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  Athena Men's Corner

The Hormonal Symphony of Men


 


©1991, 1996. Athena Institute for Women's Wellness, Inc.

Men Can Learn About:

    • Their Male Sex Hormones
    • Sexual Behavior and Fertility
    • Effects of Smoking and Stress on Sexuality
    • Effects of Eating Habits
    • Effects of Alcohol on Sexual Behavior


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The Male Sex Hormones:

Most educated people are aware that castration is devastating to the male attributes of an adult male. Remove the testes and the man loses his deep voice, his need to shave, the power of his muscles, and his very virility.

Now it is known that men show a hormonal rhythm, a rhythm I call the hormonal symphony of men. A man’s hormones are intimately linked to his sexuality.

Although men circulate the same hormones that women circulate in their blood, the cycles of hormonal secretions of men and women differ, both in concentration and in pattern. These differences lead men to be the way they are, with strengths and weaknesses that complement those of women. Estrogen levels are much lower in men, while the androgen levels are twenty to forty times higher.

The androgens change with age, with the season, with stress, with sexual behavior, and with habits of smoking.

The androgens secreted in the gonads circulate in the blood, travel to all of the parts of the body, and exert powerful effects in many different body systems.

The Effect of Smoking and Stresses on Male Sex Hormones:

Smoking increases the testosterone level by about 5 percent at every age. Surgical stress also affects the testosterone level. At the moment of incision testosterone level plummets and then quickly recovers. Other kinds of stress also affect testosterone. Parachute jumping resulted in a profound drop in testosterone level, but only after the first jump.

When men returned and repeated the jump, they began to show elevated levels immediately after all the subsequent jumps. In other words, it appears that intense fear-producing stresses do affect testosterone level, but only the first time. Once men learn that they can (and will) conquer the obstacle, the effect reverses. Perhaps the surge in androgens after taking the risk is the hormonal ‘cause’ ‘of male daring. The results do suggest the possibility.

The Effect of Personality and Eating Habits on Male Sex Hormones:

Despite a systematic search for relationships between androgens and personality factors such as aggressiveness or the capacity to relax, no connections have been found. Neither has the usual pattern of a man’s nutrition shown any relationship to his androgens. According to studies conducted in Belgium and Germany, men who lived on vegetarian diets, macrobiotic diets, and hormonal high-fat diets all showed similar age-related patterns in their testosterone levels (T-levels). Sudden changes in diet are different.

When men go on a vegetarian diet for the first time, their T- level drops. These temporary changes do not continue over the long term. The relationship between hormones and nutrition in men is different form the pattern in women. Women who are vegetarian show lower levels of sex hormones than women who are meat eaters, and the effect remains over the long term.

The Effect of Alcohol on Men's Sexual Behavior:

Alcohol can inhibit a male’s sex life. Men who drink more than four ounces of alcohol per day show an increased likelihood of being in the low-sexual-activity group as opposed to men whose drinking is more moderate. No difference emerges in the testosterone levels of the drinkers who drink more than four ounces as opposed to those who drink less. Yet a clear difference in sexual behavior does.

Dr. Millicent Zacher, a reproductive surgeon who works with male infertility, suggests that the alcohol may affect the liver and its enzymes in a way that alters the binding proteins and that this change in blood chemistry may affect the biologically active testosterone that is circulating. …

Alternatively alcohol dulls the coherence of a man’s conversation, and it can produce an unpleasant physical aura. Gracelessness and bad odors emanate from a man who drinks immoderately. Excess alcohol consumption is usually a turn-off to a man’s sexual partner because alcohol dulls his sensitivities. While alcohol may relax the uptight, inhibited fellow, it may also disable him if he drinks too much.

---Winnifred B. Cutler, Ph.D.

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