also contribute to this phenomenon. Therefore, it’s better to cook meats slowly at lower temperatures and combine the meal with the aforementioned foods.

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