The "Male" Hormone: Testosterone
You may be surprised to learn that the same sex hormones drive men and women. Testosterone is the big boy, the one everyone thinks of as "the male hormone." But women have it too; men just have about 10 times more of it.
Among its many functions, testosterone supports heart and brain health, promotes the growth of lean muscle mass and strong bones, promotes sexual fantasies and erections, and fuels healthy assertiveness.
Men can run low on testosterone and when they do, they need supplementation. Low testosterone in aging men has been shown to be a strong predictor of Alzheimers. Without enough testosterone, men can lose their interest in everything, they may seem lazy, dull, bored, easily confused or forgetful. Businesses or hobbies they were once passionate about become burdens or simply fall off the radar. If they were hot headed before, they may become passive; if they were passive before, they may become short tempered. They may have difficulty having erections, may not care about sex, or may need more stimulation (from porn, etc.) to get aroused. They may get flabby, break bones more easily, and have cardiovascular problems.
I'll talk more about supplementing testosterone in another post.
The "Female" Hormone: Estrogen
Yes, men have estrogen too, though less than women have. And this estrogen helps mellow a man's temper. It also works with his other hormones to support heart and brain health, and ensure strong bones and muscles. But they shouldn't have too much, or rather, "too much estrogen relative to their testosterone."
What's important is that men have the right proportion of estrogen to testosterone. Sources argue over the ideal testosterone-estrogen ranges, but the Life Extension Foundation (www.LEF.org) suggests that 20-25 pg/mL of free testosterone (measured directly, not calculated from total T) is the optimal T range for most men.
They also quote a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that showed that men with estrogen (specifically estradiol, or E2) levels between about 22 and 30 pg/mL had the fewest deaths--compared to men with either musch lover or much higher E2 levels.
These numbers suggest that men live longest when they have roughly equal amounts of estrogen and free testosterone in their systems.
The Other Sex Hormone
You wouldn't think men would need progesterone, the hormone thought of as the pregnancy hormone, but they do. It is the third leg of the sex hormone tripod that we all need to keep everything in balance. Men need progesterone because it breaks down into the other sex hormones as well as the adrenal hormones, cortisol and adrenalin.
More important, progesterone is the hormone that modulates a woman's immune system during pregnancy so her body doesn't reject the "foreign object" (the baby) she's carrying in her womb. That same progesterone (in lower amounts) modulates the immune systems in men and women every day. If progesterone is low, or isn't present in the right proportions relative to E and P, a person may have problems with allergies and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis or fibromyalgia.
You may have felt your stomach clench a little when you read the title of this section. Relax. Although you are accustomed to the word used in the context of athletes doping themselves to bulk up or extend their stamina, the fact is that all your natural sex hormones are anabolic steroids.
Anabolic refers to a hormone's ability to build things. All three sex hormones are anabolic. They build important things like muscles and bones. In women they also build things like a uterine lining every month and both milk secreting (secretory) and milk draining (ductal) cells in the breasts.
The opposite of anabolic is catabolic. Catabolic hormones break down or consume cells and tissues. You need a certain amount of these too. You can't build healthy new bone, for example, without tearing down some old bone. Catabolic hormones, in proper proportions, promone healthy cell turnover and remodeling in your body. However, too much of the catabolic hormones (like the stress hormone cortisol) can damage your body. I'll go into the role of the adrenal hormones in another post.
Men and Hormones
The fact is that men are hormonal creatures, just as women are. They may exhibit different behaviors but they are just as vulnerable to the physical and emotional effects of changing hormone levels and proportions as are women. And they need to maintain ideal levels and proportions to keep their bodies and minds functioning optimally.