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What are early detection signs of Erectile Dysfunction?

Cardiovascular health is one of the most important areas of men’s health to pay attention to when it comes to preventing erectile dysfunction. I know that sounds strange, but we often find that testosterone is not the main driving factor in ED. In fact, testosterone alone does very little for function. Erections have nearly everything to do with blood flow. The small vessels that perfuse (send blood to) the penile tissue are the first to suffer the effects of cardiovascular dysfunction; thus, ED can be the first signs of cardiovascular disease. In fact, many of the ED drugs on the market have nothing to do with hormones and everything to do with blood flow.

There are many simple blood test that your doctor can run to assess your current cardiovascular status and detect early signs of inflammation. Many of these tests are good to look at annually and should be added to your yearly blood workup.  

  • CRP-hs
  • Homocysteine
  • Ferritin
  • Lp-PLA2
  • Lipid Fractionation

Additionally, advanced testing – such as vessel ultrasound and specialized blood pressure diagnostics – can expose areas of constriction and concern and help guide efficient care for ED.

What about testosterone therapy?

Testosterone therapy can be very beneficial in some cases but can easily get out of control with the “more is better” mentality that most doctors have when it comes to any of the sex hormones. Simply “boosting” testosterone doesn’t always work, and if it does, results are often short-lived. The best way to go about healthy testosterone therapy is to look at the entire hormonal picture. 

If you are going to undergo pharmaceutical replacement, make sure your doctor is well versed in such therapies.  

Since testosterone is a steroid hormone – meaning it’s derived from cholesterol – we must ensure that all other steroid hormones are at healthy levels, first. Estrogen, DHEA, progesterone and cortisol are a few to consider. These hormones all convert into one another, to a certain extent, via special enzymes in our body. These enzymes can be turned up or turned down depending on our lifestyle and diet. Throwing testosterone at a broken system can lead to a worsening of your symptoms or possibly unintended disruption in other pathways of the body. So, treating testosterone issues means addressing the balance and function of the other pieces of the puzzle, rather than focusing on testosterone, alone. 

What are some areas of testosterone health to monitor?

Two main markers to monitor are estrogen levels and red blood cell (RBC) counts. Testosterone can convert into estrogen, which obviously is not what we want. It can create anxiety as well as worsen sexual dysfunction in men. Higher estrogen levels can also be the cause for stubborn weight loss.

If RBCs get too high, it can cause trouble with the small vessels in your body, including in the kidneys and the blood returning to the heart. Think of this as too many cars on the highway, it creates congestion and a lack of traffic flow. The same thing happens when your RBCs or platelets get too high. This is especially true when testosterone therapy is administered at higher than natural ranges.

The good news, both of these concerns can be easily monitored by your doctor. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor specific questions – it’s your health.

Do any of the natural products on TV work?

Like many late-night infomercials, most of what you see contains a small percentage of truth and a large percentage of clever marketing. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great natural products that we use every day to help improve sexual health and performance for both males and females; however, those matters should be left to a discussion with you and your doctor, not the shirtless ‘twenty-something’ on your TV at 11pm telling you how worthless you are and how great they feel.

What are some methods for treating testosterone issues, naturally?

Natural remedies for testosterone deficiencies are plentiful but often misleading. 

Traditional medicine concentrates on mimicking compounds and replacement; whereas, natural medicine looks at the stimulation of proper hormone production. It is also important to look at proper metabolism of hormones. Testosterone can be converted into many, less potent, compounds and preventing these conversions can improve testosterone’s effect and lessen the amount of support you need to take.

What are some risk factors for low testosterone?

Abdominal fat and high sugar/carb intake are the two largest modifiable risk factors that can cause low testosterone. Add in a constant, high-stress environment, and you have the ultimate recipe for a low testosterone disaster. 

It sounds generic, but reducing highly-processed, sugary foods and upping consumption of more whole foods can make a big difference. Finding healthy ways to de-stress at the end of the day and minimizing stress throughout the day will also positively impact male hormone health.  Something as simple as a few deep breaths in between clients or conference calls can make a huge difference.

 

High stress + high sugar & carb intake + low activity levels = LOW testosterone and HIGH estrogen

What foods can help manage Erectile Dysfunction?

Naturally, a diet that is a healthy mix of fruits, veggies and some animal protein, can help with ED. Concentrating on foods that improve circulation can prove to be very beneficial. Beets, berries, pomegranate, garlic and turmeric are some easily accessible foods that come to mind for preventing and managing erectile dysfunction.  Sometimes, the best way to get these into your diet is to put them in a smoothie: mix in some citrus fruits and green leafy veggies for a well-rounded, supplemental beverage.

What other factors contribute to Erectile Dysfunction?

Emotions play a large role in erectile dysfunction. Those that suffer from depression or anxiety, statistically have higher performance complaints. Also, sex drive is a “feed-forward” biochemical dance, meaning the more you perform it, the more the brain will produce the hormones and chemicals necessary to continue. “If you don’t use it, you lose it!” has never been truer than in this instance. Often, before we start any treatment, we have the couple schedule sex for a couple months to see if it is more of a ‘life got in the way’ issue, rather than a true medical concern.

What is the impact of hormones on depression?

I don’t necessarily think that depression affects men and women differently, however, the causes of depression can be unique among the sexes. For example, women with high estrogen and low progesterone levels tend to complain more of anxiety. Men with this same hormonal pattern will report with more depression. Patients need to start asking their doctors to test for all different types of hormones in these situations. We need to look at the sex hormones but there are also some tests that can give us an idea of what hormones the brain has on tap. This will help us determine where the imbalance is. 

Do you have any general health and hormone health advice for men?

The basic foundation to any wellness journey is lifestyle. Exercise can help balance hormones as well, and is a great stress reliever to aid in emotional regulation. Regular exercise has also been shown to improve sleep, which is critical for healthy function of ALL areas of the body. A diet that is balanced in quality protein, veggies and fruit, is essential. Don’t shy away from good fats and the occasional ‘deviation’ meal to keep your sanity.   It is about building a lifestyle for the long haul, not just a 30 day sprint.

In short, there is a lot to consider when it comes to men’s health. Balanced testosterone is a major concern for many men and it’s important to know your options. I suggest: do your research, ask your doctor the hard questions, and, if treatment is necessary, pick a practitioner and protocol that takes into consideration all of the pieces, not just the easily marketed ones.

If you are interested in getting your hormones tested or learning more about how your testosterone levels might be impacting your health, call our office to set up a complimentary 15 minute consultation with one of our practitioners.