• 25-02-2019

    Mens Health- Is it more than just testosterone?

    Naturally, as men age, their testosterone declines. As human biology dictates, we expect this, and a natural decline in sex hormones occurs in both men and women. Younger men, however, are presenting with symptoms of low testosterone, even in their 20’s. The key word here is symptoms of low testosterone, but when we test their testosterone levels, we often see that they are within the range they should be for age and sex (in many young men.) So why are so many young men showing up with symptoms of low sexual desire, trouble with morning erections or less spontaneous erections, low mood, depression and fatigue?

    I have definitely heard my fair share of gym bro talk, and some of this information is harmful and incorrect. Knowledge sharing is important, but when it comes to our health, I do not believe that a one size fits all approach is ideal. General health recommendations are the starting point for good health, but when there are concerns, identifying the cause should be the beginning. Hormones are powerful, which is why when they are out of balance, low, or even high, we often experience symptoms. Keeping that in mind, there are lots of things to consider before starting on testosterone replacement therapy that you should be discussing with your prescribing physician. 

    So, what are some other reasons you may be feeling symptoms of low testosterone, when in fact your testosterone levels are ok?

    Estrogen

    We live in a world where our exposure to household products, detergents, fillers in food, diet and plastics, promote an estrogenic state in our body. Often times, we supplement with so many things, but do not take time to address our gut microbiome or liver metabolism which play a strong role in the detoxification and elimination of our hormones. Testosterone has many pathways, and one of them is the formation of Estradiol. This is through a process called aromatization. Some men feel that they don’t have enough testosterone, but hormones behave relative to each other. A higher level of estrogen for a man can definitely make his testosterone feel like its low, when it isn’t.

    Stress

    The main producers of testosterone are the testes and the adrenal glands. During periods of stress, our pituitary gland sends out a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) that acts on our adrenal glands to produce cortisol. This helps us cope with stress, but the feedback is to inhibit another hormone called Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH.) This is the relationship between the HPA (Hypothalamic-pituitary axis) and the HPG (Hypothalamic- pituitary gonad axis.)  Recall that stress comes in different forms, and as individuals, our ability to cope is individual. As children we are programmed differently to deal with stress, and some people may have experienced stress earlier in life and now it is impacting them in the present day. Other forms of stress people often don’t think about are when we get sick. Our immune health can also be a cause of stress. Most people today experience stress due to work-life balance and the demands of society. I find many of my patients benefit from support here, particularly using nutrition and botanical medicine! 

    Body fat

    We are all genetically different but depending on your personal baseline, body fat can be contributing to feelings of low testosterone. One reason is because the hormone androstenedione that is made in adipose, breast and axillary fat, can convert to either testosterone or estrogen. Studies show that peripheral aromatization is favored (in both men and women) which means that the favored conversion is to produce estrogen. This is often why people will say that fat is estrogenic. Extra adipose tissue also has an impact on other hormones such as insulin, adiponectin and leptin. Having a healthy body weight is important for so many reasons, not just your hormones!

    Diet

    The focus here really is on diversity. Our gut and liver really are so important for us to process and eliminate effectively. Most people are not getting enough vegetables, particularly cruciferous and leafy greens. A lack of diversity in our diet also has implications on the beneficial bacteria that support our mental health, hormonal health, immune health, digestive health, skin health and more! Eating late at night influences our growth hormone as well, which affects our ability to build, regenerate and repair. I always tell my patients that it is what we do 80% of the time that shows up in our life- this includes our exercise routine, the food we consume (and I am talking about realfood,) the time of day we are eating, the diversity in our diet and so much more! 

    Nutrients

    There are a plethora of reasons that people are low in different micronutrients. There are micronutrient tests which I will sometimes use to understand exactly what the concern is, especially in the patient that seems like they are doing a lot of things right. However, there are common vitamins and minerals that most people are low in, and this can be for a variety of reasons such as: poor diet, gut health, chronic stress, medications they are taking, age, genetically being predisposed to certain deficiencies, other comorbidities, a lack of dietary diversity and more. Re-building requires the right building blocks, and nutrients play a significant role in our ability to produce hormones. 

    This article is meant to be educational, and to provide a perspective that I feel is often missing when we approach men’s health. There are many different ways to treat symptoms, but treating symptoms is not always the right approach. Managing symptoms, starting with foundations in supporting the body and trying to understand where the problem is coming from, I believe should be the primary approach. 

    Written by: Dr. Mashael Mawji, ND
    BSc. FNH (Hon)

    • 09-02-2019

    My Top 5 Nutrients to support your Eye Health

    My Top 5 Nutrients to support your Eye Health

    Eye health is a common concern for many people and can include dry eyes, redness, progressively decreasing eye sight, cataracts, age related macular degeneration and more. In fact, my recent visit with my Ophthalmologist is one of many reasons for this blog post (besides popular request!) Apparently my corneal thickness would allow me to undergo a series of laser eye surgeries, which he doesn’t see too often; and he has definitely evaluated a lot of eyes!!! He was impressed, and wanted me to share what I was doing with him, and so this is just some information on a few things you can be doing to help support your eye health.

    The focus of this will be on nutrients, but remember, secondary conditions, medications you are taking and your lifestyle play a huge role in eye health.

    Your eye contains small blood vessels and relies on tears and certain membranes for nutrients, oxygen, and lubrication. Your body utilizes many of the nutrients you consume for a number of different functions, so lifestyle is extremely important when supporting eye health. Lifestyle habits include a good consumption of fruits and vegetables, wearing sunglasses in bright conditions, proper cleansing of contact lenses, lowering your cell phone brightness, taking breaks from screen time (apply a filter) and not smoking. 

              1.  Vitamin C

    Outside of the adrenal glands, the lens contains a higher level of Vitamin C than any other body organ. The aqueous humor supplies the nutrition to the lens of the eye, and can aid in the prevention of lipid peroxidation and regeneration of glutathione. Remember, Vitamin C is well absorbed but is utilized by the body for immune function, collagen synthesis, glutathione   regeneration and so much more. Some of my favourite sources of Vitamin C include Parsley, Rose hip tea, Bell peppers, and Kiwi.

              2.  Zinc

    I use Zinc a lot, for a variety of concerns including acne, immune dysfunction, taste/smell changes, DNA synthesis, hormone support, and normal growth and development. There is definitely a fine balance between Zinc and copper, so taking the right dose is important. Most of us have been told to “eat carrots” to help with night vision, which is usually focusing on the precursor to Vitamin A, beta-carotene. Zinc, however, is responsible for bringing Vitamin A to the retina from the liver, to make the protective pigment in our eyes called melanin. Often times we don’t link poor night vision, impaired vision or even cataracts to zinc, but this trace mineral is one of my favourites and is so important! My favourite dietary source of Zinc is oysters; it is also one of the highest food sources containing about 74.0mg per serving. Other sources include: pumpkin seeds, shitake mushrooms, squash and beef.

              3.  Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    A lot of people use artificial tears to remedy their dry eyes. Essential fatty acids help for a variety of eye conditions including age related macular degeneration, glaucoma and increased eye pressure. They play a role in promoting proper drainage of intraocular fluid, lubricating the eye and preventing/treating dry eyes. It takes time for omega-3’s to make a significant change in your fatty acid profile, so regular consumption over time is required to notice the benefits. Also, avoiding high omega-6 foods, hydrogenated oils and trans-fats can help improve your omega-3 fatty acid profile. Many sources of omega-3 fatty acids also contain supportive nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Calcium, which are important for our overall health. Dietary sources include herring, sardines, anchovies, and salmon. I find that it can be difficult to obtain therapeutic levels if you are not consuming these regularly, so I   often recommend a good quality fish oil supplement if you are treating a condition, not just preventing it!

              4. Astaxanthin

    Haven’t heard of it? Its cousin’s lycopene, lutein, beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol are in the same family of naturally occurring pigments called carotenoids. Usually emphasized for their anti-oxidant, free radical scavenging activity, astaxanthin really is a bit unique. I chose to include this for eye health because unlike its cousins it can pass the blood-brain and blood-retinal barrier (so impressive!), allowing it to exhibit its effects specifically to support eye health. It is found in algae, and has a wide variety of benefits such as UVB absorber (UVB I like to think of as the UV rays that “burn,”) protecting the skin from radiation and damage, and supporting brain health. Research around astaxanthin focuses on its use in ARMD (Age related macular degeneration,) diabetic neuropathy, central retinal arterial and venous occlusion, inflammatory eye conditions and glaucoma. 

              5.  Vitamin A

    Vitamin A really does function best in the presence of other nutrients. Surprisingly, many people lack in Vitamin A which I believe is partly due to overburdening of the liver. Some common conditions associated with Vitamin A deficiency include type I diabetes, liver disease, alcoholism, follicular hyperkeratosis (bumps on the back of the arm), and hypothyroidism. Night blindness is often where Vitamin A plays a strong role, because retinal is a key part of rhodopsin which is the pigment responsible for absorbing light and allowing us to seeing in dim light. I strongly believe that Vitamin A is often overlooked, but its role in our body is extensive. Ensuring you are not trying to conceive, and have a healthy liver, are a few reasons to be careful when supplementing Vitamin A. See your Naturopathic Doctor to ensure you are consuming this nutrient in therapeutic and safe doses for your concerns. 

    It is always important to keep in mind that when you take a lifestyle approach or even an orthomolecular one, nutrients are vital for many functions in our body. There are symptoms you exhibit that indicate where you may be lacking in nutrients. 

    Medications can also deplete certain nutrients, for example Metformin and Vitamin B12, Oral-contraceptive pills and Vitamin B6 and B9, and some are known to be side effects for eye health such as statins and cataract development.

    So when using nutrition and nutrient therapy to replete, always remember your body needs these important nutrients for a variety of important processes, and there may be areas that will be prioritized first, before you see an improvement. The priority is always the best outcome for you, whether that means, vitamins, diet, herbs or even pharmaceuticals. 

    Assessing where improvements can be made, safely and effectively, is part of outcome based medicine! 

    By: Dr. Mashael Mawji, ND
    BSc. FNH (Hon)

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