By David Blyweiss, M.D.,
- The secret relationship between sex hormones and inflammation
- How to do CPR on your CRP level
- Saying “I do!” does your heart good in more ways than one
When you think about having enough sex hormones, perhaps you think of the obvious – having a healthy sex life. Or maintaining a healthy prostate. But there may be a less obvious benefit to keeping your sex hormone levels at those you had at thirty… or twenty-five.
A recent study revealed an association between declining sex hormone levels and increasing systemic inflammation. This could have huge implications for understanding many of the diseases and conditions instigated by chronic systemic inflammation such as heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, as well as fatigue, diminished muscle tone, and joint pain.
While more research is necessary, this study introduces what could be a very powerful discovery…
The two tests researchers used in the study are tests I regularly perform in my office. You may have even had one or both of these yourself. They measure two important proteins in the body. One indicates hormone levels and the other, inflammation:
• SHBG: Stands for Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin, which measures a critical blood marker of hormonal balance, specifically between testosterone and estrogen.
• CRP: Stands for C-Reactive Protein, a test that assesses your overall systemic inflammation. It’s often an indication of potential problems you may encounter – before you have symptoms.
After analyzing these two proteins in over 1500 racially and ethnically diverse men of varying ages, they found an “inverse correlation” between the two tests. In plain language, when sex hormones were up, inflammation was down… and vice versa.
Now, this study was purely observational – which generally is just a basis for further research. But I still find the results compelling.
If you have been taking steps to address one of these two issues – increasing your sex hormone levels or lowering inflammation – it’s worth considering the possible relationship between them.
Doing CPR on your CRP might also improve your SHBG
One of the reasons you want to monitor your c-reactive protein is because it’s like looking into a crystal ball. By the time you have symptoms of inflammation, you already have more of a problem than you realize. But if your c-reactive protein is high, and you aren’t experiencing symptoms… you have a very small window to act, perhaps only months. If inflammation gets the upper hand, chronic degenerative disease symptoms become illness… and can dramatically affect your life. Fatigue, depression, pain, daily medications that have side effects which may require more drugs… maybe even a surgery or two!
You get the point…acting sooner to keep chronic inflammation at bay is preferable to waiting for a problem. And in light of this new study, choosing activities, supplements, diet changes and exercises impacting both your sex hormone and your inflammation levels could be a much faster route to better overall health in men.
For example, one of the ways to decrease inflammation is to exercise with light weights repetition… That also increases testosterone in men. Or eating foods rich in zinc, which is both anti-inflammatory and stimulates testosterone production.
As far as supplementing, here’s what I suggest:
• Maintain daily levels of EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids):
1 gram each of EPA(Eicosapentaenoic Acid) /DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
These are Omega-3’s and can be found in fish oil and flax oil supplements. Be sure to read labels carefully to make sure whatever combination you get has a high enough dose of each to make a difference
• Supplement with DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone):
Not to be confused with DHA (above), DHEA is a steroid hormone produced naturally by the adrenal glands. Your levels peak in your mid-20’s and begin their slow decline with age. The body converts DHEA into male and female sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone.
Ask your doctor to add DHEA-s into your next blood test. Depending on the level, women can safely take 5 mgm daily and men can take up to 50 mgm. If you are not looking to produce an increase in any downstream sex hormones, then 7 keto-DHEA (a DHEA metabolite) is the best one to use.
• Stinging nettle as tea or supplement:
This plant has both an anti-inflammatory effect and an effect on the hormones and proteins carrying sex hormones through the body. It is often used to reduce the size of the prostate, help with urination problems, and to combat various allerigies as well.
• Maintain optimal Vitamin D level:
The real secret about vitamin D is that it’s mis-named… and is not a vitamin at all. It’s a hormone. Which is why it’s also an important anti-inflammatory. And it plays a role in maintaining and stimulating sex hormone production in your body. Alone, it doesn’t do the trick. But a deficiency can have serious consequences. This should be considered a baseline level to maintain for your health.
And there’s a surprising study that might suggest another way you can lower your c-reactive protein… but it’s certainly not something you can put on your plate or buy at the store…
Marriage! That’s right, researchers at the University of Arizona looked through the lens of marital status and inflammation and found married men had lower CRP levels than unmarried men… and even less than married women.
In fact, this study claimed being married had a greater impact on inflammation levels than smoking and high blood pressure.
Truthfully, there are many ways this study falls short of being conclusive, in my book. But there is a thread of their conclusion that’s interesting to me…
They claim that, especially in older men, having someone around who cares for their health, and who encourages them to take better care of themselves, has a tremendous positive impact. Personally, I believe that’s true, for all of us. That’s why I strongly advocate using a buddy system. If it’s your spouse, great, but if you don’t have a spouse, find a buddy who will support you in your efforts to eat right, get exercise and otherwise, take better care of yourself than you might do on your own.
And, if you want to make it official in Vegas, that’s up to you! Personally, I’m all about your health… so whatever makes you healthy and happy, I say go for it!
Kupelian V, et al. Association of sex hormones and C-reactive protein levels in men. Journal, Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2010 Apr;72(4):527-33. Epub 2009 Sep 21.
Kelley DS, et. al., DHA supplementation decreases serum C-reactive protein and other markers of inflammation in hypertriglyceridemic men. J Nutr. 2009 Mar;139(3):495-501. Epub 2009 Jan 21.
Nagata C, et.al., Relationships between types of fat consumed and serum estrogen and androgen concentrations in Japanese men. Nutr Cancer. 2000;38(2):163-7.
Sbarra DA. et.al., Marriage protects men from clinically meaningful elevations in C-reactive protein: results from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP). Psychosom Med. 2009 Oct;71(8):828-35. Epub 2009 Aug 6