WHY ARE MEN AND WOMEN DIFFERENT?
Here's my theory
size=4>Husband Crabby, Sluggish? It's not just women who are susceptible
to shifting hormones. If your honey is behaving like a bear, he could be
suffering from what's being called "irritable male syndrome" or IMS.|
By Jean Lawrence
Men have hormone problems just like women. This may come as a surprise to you, but many certified experts from Phoenix to Philadelphia often share with patients and clients how men and women can better manage their hormones. Indeed, Gerald A. Lincoln, a researcher at the Medical Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh, Scotland, recently coined the term "irritable male syndrome" (IMS) to mirror the infamous PMS in women. Lincoln says these hormone imbalances go far beyond the now recognized "male menopause" and can manifest at any time in life. "Men's hormones pulsate hourly, compared with every 28 days for women, " confirms Larrian Gillespie, MD, a retired Southern California urologist and author of The Gladiator Diet: How to Preserve Peak Health, Sexual Energy, and A Strong Body at Any Age.
Lincoln first noticed IMS in Soay sheep, a hefty, curly-horned species given to noisy rutting rituals surpassing even Sunday football. In the autumn, he found, the rams' testosterone levels soar and they rut like mad. In winter, the levels sag and the rams lose interest in the opposite sex and are "nervous and withdrawn," striking out at other males irrationally. They also were more likely to throw out the rulebook and get hurt during such violent "discussions." "Irritability-anxiety-depression syndromes associated with withdrawal of sex steroid hormones are well recognized in the female," Lincoln notes in his study, which appeared in Reproduction, Fertility and Development. "The occurrence of a potentially similar behavioral syndrome following withdrawal of testosterone has received less attention."
Symptoms of IMS
Obviously, such declines in testosterone can be predicted after prostate surgery. But according to Gillespie and Esterly, they can occur at any time in any male as a result of diet, environmental factors, or stress. "[Or] you can have a normal testosterone level and elevated estradiol -- the usable form of the so-called "female" hormone estrogen," points out Gillespie. A simple blood test may tell the tale. Your total testosterone level should be 400 nanograms per deciliter, free, or unbound, testosterone 25-30 picograms per milliliter, and estradiol 15-20 ng/dl. "No one really knows the ideal level of testosterone," Gillespie adds. "The bound kind converts to estradiol, which can cause problems. It's the unbound kind that's gold." Esterly, who often gets referrals from physicians to help people tweak their hormones, says a relatively slender man with enlarged breasts once consulted her. He had many of the symptoms of elevated estradiol, she says. In addition to swollen breasts and a bloated "fluffy" look, IMS symptoms include: exhaustion, unexplained weight changes, frequent urination, gallbladder or gut problems, hypoglycemia, snoring, incontinence, an elevated PSA, high cholesterol, bone loss, hair loss (besides male pattern), impaired thyroid function, loss of muscle or stamina, skin problems, softer erections -- and irritability. "Many of these men are overweight," Gillespie notes, and fat harbors estrogen.
What Can You Do?
If you think your hormones might be out of whack, consult your physician. He or she may tell you to take some progesterone, another hormone that in some respects counters estradiol. Esterly recommends smoothing a nickel-sized dab (1/4 teaspoon) of male progesterone cream on the face and hands each day. Although increased estradiol usually is more of a problem than low testosterone, Gillespie says some men may need to supplement with testosterone. She recommends another topical -- androgel, which is also applied to the skin. But she warns: "When it comes to hormones, you want to baste, not marinate." Esterly also recommends a high-quality vitamin, increased calcium, magnesium, and saw palmetto, an herb. After you have gotten used to these routines, take a look at your diet. "Sugar and dairy are usually culprits," Esterly says. An excess of meat, Gillespie says, may have helped IMS to develop. Meat contains a number of hormones, including estrogen. Prescription medications of many kinds also interfere with hormone receptors. And stress increases corticosteroids, which have been shown to depress testosterone. In other words, there are many roads to Rome -- and Rome is where gladiators live. Gladiators are fit, trim, and can wrestle tigers all day, Gillespie says -- thus her Gladiator Diet. She recommends men eat a diet that's 40% protein (watch those hormone-laced steaks and chickens), 35% low glycemic carbs (think squash and green veggies instead of Twinkies), and 25% fat. Of the latter, only 10% should be saturated fat, though you are allowed a teaspoon of unsalted butter a day just to jumpstart the gallbladder. Avoid licorice, though; even the amount in four black jellybeans can drop testosterone in a heartbeat, Gillespie notes.
Take heart, men! It's easier for you to diet and lose pounds in addition to IMS -- because you have half as much leptin, a substance that causes fat to be stored as love handles. Exercise is good, too, of course, 30-40 minutes a day. Even that has advantages beyond the obvious -- Gillespie says leg presses dramatically increase blood flow to the head of the penis. (Wives, Take Note.)
Men go to the doctor 27% fewer times than women. Most wives don't need the National Institutes of Health to tell them this. "Many wives start this program," Esterly confides. "They may apply the progesterone cream to their husbands during a massage. Once the guy sees the results, it's amazing what he will do for himself." Most men, Gillespie advises, would benefit from getting a baseline reading on their testosterone and estradiol at age 35." You don't have to wait until experiencing a symptom or erectile dysfunction, she adds. Many with IMS manage in that department fine -- it's before and after that's not what their mates would want it to be.
One reason a man can get to feeling grumpy is because he feels like he's underappreciated. If you're looking for something good to help yourself or your man feel more appreciated, ZIRH has some Unique Skin Care Gifts for men (Women like them too, but they're mostly for a man.) And often ZIRH offers you a free gift when you purchase online.
Originally published May 6, 2002.
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD.
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