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What is TRT? And “Andropause”?

Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) is a medical treatment that involves putting exogenous testosterone (or ‘T’) into the bloodstream to: prevent low T, and to tackle the reduction of male testosterone levels that are caused by ageing. 

What is andropause?

Ashamed men with low testosterone

Andropause — or “male menopause” — is a condition that is associated with the decrease of testosterone in men as they age.  It is unlike the female menopause, as symptoms are more gradual, however it is associated with a host of negative symptoms. In comparison to “Low T”, which refers to low testosterone levels in men of any age, andropause is a natural drop in testosterone as part of the ageing process.

What are the symptoms of low testosterone? 

Testosterone is often called the ‘male sex hormone’ and has a positive effect on muscle mass, libido, sexual performance, and mood. While many of the symptoms of lower testosterone levels or low-T are common among older men over the age of fifty, some men experience them when they are younger. Many of the symptoms associated with low-T can also be caused by stress, diet, and lifestyle – erectile dysfunction is one such example. If you have experienced any or all of the symptoms below, make sure to get your testosterone levels checked to see if lower than average testosterone levels or low-T is the cause.

infographic about symptoms of low testosterone

Symptoms of low testosterone include:

  • Low sex drive
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Increase in body fat
  • Depression
  • Brain fog
  • Infertility
  • Hot flushes
  • Brittle bones
  • Shrinking testes
  • Hair loss
  • Sleep apnea

What causes testosterone levels to decrease?

unfit man with low testosterone levels

Age

Your body naturally produces less testosterone as you age as part of a natural process that starts 10-20 years after puberty. Your testes and pituitary gland (the two main organs associated with testosterone production) start to produce less testosterone and associated hormones. Research has shown that levels of testosterone in men fall up to 2% annually after the age of 30

Primary hypogonadism 

Primary hypogonadism is a condition where the testes do not produce enough testosterone. In addition to ageing, this condition can be caused by:

  • Testicular damage/trauma
  • Radiation / Chemotherapy used when treating cancer
  • Castration
  • Klinefelter syndrome

Secondary hypogonadism 

Secondary hypogonadism is caused by issues that originate in the brain, as opposed to the body, leading to lower than normal levels of testosterone in men. Secondary causes include but are not limited to:

  • Pituitary tumors or diseases
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Injury to the testicles
  • Radiation / Chemotherapy used when treating cancer
  • Other chronic diseases like liver or kidney disease
  • Obesity
  • Nutritional deficiencies

Conditions including obesity, diabetes, and hypertension also heighten your risk of having low testosterone or low-T. However, sometimes the cause of low-T is hard to find. Either way, studies are showing that testosterone levels in men have been declining for decades, especially in the Global North, and we are now seeing, therefore, an increase in the use of TRT. 

How does TRT help?

TRT has traditionally been used to treat men who have low-T as part of a medical condition. However, with recent medical reports noting a decline in testosterone levels in men living in some parts of the Global North over the last century, it is perhaps no surprise that the use of TRT in countries like the USA is on the rise, now becoming increasingly popular for non-medical uses, such as:

  • improving sexual performance
  • raising energy levels
  • building muscle mass

Indeed, there was a 400% increase in prescriptions of testosterone in the USA between 2011 and 2016. However, in the UK this treatment is less common: it is only provided on the NHS in very extreme cases. 

The BBC did a deep dive into the pros and cons of TRT. As part of their research they interviewed Dr Jeffry Life a Vegas-based doctor who shocked the world with how he transformed his body. He claims that he went from having a pot belly at the age of 50 to having the muscles of a bodybuilder at 70.

Dr Life injects himself every day with testosterone, calibrating his testosterone levels to be those of a 35-year-old. He believes that in doing this, he has found a way to wind back the clock. 

The positive symptoms of injecting exogenous ‘T’ include: 

  • Anti-ageing
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Reduced body fat
  • Increased libido

That said, there are many risk factors associated with TRT and it is important to consult your doctor. As TRT is a relatively new treatment option, we do not yet know the long term side effects of using exogenous testosterone. Potential risks include:

  • Decreased thyroid function
  • Shrinking testes (as they stop producing testosterone because it is being supplied exogenously)
  • Cholesterol (high doses of testosterone can reduce HDL “good” cholesterol)  
  • Low sperm count
  • Some studies show potential increased risk of prostate cancer, but more recent reports suggest the opposite, showing TRT to actively help to reduce the risk of this cancer. 

If you are already on TRT, Diagnost’s home testing kits allow you to check your cell count, thyroid function, cholesterol levels and more to make sure that you are not experiencing any of the negative side effects of TRT.

The above risks are heightened if you are injecting higher doses of testosterone; caution is, therefore, advised. 

How is TRT taken?

Testosterone Gel - What is TRT? And “Andropause”? - Diagnost

Testosterone can be taken in many forms. There are testosterone patches, creams, and gels that allow T to be absorbed through the skin. Oral medications (i.e. pills) exist, as well as a form of TRT that involves rubbing testosterone on your gums twice a day. Injecting T puts it directly into your bloodstream and is often the form chosen by athletes.  

You should decide which form of TRT to take according to your medical needs, personal preferences, and lifestyle. If you are someone who regularly forgets to take daily pills, you might want to consider going the injection route instead. If you are scared of needles, you might want to try creams or gels, and so on.

How can I get a prescription?

Talk to your GP

If you are concerned you have lower than normal testosterone levels, your GP should be the first port of call. TRT prescriptions on the NHS are very rare and only considered in extreme cases. However, your GP will be able to talk through your symptoms, recommend lifestyle and diet changes that may alleviate symptoms, and refer you for hormone testing and more specialised care in order to get to the root of the problem.

The Endocrinologist 

The Endocrinologist - trt

An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in hormones and will be able to give you a more in-depth analysis of your hormone levels and potential treatment options. While an endocrinologist will have a more explicit focus on your testosterone levels than your GP, they may still deny you TRT unless your testosterone levels are exceptionally low. Endocrinologist consultations are free on the NHS but you need a GP referral to access them.

Going Private

Private treatment is the main way to access TRT in the UK, especially for men whose testosterone levels are not critically low.

While going private does not guarantee treatment, it does greatly increase your chances. Private healthcare follows more of a consumer/provider model than public sector health, meaning doctors are more likely to give you the treatment you desire.

Visiting a men’s health clinic on Harley Street can cost anywhere between £350-£700 for an initial consultation. While a private GP may be cheaper (between £50-£100), what you save on the consultation you may end up paying for in appointments because they are less specialized so you may have to see them more. The rule of thumb (and this doesn’t just apply to TRT) is that the more you pay, the more likely you are to get what you want.

Third Party Medical Facilitators are the middle range option and many TRT advocates recommend them.

How much does TRT itself cost?

What type of private doctor you are seeing and how much they charge is a price variable to consider at the start of your TRT journey. Once you’re on the treatment, the price of TRT still varies greatly due to a range of factors. These include: 

  • Where you live
  • The type of TRT 
  • The amount of T you’re taking
  • Current medical marketing trends (i.e. if the type of testosterone you are taking has a generic version)

TRT is less common in the UK, meaning that there is less incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop generic versions. This means that the treatment is more expensive in the UK. You can expect to pay anything from £100 to £1,000 per month. Another thing to consider is that once you start TRT it is a life-long treatment that you will not be able to halt without severe medical risks. This is because your body stops producing natural testosterone once you go on TRT.

Conclusion 

While TRT has many benefits, there are also grave risks. Whether you are considering TRT, or are already on it, it is really important to know what is actually going on inside your body by having regular blood checks and thinking preventatively about your health. TRT is optional: taking your health seriously is not! 

Why Hormonal Imbalance is Affecting Your Body More Than You Know (+How to Get Back on Track)

What are hormones?

So, what are they and where do they come from?  Hormones are chemicals that are produced by glands in the endocrine system. They travel through the bloodstream and to the tissues and organs, delivering messages that tell the organs what to do and when to do it. Each hormone is produced in a different gland. These glands, collectively, make up the endocrine system. Key glands in this system include the pineal gland which produces Melatonin to make us sleep; the thyroid gland which regulates metabolism; the ovaries which produce progesterone and oestrogen; the testes which produce testosterone; the adrenal gland which produces — you guessed it — adrenaline; and the pituitary gland which acts as a “master gland”, controlling the other glands in the system! 

Hormones are powerful. They relay important signals to your body, taking care of both daily functions and exceptional circumstances. When things are running smoothly, they regulate metabolism and appetite, sleep cycles, reproductive cycles and sexual function, general growth and development, mood and body temperature. When something big is about to happen, a hormone called adrenaline lets the body know that it is time to raise our heart rate and bring our A-game. Hormones regulate heart rate again too after this moment has passed.

Our bodies rely on signals from hormones to do ordinary and extraordinary things. You can picture hormones like the team of people who work together to keep the corporation (in other words, your body) operating at an optimal level. When things are good, they keep everything running smoothly, but when some departments are overstaffed and other departments are understaffed, things can start going wrong…

What is hormonal imbalance?

Hormonal imbalance happens when you have too much of one hormone or not enough of another, and can cause severe health conditions. As each hormone plays a vital function in the overall health and proper functioning of your body, a disruption of the hormonal balance can throw everything out of order, meaning your body can no longer perform basic functions such as temperature regulation and weight control. 

The endocrine system is a delicate and sensitive thing – it doesn’t take much to derail it. Often it can respond to stressors that you didn’t even realise were present. Things like lack of sleep, stress, or excess hormones like oestrogen that have contaminated our water supplies and food can affect hormone balance. This is why it is important to check your hormone levels using a home testing kit. Seeing what shows up in your hormones is like a window into your hormonal landscape. And the sooner you know, the better.

Prevention is the best cure. Knowing where your body is at and preventing the onset of something before it becomes too dangerous is the name of the game.

Symptoms of hormonal imbalance

Symptoms are your body’s way of signaling to you that there is something wrong, that it is time to take a break and focus on your health. 

Below are some symptoms of some of the most common hormone imbalances:

symptoms of hormonal imbalance infograhic - diagnost

While there are many symptoms of hormonal imbalance, each symptom is the result of a deficiency in a specific hormone or combination of hormones. This is why it is so important to get your hormone levels checked before embarking on any treatment.

You may notice that there are some gender-specific symptoms. This is because the hormonal makeup of men and women is different. For example, women have testosterone, but if their testosterone levels are low they may still feel healthy, whereas a man with low testosterone may not. If you are transgender or undergoing transgender hormone therapy, it is important to talk to your doctor about specific symptoms that may apply to you.

Causes of hormonal imbalance

causes of hormonal imbalance infographic - diagnost

Understanding some of the reasons why hormones can be out of balance is an important step along the road of trying to restore hormonal balance. Causes are a very individual matter. They vary from person to person. While for the majority of people, they are lifestyle based, for some there can be more severe causes. 

Causes of hormonal imbalances include:

  • High levels of stress
  • The consumption of phytoestrogens, naturally-occurring plant estrogens found in soy products
  • Exposure to toxins, pollutants, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides
  • Type 1 and Yype 2 diabetes
  • Hyperglycemia (overproduction of glucagon)
  • Hypoglycemia (more insulin produced than there is glucose in the blood)
  • An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Over- or underproduction of the parathyroid hormone
  • Poor diet and nutrition
  • Being overweight
  • Hormonal replacement or birth control medications
  • Abuse of anabolic steroid medications
  • Cushing’s syndrome (high levels of the hormone cortisol)
  • Addison’s disease (low levels of cortisol and aldosterone)
  • Cancers that involve the endocrine glands
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Iodine deficiency (goiters)

How to test hormonal imbalance

If you think you might be suffering from a hormonal imbalance, make sure to speak to your doctor and take a test before worrying or taking any drastic measures. This is important since you could risk doing more harm than good.

There are several types of tests available. For example: 

  • Blood, saliva and urine tests
  • MRI scan
  • Biopsy
  • Ultrasound
  • Pelvic exam
  • Sperm count 
  • X-ray
  • Thyroid scan

Of course, going to the doctor can be time-consuming. So if you lead a busy, stressful lifestyle and want results fast, your best bet is trying one of Diagnost’s home testing kits to better understand your health and hormone levels.

Seeking Medical Help

Once you have taken a hormone test you can see what hormones are out of balance, and begin to resolve the issue. What type of medicine you will need will depend on what hormones you are lacking in. Key examples of exogenous hormones you can take include:

Oral contraceptives

While these are primarily used as a form of birth control, they can also be used to rebalance high levels of estrogen and low levels of progesterone. Talk to your doctor about which form of oral contraceptive could you best.

Menopausal hormone replacement therapy or ‘HRT’

HRT has been shown to help many women cope with the menopause. The changes that occur in the body during this time can cause acute imbalances and difficult symptoms, such as hot flashes, depression and mood swings, and insomnia.

With HRT, women are treated with doses of estrogen, progesterone, or a progestin-estrogen combination that can be taken in many forms including pills, skin patches, creams, or intra-uterine devices. HRT remains a controversial issue, with many reports suggesting it has huge benefits for menopausal women and others pointing to its possible negative side effects, including increased risk of breast cancer. If you are considering this treatment, make sure you speak to your doctor first.

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)

Men who suffer from low testosterone may look to testosterone replacement therapy. Low testosterone in men can contribute to sleep problems, weight gain, depression, and reduced libido. TRT can also be taken in a variety of forms including pills, patches, and creams. It is important to discuss TRT with a  doctor as there are many risks associated with it. Unlike HRT, it is not available on the NHS.

Diet changes

Focusing on getting some of these key vitamins and minerals into your diet could help you rebalance your hormones. 

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids create healthy cell membranes, which improves the flow of hormones. Some Omega-3 rich foods include: Walnuts

  • Walnuts
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Sardines
  • Oysters

Fiber

Fiber binds itself to excess oestrogen, helping your clear the excess oestrogen out of your system. High-fiber foods include:[3]

  • Whole grains
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Thyroid hormone boosting foods

These include:

  • Brazil nuts, tuna, crab, and lobster to get enough selenium.
  • Milk, eggs, salmon, and mushrooms to get enough vitamin D.
  • Meat, dairy, and fortified cereals to meet your daily vitamin B12 requirement.
  • Iodine (this is hard to get without supplements)

Lifestyle changes

man running in the nature

Lifestyle changes can feel small but they can have a huge impact on all areas of health, including hormone balance:

Sleep

Hormones and sleep interact in complicated ways. Hormonal imbalance or changes can hugely impact human sleep patterns. In turn, sleep deprivation can also have an impact on hormone levels and balance. Women, whose hormonal cycles generally involve more spiking and dropping of certain hormone levels than men, are particularly affected by the link between sleep and hormones. Many women, for instance, report insomnia as one of the common symptoms of menopause. Menstruation, pregnancy and the menopause may have a big impact on women’s sleep patterns, therefore, in turn exacerbating any possible hormonal imbalances. Thus, it can be hard to determine the causal link between sleep and hormones.

What is clear is that good sleep and rest allow your body to restore itself, in turn enabling your endocrine system to set itself back to “neutral”. Don’t underestimate how much your body is doing while you sleep, especially if you’re in a period of hormonal imbalance. Consuming a small amount of protein just before you go to bed can support your body’s recovery overnight. If you are having sleep problems, this could well be caused by the hormonal imbalance itself and be exacerbating it, as you get less and less sleep over time. This may mean that just trying to make lifestyle changes and sleep more (or sometimes less) is not enough; in this case, you should seek clinical help. 

Exercise

So much of hormonal balance is about healthy blood flow. Making sure you exercise 3 times a week and get your heart rate going can accelerate the rate at which your body rebalances its bloodstream.

De-stress

In the modern world, having an adrenal system that is out of balance due to stress is one of the most common causes of hormonal imbalance. Relaxation and meditation can make a huge difference. 

Takeaways

Hormonal imbalance is no small thing: it can affect your life in myriad ways and, as such, should be investigated and resolved as soon as possible. The most important thing to take away from this article is that if you have any concerns about your hormonal balance, the first step is always to get a test in order to figure which hormones, if any, are out of balance. Many people around the world currently live with hormonal imbalance but do not know it or know what to do about it – for instance, in the US, it was reported in February 2019 that almost half of all women had suffered the consequences of hormonal imbalance at some point in their lives but many had not sought medical help for it. 

Luckily, there are more and more ways these days to get your hormones tested quickly and easily, without having to rely on public health services, which often involve long waiting times. Diagnost offer a wide range of home tests, for example, that make hormone testing quick and easy, allowing you to then take the results to a qualified clinician. Once you and your clinician know what is really going on in your body, you will be able to find solutions to any imbalances. If you have significant imbalances, exogenous artificial hormones may help you; if you have only slight imbalances, you may wish to focus on diet and lifestyle changes. Ultimately, hormonal imbalances are curable as long as you get to the bottom of them. Good luck!

How to Stop Early Waking to Be More Rested

Sleep is important. ‘Every function within the brain and body requires sleep’ according to Neurologist Dr. Kirstie Anderson. Not getting enough sleep makes you feel groggy and unable to focus the next day. In the long term, mental health problems, heart problems, diabetes and cancer are all more likely if you do not sleep enough.

Despite the overwhelming evidence for the importance of sleep, almost one third of people in the UK aren’t getting enough sleep. 

While there are many reasons for this, many of us do not help ourselves by setting early alarms and aiming to wake up early.

We’ve been told that waking up super early is the key to getting a head start in a productivity-driven culture. We have all heard the story of that CEO that wakes up at 3.30am, meditates, goes to the gym, answers all their emails, prays, and arrives in the office before 7 am. Maybe we’ve even tried to be that person, attempting a bleary-eyed workout and asking ourselves whether 5 am is an appropriate time for breakfast. 

However, having more time in the day has no value if you’re too tired to use it. Productivity is about efficient use of the limited time you have. Skipping sleep might feel like buying time, but it bites you back eventually. 

Fact: you need your sleep!

sleep duration facts - how to stop early waking to be more rested - diagnost

The simple fact is that you need sleep. Try as we might, to defy our bodies – we can’t. 

Reduced sleep has been shown to link to all kinds of health conditions. Research by Harvard University shows that lack of sleep affects your ability to focus and mood. 

It has also been linked to early death. The NHS reported on a series of studies that suggested that sleeping less than six hours a night makes you 12% more likely to die prematurely than someone who sleeps up to eight hours. 

Studies have also shown that lack of sleep affects immunity.  Researchers found that people on little sleep are more likely to catch a cold.

The connection between lack of sleep and weight gain has also been extensively researched. In 2008, professors at the University of Chicago, found a link between sleep loss and an increased risk for obesity and diabetes. One reason for this is because you need more energy from food when you haven’t got it from sleep. It’s also because the chemical that makes you feel full, leptin, is reduced, while ghrelin, the hunger hormone, increases when you are operating on less than 7 hours sleep.

Furthermore, not sleeping enough can negatively affect your mental health, lifespan, immunity, and weight.

How much sleep do you need exactly?

So how much sleep do we need? According to the NHS, most grown-ups need between six and nine hours of sleep per day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of daily sleep for adults and points out that the exact number depends on when your body reaches optimal functionality. This means that on average, we should ensure we get at least seven hours of sleep regularly, while not going to the other extreme either. 

So, what causes early rising?

man-sleeping-how-to-stop-early-waking-to-be-more-rested-diagnost

Insomnia

Insomnia is a medical condition that you can discuss with your doctor. There are varying degrees of insomnia, from minor to severe. There are many causes of insomnia, some can be lifestyle-based and some can be genetic or hereditary. If you are suffering from severe insomnia, your doctor may well suggest medical solutions, while there are natural supplements you can take too, insomnia can be serious and may need more drastic measures in order to start getting you on track.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

Sleep apnea or snoring has been linked to early rising. In the REM phase of sleep that your body goes into the second part of the night, the sound from snoring as well as the physical sensations, can wake you up early (this goes for if your partner snores too!) Interestingly, snoring has been shown to worsen due to colds (because of congestion), but also lack of sleep itself. Look at this NHS article to find a wide range of treatment solutions from mouth guards to sprays.

Circadian rhythm disorder and aging

Your circadian system looks after the health, regularity and depth of your sleep cycles. While stress and lifestyle factors can cause circadian rhythm disorders, a key cause is aging. Many people find sleeping harder as they age, the reason being that the ‘machinery’ of sleep if you will, stops working as well. If you are experiencing early waking as a symptom of aging, make sure that your home environment is as supportive to sleep as possible. 

Anxiety and depression

Unfortunately, when it comes to anxiety and depression, it is very easy for sleeplessness to be bound up in a vicious cycle. Anxiety and depression are both symptoms and causes of sleep loss. This destructive cycle compounds the causes and effects of sleep and mood. If you find yourself in a loop where your mental health is affecting your sleep which in turn in negatively affecting your mental health,  it is important to try to simply break it. Book a holiday where you can just rest and get away! In the modern world, it can be hard to justify a holiday but the fact that you’re not sleeping well is reason enough. Take yourself on a retreat where your only intention is to sleep as much as possible. Your body will thank you for it.

There are so many causes for waking up too early. This sleep balance check could help you identify the main reasons you are rising early, and help you figure out what to do to stop it!

How to stop early waking

3 tips to stop early waking - diagnost

Sleep routine

Our circadian rhythm responds incredibly well to routine. This is because our body’s release of melatonin (the sleep hormone) is synced to the time of day. A key reason why early rising can leave you so bleary-eyed, even if you have had 8 hours of sleep, is that it involves rising while your body is producing melatonin. This confuses the entire system – and doesn’t set you up for a productive start at all!

Waking up slowly

Waking up slowly is a key way to soak in the benefits of sleep. Many of us make the mistake of having our alarms on your phones, meaning we wake up to a barrage of unanswered emails and messages. This shock to the system gives us a spike of adrenaline first thing in the morning that we pay for throughout the day.

Invest in an old-school battery alarm, and put your phone in another room while you sleep. Doing this will help you on three accounts: 1. It will help you fall asleep in a relaxed healthy way, without scrolling through your phone. 2. It will reduce the levels of radiation that you are exposed to through the night. 3. It will give you a relaxed gentle start which will set your up for seizing the day when it really counts.

Think ahead

Knowing what time you need to wake up and making sure you are in bed in time to get 8 hours sleep is probably the most effective way to get the right amount of sleep. If you suffer from waking up too early, or from struggling to fall asleep, making sure you have 9 hours of actually lying in bed will work wonders, even if you’re not actually asleep the entire time. Additionally, deciding to spend that final hour until your alarm lying in bed and doing breathing exercises, rather than following the impulse to rise too early, is an important decision you can make to start taking care of your circadian rhythm today!

Takeaways

We shouldn’t see sleep as an obstacle to productivity – quite the opposite, investing in a good night’s restful sleep might be the best way to make sure you get a good day’s work. Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep to work at optimal functionality and early waking can be a major obstacle to reaching our highest energy and productivity levels. If you’re struggling to sleep through the night, follow our tips in this article. Of course, if you really want to dig deeper, our sleep balance check can help you to understand your sleep problems better and find the best solution for your health.

What Is Oestrogen Dominance, And How Do I Beat It?

What is oestrogen dominance?

Oestrogen (or estrogen) dominance happens when we have too much oestrogen in the body, or too little progesterone to balance it out.

Oestrogen, in its own right, is a fabulous hormone. When at healthy levels, it helps regulate your metabolism, and helps prepare the uterus for an egg. It helps stimulate all the bodily changes that come with puberty, and when we’re older, its sudden disappearance is behind many of the negative symptoms of menopause. However, in recent times many people suffer from the opposite problem – oestrogen dominance. This is because, in the modern world xenoestrogens abound in processed foods, skincare products, and plastic.

Common symptoms of oestrogen dominance

common symptoms of oestrogen dominance infographic - diagnost

Oestrogen dominance can occur in both men and women. For both sexes, weight gain, reduced sex drive and getting larger in the breast region are key symptoms. Many of the symptoms that show up for women specifically relate to the menstrual cycle. This is because oestrogen plays a key role in menstrual health and regularity. For women, common symptoms include worse PMS, abnormal menstruation, bloating, breast tenderness and mood swings. Oestrogen dominance can also have an impact on women’s mental health. It can increase brain fog and insomnia as well as depression and anxiety.

Check it out

In the case of many of the above symptoms, other factors can be at play and they don’t always mean your oestrogen levels are out of balance. This means that it is important that you get your oestrogen levels checked with one of Diagnost’s home testing kits before you get worried!

Remember: it might be that your oestrogen levels are totally normal and there is nothing to worry about. However, if like many people, you find that oestrogen dominance is what is making you feel bad, follow these 5 simple steps to help reduce your oestrogen levels naturally!

How to reverse oestrogen dominance 

1. Change your contraception

Contraception is a wonderful, empowering thing. However, it is also one of the main reasons behind the recent rise in oestrogen dominance. For example, the popular oral contraceptive pill is packed with oestrogen. It also inhibits your body’s production of natural progesterone, which balances the effects of oestrogen dominance. As anyone who has ever taken the morning after pill knows, that thing can also throw your hormones majorly out of balance. 

Other types of contraception such as the marina coil still use hormones, but only a fraction of the quantities found in oral contraceptives and the implant. The reason for this is that oral contraceptives work by sending oestrogen to your whole body in order to get them to your womb. Whereas, because the coil releases them straight into your womb it doesn’t need to blast the whole body with oestrogen.

Want contraception that is entirely hormone free? Why not try the copper coil? Make sure you book a consultation with your doctor before changing contraceptive methods.

2. Go organic

organic food lowers oestrogen dominance - diagnost

Whether the food you eat comes from plants or animals, it has an effect on your oestrogen levels. Pesticides are significant xenoestrogens. Glyphosate, the most common herbicide in the world has been shown to have the power to induce breast cancer cell growth via estrogen receptors.

Making sure that your food comes from organic farms can go a long way in reducing the amount of oestrogen you consume. And while you’re at it, why not make sure you’re getting some good veggies in your food basket? Cruciferous veg (cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, kale, rocket, Brussels sprouts) really help your liver with detoxification. As excess oestrogen is often handled in the liver, eating organic greens will help your body in more ways than one.

Healthy fats from organic seeds like flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin, and sesame also help to regulate oestrogen levels. These super seeds are packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and fibre.

Why not work an organic green smoothie into your day? Get inspired by some of these healthy recipes and sprinkle some seeds in! Who said that reducing oestrogen naturally can’t be delicious too?

3. Filter your water

Water is the liquid of life. It keeps you hydrated and healthy. Drink as much water as you can to help with overall detoxification. However, when it comes to oestrogen, make sure to filter your water.

Tap water has been found to be full of oestrogen. This varies depending on where you live, so why not contact your local water supplier and try to find out more about what is in your tap water. If you’re living in the city, there are higher chances of contamination from xenoestrogens like plastic (see below).

A water filter is one of the best investments you can make in order to make sure that this vital liquid is at the top quality it can be. Filter jugs are one the cheapest and most effective ways to filter your water. Want to take filtering to the next level? Why not look into a house filter?

4. Cut back the plastic

As plastic gets old it starts to release chemicals. The BPA in plastics and tin can linings harm both your body and the environment. This study shows that hormone-mimics in plastic water bottles act as functional oestrogens. This means that the rise of oestrogen dominance is connected to the abundance of plastic in use in our societies. 

Replace that plastic bottle with an aluminium reusable bottle and save your body excess oestrogen whilst saving the environment at the same time!

5. De-stress

I know it might be stressful to hear this — but stress is one of the worst things for keeping your hormones balanced!

The good news is that this gives you the excuse to take de-stressing seriously. That message is not an indulgence – it is a medical imperative and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Stress elevates cortisol and lowers progesterone. So, for the sake of your hormonal balance take a meditation class, do some yoga, get to bed before 1am. These might sound like small steps but they make the world of difference.

Aromatherapy is one of the most powerful and enjoyable ways to de-stress. And you can do it from the comfort of your own home! Invest in a diffuser and some relaxing essential oils like lavender. Then turn the lights down low, play some relaxing music, sit back and just let the stress melt away.

Part of the reason why we are constantly wired is that we are quite literally always connected. So, be sure to turn your phone off once in a while, take some time out and go for a walk in nature. Luckily, de-stressing simply involves enjoying yourself, like having a laugh with an old friend – trust us, it’s important.

Get your oestrogen levels under control

In this article, we’ve discussed some of the key reasons why oestrogen levels run high in today’s world, and some ways to reduce your levels of oestrogen naturally. You now have all the tools you need to need to start getting your oestrogen levels under control. Want to see some tangible results? Take one of Diagnost’s home tests before and after trying these techniques and see the improvements for yourself.

Happy oestrogen reducing!

Prevention Is Better Than A Cure: 7 Preventive Care Tips

“They are forever young”, we often say referring to people in their 50s and 60s who still look great and manage to get away with the same lifestyle as someone twenty years younger. Futuristically inclined doctors are saying that in 35-40 years immortality will become possible. We’ll have learned to master genetics and will be able to cut out or switch off the genes responsible for ageing. There are plenty of theories on how to obtain immortality, and we will soon know which one is the most effective. 

It’s like in the Sci-Fi film Gattaca with Ethan Hawke and Jude Law. Law’s character is “valid”, a genetically perfected young man, while Hawke plays the “invalid” whose genes came together by chance, forming an ordinary, short-sighted young man suffering from heart disease. The film raises the issue of hierarchy: in the fictional society, genetically perfected people have become the superior class. Of course, we can not say that such a procedure will become routine in the future, but the possibility of genetic correction is already at hand as has recently been demonstrated by CRISPR-Cas9 gene therapy in the model of Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (a genetic disorder with accelerated ageing from early childhood).

 

 

In the Sci-Fi film Gattaca Jude Law ends up with the better genes than his counterpart (Source: GIPHY)

All we need to do is to follow preventive care measures and preserve our body in the meantime, leaving it unchanged for 35-40 years. Ways of doing this are already gaining recognition in the medical community. There are a number of discoveries in this area that have received prestigious awards such as the Nobel Prize. In 2009 three talented scientists, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of “how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase“. Another breakthrough grabbed public attention in 2016, when Yoshinori Ohsumi was nominated for the same prize for his “discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy”. These new discoveries have been applied for a number of years now, and for some Europeans and Americans have become a common practice. 

7 preventive care tips to preserve your beauty & health

7 preventive care tips infographic - diagnost

1 – Annual check-ups

It is like an annual service for our car. Nobody doubts that a car needs yearly maintenance, and here we are talking about our own body, much more valuable than any car there is. And unlike a car, we are not going to get another body and would prefer not to replace parts if at all possible. 

A check-up is a set of tests which measure levels of distinct biochemical parameters such as hormones, vitamins, minerals and amino acids in your body. Based on these indicators a doctor can not only see the current status of our health, but also make a forecast for the future or predict a hidden threat. This applies even to those who consider themselves completely healthy, and especially to those who feel “unwell” and cannot explain why. 

It is important to compare your test results with optimal values for 25-year-olds, not with median results for the lab due to some facts. The clinical references used in the tests for comparison to your own results are often obtained from healthy donors of different ages. In this regard, adequate values of references are paramount of importance for correct interpretations and clinical decisions. Also, according to the FDA, there is a quite high probability of test variations from one laboratory to another. Every time you perform your check-up, it is recommended to use the same medical provider in order to avoid laboratory variation and maintain high-quality result analysis. 

2 – Tailor made vitamins and supplements to your needs 

Vitamins and supplements are not one size fits all. Specific supplements, developed in a lab specifically for you, need to be prescribed in order to compensate for any deviations from optimal values. Over the counter vitamins available from your local pharmacy contain a certain amount of active substances, based on average values, but you may require a little bit more or less and in many cases these are multivitamins and you may not need all of the components included. What is more, according to research, any vitamin taken in excess (especially if you have a sufficient level of it already) or in an uncontrolled manner could reach a toxic level, which may result in arrhythmia, kidney problems or psychological issues as severe as hallucinations. As Virgil said, “aegrescit medendo“, the cure is worse than the disease in this case. 

3 – Undergo a preventative genetics screening 

man swiping his saliva to undergo a preventative genetics screening

This will allow you to receive recommendations and information regarding risks of taking some medications, avoid dangerous illnesses, and improve many other areas such as increasing vitality, losing weight, or gaining weight if necessary. All you need to do is send a genetic sample (for instance, your saliva) to a lab to obtain a detailed report, including what every single cell in your body needs and what you should keep away from. For example, a malfunctioning of detoxification implies that you need to quit smoking. For some people, coffee combined with carrots may be harmful. Moreover, according to recent research, a healthy lifestyle can also help prevent serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cardiovascular diseases.

 4 – Freeze your eggs

If you’re a woman (obviously) of 25–30 years of age, freezing your eggs will spare you from undesirable thoughts and comments about biological clocks ticking away. As time goes by, the number of eggs goes down and the remaining eggs are more prone to genetic mistakes. This can be avoided through a simple procedure, and involves a gentle hormonal therapy which stimulates the ovaries. The eggs are then extracted with the help of a very thin needle and put into liquid nitrogen. The woman’s age will increase, but the egg cells will remain those of a 25-year-old. And in the meantime, the woman can pursue her career, conquer Mount Everest, travel around the world, or whatever her heart desires.

5 – Save your baby’s umbilical cord

If you are pregnant, keep the umbilical cord and blood after your baby is born. There are many reliable stem cells banks today that offer this service. Stem cells from the umbilical cord are the foundation of every life, and have huge life-saving potential. After all, this is where your baby’s life began. Capabilities and consequences of stem cell application are still being discovered and studied by scientists, and we already know of 78 diseases that can be cured with their help. In due course, this list is sure to become even longer. 

6 – Tailor your beauty care

woman receiving a personalized beauty care treatment for preventive care

Just like with medicines and supplements, cosmetics are not one size fits all either. Cosmetics should be selected specifically for your individual needs. And the sooner you start doing that, the better. For a number of years now several laboratories have been working on creating complex sets of body care products based on your genetic traits.

Collagen and elastin synthesis and the repair of skin cells are very personal processes which differ for each individual. A cream designed specifically for you will allow you to avoid allergies and rejections. However, you should not expect the effect of a surgical lift. You also shouldn’t share it with a friend. It may not work for them due to the specific design to fit your needs, and, actually, could even cause them complications.

7 – Care for your second brain – your gut 

There is a whole universe inside us. We coexist with billions of microorganisms – symbiotes. Their aggregate weight may be as much as 2-3kgs. Every member of this community has its own DNA, and a huge number of laboratories all around the world are working on decoding them – the human microbiome project.  

These creatures need the right approach and we must learn how to manage them. At the moment they are the ones who influence us directly, give us commands, and even blackmail us. For example, if our intestine hosts a large colony of yeast fungus, it will “order” the body to eat more sweets, just because they need sugar for self-replication. As a consequence, a person may become obese and diabetic just because of this. 

Our job is to know the state of our intestines and maintain the balance in our microbiome. We should have a wide variety of bacteria in there. It is also important to know your nutritional intolerances, especially gluten and lactose. Remember that many intolerances are the product of our own creation. Studies show that when we can’t stop eating our favourite food, or exclude something completely from our diet, intolerances and allergies develop. To keep experimenting with new diets and always try the latest fashionable one, is a dangerous path. Even if everyone is crazy about quinoa and claim that they feel as if they were born again, do not rush to follow suit.

Conclusion

In today’s world it is not hard to follow these seven preventive care steps. But it is important to remember that in addition, in order to maintain your beauty and youthfulness, it is still necessary to exercise, eat less, and avoid the temptation of alcohol, tobacco and other stimulants. All this together will allow you to turn back the clock and look and feel 35 at age 50.

Testosterone Explained: Functions, Symptoms & Treatments

You’re aggressive, dominating and extremely sex driven? Congratulations. Even without checking your level, I know you’re high in free testosterone. These behaviours are the most prominent effects of testosterone on your brain. But what about the other, sometimes hidden signs and symptoms that allow doctors to evaluate your level? 

Functions of testosterone

Testosterone is responsible for a number of critical functions in the male body. We all know some of them, like facial and body hair growth, sperm production and erectile function, growth of muscle mass and strength. But you may not be aware that testosterone is responsible for red blood cell production in bone marrow, it controls bone density, and you need a high level of testosterone for good fertility and excellent results in your sports training. Sometimes a sign like varicose veins will give the doctor information about insufficient levels of testosterone production, and in males, varicose veins may in some cases be reversed with local applications of the liposomal gel of transdermal testosterone

Symptoms of low testosterone

Testosterone directly impacts the health of your heart. Studies have shown that testosterone deficiency in patients with coronary artery disease is associated with heart failure and has a significant negative impact on survival.

via GIPHY

The link between low-level testosterone and metabolic syndromes is overwhelming, so don’t believe your overweight friend with gynecomastia (man boobs) when he boasts of his conquests in bed. Research shows that when men have excessive fat deposits, testosterone is converted into estradiol (female hormone) and often the first sign of the disbalance is male breasts enlargement. 

They say bald men are more sexual due to a high level of testosterone being responsible for hair loss. It’s only partially true. I suggest not to trust the words of ‘they’, but to rely on science. Androgenic alopecia (male-pattern baldness in men) begins and gradually increases with age, when there is a lack of male hormones. Premature balding is associated with increased conversion of high testosterone levels into its metabolite dihydrotestosterone (DHT). In other words, much of the testosterone is ‘wasted’, and in order to correct this conversion pattern a visit to the doctor is needed. So, sorry to say, but bald men are no more masculine than those with a full head of hair, if for you masculinity is defined in terms of response to androgenic stimulation.

Optimal male testosterone levels

Testosterone levels drop about 1% each year beginning in a man’s late 30s, and could fall by as much as 50% by age 70. A urine test for testosterone and its metabolites can determine if you have low testosterone.

Optimal male testosterone levels - Diagnost

In order to treat androgen deficiency and reach optimal total testosterone levels of 6500 to 8000 pg/ml, we have to check all hormones and proteins that are involved: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), prolactin, sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), surprisingly a number of female hormones (estradiol, estrone, progesterone), and the critical metabolite of testosterone – androstanediol glucuronide. Only analyzing the full picture of your sex hormones activity will give the possibility to restore your abilities back to their optimal levels.

Treatment for low testosterone

Thanks to modern medicine and biochemistry achievements, testosterone deficiency can be easily treated by a number of products. You can choose among: 

  • Skin patch: A patch is applied once every 24 hours, in the evening, and releases small amounts of testosterone into the skin.
  • Gels: Topical gels are spread daily onto the skin over both upper arms, shoulders, or thighs.
  • Nasal spray: Use it at about the same time each day and space your doses about 6 – 8 hours apart. 
  • Buccal tablet: Tablets are attached to your gum or inner cheek twice a day. Testosterone is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Oral pills: Tablets must be taken with meals twice or thrice daily. 
  • Pellets: These are implanted under the skin, usually around the hips or buttocks, and slowly release testosterone. They are replaced every three to six months.
  • Injections: Various formulations are injected every 7 to 14 days. Testosterone levels can rise to high levels for a few days after the injection and then slowly come down, which can cause a roller-coaster effect, where mood and energy levels spike before trailing off.

It was a long-standing belief that higher levels of testosterone and testosterone replacement therapy would increase the risk of prostate cancer, but recent studies (Harvard Medical School, Martiniclinic, Universitätsklinikum Ulm) do not support this view and the risk of the acceleration of prostate cancer growth with testosterone is only true for previously castrated man (Maimonides Medical Center).

How to improve your testosterone naturally?

How to boost testosterone levels naturally - Diagnost

You have to eat more proteins (meat, fish, eggs…) and saturated fats (like egg yolk), but be careful with overeating and check you oxidized LDL and triglycerides levels first in order to avoid cardiovascular problems. 

Go easy on sugar! The Endocrine Society reports that glucose (sugar) decreases testosterone levels in the blood by as much as 25%, as it has demonstrated in a study with patients having prediabetes syndrome/diabetes or a normal tolerance for glucose. Eating a high glycemic carb diet will lower total testosterone. Consumption of 75g of glucose reduced the testosterone level 25% for more than 2 hours. These reports were confirmed independently by other studies, with possible variation of testosterone drops between 15 and 40%. 

Two especially important nutrients for your diet are vitamin D and zinc, Both are precursors for testosterone synthesis. Zinc can be added by consuming more whole grains and shellfish, or through supplements. Based on the NIH recommendations, adult males should aim to get 11mg of zinc per day.

Get enough potassium from bananas, beets, and spinach, which aids in testosterone synthesis. Try to decrease coffee intake or replace it with decaf options. Additionally, I would cut out tobacco and alcohol

You might try changing your underwear. That is to say, if you normally wear briefs or a ‘tighty whiteys’ style, switch to looser fitting boxer shorts instead. Ideally, your testicles should hang 2cm below the body and be 2°C cooler than the core body temperature for optimal testosterone production.

Don’t forget that the total testosterone level is highest in men who sleep 7–8 hours a night, and lowest in those who get less than 5 hours.

Testosterone is far more than erectile function and sex drive. Testosterone is a pillar for your health and longevity.

The Healthy Man’s Guide To Male Sexuality

Do you know how to slowly kill a man? Deny him sex. Recent studies show that a low frequency of sexual intercourse leads to a high rate of cardiovascular disease, resulting in higher mortality rates amongst men.

Sex, making love, call it what you will. The majority of people rate physical intimacy as the most enjoyable social activity (no surprise there), yet we spend the least amount of time doing it. Many couples with relationship problems often neglect to talk about their sex lives unless specifically asked. Often people consider it okay, but when probed further, there are significant issues such as frustrations and dissatisfaction when it comes to sex, intimacy and other essential human needs. 

Not many people know this, but testosterone influences sexual desire and not only erectile function. We all have plenty of erotic fantasies when we’re young, imagining ourselves intimately engaged with the subject of our desire, but these fancies can become less and less frequent as we get older.  If you rarely or no longer have these thoughts in your head, most likely you’ve developed a deficit of one or more of the major hormones responsible – testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), oxytocin, or melanocyte-stimulating hormones (MSH). 

There are other factors accountable for men going from fantasy to sexual arousal. Studies have shown that an increase in male sexual desire is not influenced exclusively by testosterone, but possibly even more so by its direct metabolite oestradiol. In line with this, it has been demonstrated that libido decrease is associated with low levels of testosterone and testosterone derived oestradiol in the brain, and too low a level of oxytocin (which increases the pleasure derived from orgasm in men) and MSH. Recent findings from Baylor College of Medicine and Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, Texas, showed that a year of testosterone therapy significantly improved libido in 275 men (average age 72) with confirmed low testosterone. Frequency of sexual arousal increased by about 50%, and they were able to have almost twice as many erections. In contrast,  the control group (which received a placebo) did not show any improvement at all.

Not feeling amorous? 

man with erectile dysfunction lying in bed next to disappointed woman - Diagnost

Sexual insensitivity is the male’s counterpart to female frigidity and may be caused by a lack of androgen receptors on the surface of genital areas. This results from a certain degree of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and growth hormone (GH) deficiencies. So, if you or your partner feel the spice and excitement in your sex life isn’t exactly turned up to eleven, it could be time to visit a doctor who prescribes transdermal testosterone gel. Or, if you are ‘on the market’ as they say and you would like to win a girl’s heart (and body), I suggest checking and optimising your levels of testosterone, DHEA and oestradiol, because pheromones, which make you so attractive to the opposite sex, derive from these three hormones.

The impact of stress

Although often precipitated by other issues such as pressure at work, finances, and general day-to-day stress, relationship issues are usually a significant contributor to stress-related physical and mental health problems and can perpetuate and often be the root cause of male sexual dysfunction. Most people underestimate the effects of stress on their psychological and physical health and almost always downplay the impact it has in the bedroom. It is often only the experience of sexual dysfunction that leads men to seek treatment. 

People who have significant stress in their lives and who show signs of depression, anxiety, alcohol or other substance abuse, poor body fitness or a combination of all of these usually have an absent libido. Research shows that the use of serotonergic antidepressants to overcome this situation further exacerbates the condition as side effects can include low desire, difficulty in arousal, and a delayed or absent orgasm. Besides this, the excessive level of stress triggers increased cortisol, a well-known stress hormone. Prolonged raised cortisol levels suppress sex hormone production, which negatively affects all stages of the sexual response cycle, particularly libido. 

Another side effect of constant stress is the desire to consume sweets. We share the common belief that a piece of chocolate is good to reduce our tension and at the same time it’s a remedy for sexual arousal. However, be careful when using this stimulation – chocolate isn’t good for you in high quantities, and certainly not regularly, because the sugar that it contains reduces testosterone, which is responsible for libido according to latest research studies.

A-Ten-Hut!

Having good erections is critical for all men because it’s not only a source of one of the significant pleasures in life, but also brings self-confidence and gives the feeling of “being a man”.  

causes of erectile dysfunction - The Healthy Man’s Guide To Male Sexuality - Diagnost

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve and maintain an erection sufficient to permit satisfactory sexual intercourse.  Medical causes of ED include heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, neurological problems, hormonal insufficiencies (hypogonadism) and drug side effects. Psychological issues can also result in erectile dysfunction, especially feelings of inadequacy and performance anxiety. Most cases of erectile dysfunction have vascular aetiology and accompany a known cardiovascular disease (CAD). The degree of ED correlates with the severity of CAD. Also, CAD and ED share the same risks of atherosclerosis and have common endothelial pathophysiology.

Factors that can cause erectile dysfunction:

  • Ageing and associated increased Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Statin therapy
  • Testosterone and DHT deficiencies

Male sexual dysfunction treatment

  • Maintain hormonal balance – testosterone, Melanotan II, GH, DHEA, DHT, oxytocin
  • Increase in testosterone will make Viagra more effective
  • Inhibition of prolactin improves the ability to achieve an erection again after orgasm

If you are worried about erectile dysfunction, which affects half of all middle-aged and older men, you might want to try flavonoid-rich foods to lower your risk of ED. Harvard Medical School conducted a study of 50,000 middle-aged men and found that those who consumed at least three portions of flavonoid-rich foods per week were identified as having a 10% lower risk of suffering from ED.

Of the main types of flavonoids, three had the most significant benefit: anthocyanins, flavanones, and flavones. High levels of these natural plant chemicals are found in berries like blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries, as well as cherries, grapes, apples, pears, and citruses. Adding a few more portions of these fruits to your diet can also help prevent cardiovascular disease, and ED is often an early sign of poor vascular function.

Tips for a better sex life

tips for a better sex life - The Healthy Man’s Guide To Male Sexuality - Diagnost

Whether you are currently suffering from ED or hoping to prevent this condition, or you just aren’t feeling as frisky as you would like, I suggest you try several simple tips for better sex life, such as:

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish, and try to minimise consumption of red and processed meat as well as simple carbohydrates based on the Massachusetts Male Aging Study.
  • Exercise – even simple walking can positively influence your sexual performance. In one Harvard study, it was proven that spending 30 minutes walking a day is linked with a 41% drop in the risk of developing ED.
  • Size matters –  control your BMI and the size of your waistline. Losing weight can fight erectile dysfunction because obesity develops two major risk factors for ED development – vascular diseases and diabetes. Moreover, excess fat is a source of hormonal imbalance and overproduction of oestradiol in men.
  • Control your major cardiovascular indexes – oxidised LDL, triglycerides, blood pressure and insulin resistance – because the increase of these parameters leads to vascular problems and may damage the arteries of the penis as well as major heart and brain arteries.
  • Kegel exercises for strengthening the pelvic floor are seen as a female-only strategy, but a strong pelvic floor enhances rigidity during erections and helps keep blood from leaving the penis.
  • Quit smoking if you do, and limit alcohol consumption, because these lifestyle changes will lead to vascular system improvements. And as we know, vascular health has a drastic influence on having good, strong erections.
  • Check your testosterone level and if necessary see a doctor who can prescribe a treatment (see below)

Treatments that boost testosterone levels

There are several treatments available that can help you boost your testosterone levels and restore your male sexuality. However, always make sure to consult a doctor before taking any measures so that a tailor-made solution can be recommended to you based on your test results and health. Below you can find an overview of different treatments for low testosterone:

  • Skin patch: A patch is applied once every 24 hours, in the evening, and releases small amounts of the hormone into the skin.
  • Gels: Topical gels are spread daily onto the skin over both upper arms, shoulders, or thighs. 
  • Mouth tablet: Tablets are attached to your gum or inner cheek twice a day. Testosterone is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Pellets: These are implanted under the skin, usually around the hips or buttocks, and slowly release testosterone. They are replaced every three to six months.
  • Injections: Various formulations are injected every seven to 14 days. Testosterone levels can rise to high levels for a few days after the injection and then slowly come down.

How To Reduce Cortisol Naturally In 6 Steps

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is one of the body’s main stress hormones. It releases when we’re under pressure, causing our evolutionary fight or flight response to kick in.

It is produced by the adrenal gland, and its job is to ensure that your body has enough energy to cope with any danger it believes is at hand. Cortisol narrows your arteries, increases your blood pressure, and raises your blood sugar levels. Historically, it was essential for our survival in the wild, giving us the energy to run for our lives!

However, in today’s world, where perceived dangers are very rarely genuine threats to our lives, the fact that our cortisol levels can spike at the sound of a phone ring or an email notification means many of us are living in cortisol over-drive.

Don’t get me wrong – cortisol isn’t all bad in the modern world. It helps us work hard when we are excited about a project, giving us the drive to stay up late planning, writing and thinking. But like all good things in life, cortisol is good in moderation.

Common symptoms of high cortisol

common symptoms of high cortisol - how to reduce cortisol - diagnost

When you’ve had a few too many hours working overtime, a few too many cups of coffee, (a key corticosteroid) and you start to feel this bloated heaviness, low libido, and depression; when you’re really tired but can’t sleep at night – that all the cortisol effect. Other negative effects of high cortisol on our health include weight gain, blood sugar problems, a weakened immune system and an increased difficulty to concentrate.

But before you get too worried, make sure you check your cortisol levels using a tool such as Diagnost’s home testing kits! You might be totally fine. However, if you find, as many people have, that your cortisol levels are too high then don’t fear –  read on for effective ways to lower cortisol in the body.

6 Ways To Reduce Your Cortisol Levels

how to reduce cortisol levels - diagnost

The good news is that there are lots of easy and enjoyable lifestyle changes that you can make today which will help reduce your cortisol levels! If you truly want to make a lasting impact, it’s best to avoid quick fixes and trust in the power of natural remedies. Below are six key things to focus on. And I bet you’re going to find that they will make you happier and healthier overall, as well as lowering your cortisol levels. So, let’s get started!

1. Meditation

woman meditating to reduce stress

A study at Harvard University shows that meditation and mindfulness practices help reduce stress and anxiety. Meditation is a spiritual practice that dates back thousands of years. However, in today’s world, you don’t need to go to a monastery to feel its benefits in your everyday life. Apps like the wonderful Headspace and Calm offer a variety of types of meditation that you can do whilst walking, sleeping, tidying the house or dozing off. Thousands of people have discovered how meditation can reduce stress through apps like these. Don’t want to meditate alone? Collective meditation groups like Wake Up London might be holding a meditation circle in your local area!

Moreover, since one of the key benefits of cortisol is mental clarity and sharpness, meditation allows also you to reduce stress while also keeping your mind at its sharpest.

In order to start to feel the benefits of meditation, all you need to do is take three breaths, wherever you are. Focus on your in-breath and your out-breath and feel the benefits…

Done it? See – in just a few seconds you become calmer, since you’ve reduced your cortisol naturally!

2. Exercise

woman exercising, weight lifting

Another Harvard study found that “exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.” They also found that almost any type of exercise can allow you to experience these positive benefits.

However, overtraining and overexerting yourself can actually cause an increase in cortisol levels because of the strain and intensity your body is under. In a recent study, scientists found that cortisol concentrations are higher in endurance athletes than in non-endurance athletes. Another report showed that lower intensity workouts reduce cortisol so significantly that they call yoga an antidepressant!

There is absolutely time for that triathlon, but while you’re trying to reduce your cortisol levels, try gentler forms of exercise like yoga and Tai Chi that enable you to be present in your body, stretch and feel great ahead of a good night’s stress reducing sleep.

3. Sleep

young woman sleeping peacefully

Ahhh, sleep. One of the great joys of life. Cortisol is important for this wonderful bodily function too!

Cortisol levels naturally drop after sunset, helping give your body the signal that it is time to rest. The levels of cortisol remain very low throughout the night, then in the morning, they begin to rise again, helping you have the energy to wake up and face the day. However, when your cortisol levels have been too high in the day this natural system gets thrown out of balance. When this is the case, cortisol levels do not properly drop during the night. This means you might struggle to get to sleep and feel rested the next day.

Sleep is one of the most powerful, yet delicate, bodily systems we have. In his new book ‘Why We Sleep’ neuroscientist and psychologist Matthew Walker writes that it can take our bodies up to two weeks to get over a sleepless night. He recommends that sleep should be prescribed like medicine. Certainly, if your ailment is caused by surges in cortisol, sleep might be the very best prescription a doctor could give!

4. Watch out for sugar and caffeine

man drinking coffee - how to reduce cortisol - diagnost

Sugar and coffee, like cortisol itself, cause spikes in your energy levels that you pay for later. The problem is that when people are suffering from high levels of stress and struggling to sleep (see above)  they often turn to sugar and caffeine to give them the energy they need to cope with the demands their busy day. Unfortunately, this locks people in a vicious cycle. If any of this sounds familiar to you, it’s probably time to take a break and recharge. Find a time when you can carve out at least three days where your only plan is to rest and reboot.

Switching coffee for tea and sugar for honey will go a long way in helping reduce your cortisol levels. Better still – next time you go for coffee break why not try a turmeric latte. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory herb that can help reduce cortisol levels – and they’re delicious too!

5. Maintain Healthy Relationships

maintain healthy relationships and friendships - how to reduce cortisol - diagnost

Healthy relationships with family and friends have been shown to have significant effects on cortisol levels. Your beloveds are there to support you and remind you that you don’t need to take on life’s stresses alone.

In a series of studies, scientists showed how different types of relationships affect cortisol levels. One set of findings showed that children with a stable and warm family life have lower cortisol levels than children from homes with high levels of conflict. Another study found that romantic partners that leveraged mindfulness and nonjudgmental-awareness practices during a conflict saw quicker returns of cortisol to healthy levels after an argument. A third study showed that affectionate interactions with a partner before a high-pressure event can significantly reduce cortisol as well as slowing heart rate and easing blood pressure.

Spending time with loved ones, aside from being one of the most important things in life, will also ease your cortisol levels, allowing you to feel stress-free and relaxed.

6. Natural Healing

young woman lying on the grass - how to reduce cortisol - diagnost

Natural therapies like acupuncture and massage can also go a long way to relax the body and mind. Acupuncture uses needles to release pressure points in the body, allowing for the easing of bodily and muscular tension, and promoting overall health and wellbeing.

Supplements like Ashwagandha, Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), Rhodiola Rosea and reishi mushroom all help reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar and pressure. They have been used for their antidepressant effects too.

Aromatherapy is another powerful method that is easy to do at home. Why not get a diffuser and buy some relaxing essential oils like lavender, frankincense and myrrh? Treat yourself like a newborn king!

Time spent walking in nature also deliver you to a sanctuary of calm. Indeed, studies have connected lying down on the natural ground to reduced cortisol levels. On your rest days, why not make some time to lie down on the natural earth and meditate? If you are lucky enough to live near a body of natural water, submerging yourself below ground level can leave you feeling both grounded and refreshed.

Conclusion

The wonderful thing about embarking on the journey of lowering your cortisol is that the result is a more relaxed mood and an improved sense of wellbeing. That means if your quest for lower cortisol ever feels stressful, you aren’t doing it right! The main thing you should take from this article is the importance of self-care. Looking after yourself, and keeping an eye on what is going on inside your body using Diagnost’s home testing kits will keep any negative symptoms at bay. As they say, “prevention is the best cure”.

In the modern world, stressors are constant. Our evolutionary response systems, rooted in fight or flight, make us feel like things are a matter of life or death. But we’re not at risk – it’s just another day. Therefore, the true challenge of modern life isn’t discovering how to motivate yourself or fire up your energies, it’s learning how to really relax.

It’s time to start focusing on what really counts: mediation, sleep, our loved ones, and our health.

Happy cortisol lowering!

Why Can’t I Lose Weight: The Honest Truth Revealed

You eat exceptionally healthy food and every day you play sports, but the numbers on the scale still won’t change? As your frustration grows and you start to get desperate, you ask yourself hopelessly: “Why can’t I lose weight?”. Fortunately, not everything is as bad as it may seem at first glance. Here are six simple things that could be standing between you and your ideal weight, and a solution for each.

Why can’t I lose weight? 6 common reasons that might be at fault

1. Food just disappears from the table by itself

Like 99% of people, you do not notice that you eat much more than you need to. Guess what, not only French fries and ice cream are loaded with calories! Many healthy foods contain a huge amount of calories too. All kinds of nuts, olive oil and avocados, which we all love so much, are champions in calories. For example, one cup of almonds contains about 750 calories. Nuts are ideal for quick energy recharging, but if you eat them constantly you’ll put on the pounds.

Try to keep a food diary where you record everything that you eat, at least for a few months. There are numerous mobile apps that can help you with this. Smart ones will remember your data and calculate the ideal daily portions for your favourite foods. In one American study, people who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as those who relied purely on their intuition.

2. You don’t get enough sleep

tired and not getting enough sleep - why cant i lose weight - diagnost

Regular lack of sleep reduces your chances to lose weight. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, when you don’t fall asleep on time you inevitably start seeking comfort from the refrigerator. A medical study conducted at the University of Chicago showed that lack of sleep changes the hormonal balance of the body. It triggers a sharp rise in two hormones: cortisol, responsible for carbohydrate metabolism, and ghrelin, which sends a signal to the brain that the body needs food. In the study one group of people were given only four hours of sleep a night for two nights (compared to 8 or 12 hours per night). The participants’ appetites grew by 24% and they were drawn to sweets, cookies, chips, bread and pasta. Also, the peptide hormone leptin, which is responsible for the body’s energy metabolism and for inhibiting appetite, decreased by 18%, and the level of ghrelin which tells the body to feed itself increased by 28%.

Secondly, a sleepy body stops working at full capacity and slides into power saving mode. Instead of burning calories, it saves them. For example, in another American study it was found that a single episode of lack of sleep in a healthy man reduces the total energy expenditure by 5%. Additionally, it showed postprandial metabolic rate decreased by 20% compared to the control group, meaning that the number of calories the body spends on digesting every meal is also diminished. Unfortunately, there are no invisible deposits of clean energy. It gets stored in nasty fat folds.

Develop a good habit of a full 8 hours of sleep each night. Do not linger before bedtime at the computer or with your mobile, and go to bed every night at the same time. If you find it difficult to cope with insomnia consult your doctor.

3. Your favourite diet suddenly stopped working

You continue to follow an effective diet, which recently made you slim and vigorous, but for some reason, it doesn’t seem to work anymore. This is a sure sign that you have reached an equilibrium in your diet, the so-called “plateau”. The decrease of calories, which allowed you to lose weight up to this point, reached a zero balance and became a calorie supporting level. Your new, thinner body now needs fewer calories for energy. Therefore to continue to lose weight, you need to eat even less.

If you have reached an equilibrium in your diet and your weight does not change for two months, and you would like to lose some more weight, try reducing your daily rate of calorie intake by at least one hundred calories. Watch the dynamics of your weight for two weeks and then, if necessary, lower the rate by another 100 calories. But don’t get carried away. The average daily intake should not be less than 1200 calories for women, or 1700 calories for men. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, your age and level of activity can also be a factor. Listen carefully to your body signals however. You should never feel constant hunger or fatigue.

4. You are under constant stress

constant stress - why cant i lose weight - diagnost

Under significant stress, a person can turn into a glutton, eating anything and everything in sight. Any prolonged stress at work or in private life increases your cortisol, which means your appetite is out of control and your weight is growing. At such moments, you are especially attracted to high-carbohydrate foods and all sorts of junk food.

Also, to calm down in a difficult situation, we often try to comfort ourselves with something sweet and… harmful. Foods rich in sugars and starch quickly raise blood sugar levels, and as a result, there is a sharp release of serotonin and our mood instantly improves. Unfortunately, this is a very short-term effect, and soon you will want to be consoled with sweets again. So you find yourself in a vicious cycle of stress and bad eating habits.

Here is how biochemistry works: cortisol stimulates insulin production and calories begin to accumulate as internal fat. This fat is deposited in the abdominal cavity and envelops various vital organs. The accumulation of internal fat causes insulin resistance, which is very dangerous. With a predisposition, diabetes can develop quite quickly.

Often it is very difficult to overcome constant stress on your own, and you may need to seek medical help or see a psychotherapist. Many people underestimate the severity of mental health problems and feeling unwell, but this frivolous attitude can lead to serious depression or obesity if the problems are left to brew.

5. You use artificial sweeteners

Sugar substitutes in coffee, soda, or even low-fat yoghurt will do you a disservice. Using them, you will quickly reduce the number of calories and sugar in your diet, but in the long run, it is a ticking time bomb. You lose weight but undermine your health. According to a study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, daily consumption of “diet” soda for ten years leads to a 5 fold increase in body fat in the abdominal area. Would you agree to participate in such an experiment?

Additionally, physicians from the Harvard Institute of Health point out that the brain cannot recognize an artificial sugar substitute and you end up eating a lot more sweets and flour. Artificial sweeteners are also known to disrupt the bowels.

Similar studies conducted in 2014 by immunologists from the Israeli Weizmann Institute proved that the use of artificial sugar substitutes leads to malfunction of the intestine and impaired glucose tolerance, therefore contributing to the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

To avoid these consequences, doctors recommend eliminating artificial sugar substitutes and sticking to natural sweeteners such as honey or other natural sources of sugar. And remember, everything in moderation.

6. You may have a disease that prevents you from losing weight

blood test - disease preventing weight loss - why cant i lose weight - diagnost

In some cases, a health condition may not allow you to lose weight. For example Cushing disease, which is associated with elevated levels of cortisol, or polycystic ovary syndrome and glucose metabolism disorders.Hypothyroidism – a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones – may also lead to problems with excess weight. According to Clinical Practice Guidelines developed by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists together with American Thyroid Association, in the United States up to 60% of people with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition, are not diagnosed and remain untreated.

Conclusion

This knowledge should help you to manage your weight. Now it’s up to you. If you watch your daily calorie intake and exercise between two and five hours a week, but a weight problem continues to bother you, consult your doctor. A competent specialist and the administration of several tests, including hormonal ones, will establish the real reason you’re not losing weight, and help you to resolve it.

Why Progesterone Is The Unsung Hero Of Women’s Health, And How To Boost It

Anyone who has a menstrual cycle, or knows anyone with one, knows that hormones are powerful things.

Those wanting to harness the full power of hormones to improve health and wellbeing have to ask two key questions: 1. How do I assess my current hormonal landscape and detect imbalances? 2. How do I rebalance the hormones in my system?

If you’ve wondered this (mystified, while in the throws of PMS) — fear no more! We’re bringing you this guide to boosting low progesterone levels for hormonal balance.

Hormones are invisible, but symptoms of imbalance are not

When a cold makes you weak, tired and hungry, you know it’s a cold. Why? The stream of gooey white stuff coming out your nose. You can see your illness and correctly identify its cause. When hormonal imbalances are throwing you off, it can be harder to work out what’s going on.

Well, that’s all about to change.

Diagnost’s home testing kits give you a full map of your internal hormonal and metabolic landscapes. We offer easy self-tests that you can administer yourself at home. Then, we send your tests to the lab and deliver your results to you via our app. Within a few days, you can access comprehensive information on your internal hormonal landscape.

When it comes to women’s health, we have noticed time and time again that low progesterone levels are one of the most under-acknowledged hormone imbalances that contribute to common health conditions. In this article, you’ll learn about what progesterone is, the benefits of boosting it, and how to do so – entirely naturally!

So what’s this progesterone thing anyway?

We’ve all heard about testosterone. It has long barged its way into hormonal discourse, leaving its over-qualified, under-paid female counterpart, progesterone, in the shadows. So what is progesterone?

Progesterone is the female sex hormone. It’s also a steroid, helping stimulate muscle growth in the lining of the uterus. Progesterone maintains this uterine lining for the 14 days post-ovulation, keeping your body ready for the possibility of conception and pregnancy. Once the egg isn’t fertilised, progesterone levels drop. This decrease in progesterone levels leads to all those unbearable symptoms of PMS.

progesterone levels during the menstrual cycle - How To Boost Low Progesterone Naturally - Diagnost
Progesterone levels vary depending on the stage of the menstrual cycle

In addition to playing a key role in regulating the monthly cycle, progesterone is also responsible for the best-feeling weeks of our cycle. It makes you feel more attractive and confident when you’re at your most fertile. In other words, progesterone is so powerful, it can make you feel friggin’ fantastic!

via GIPHY

But that’s not all – progesterone balances out the negative effects of estrogen too. While estrogen plays an important part in our monthly cycles, the symptoms of estrogen dominance are less than desirable. So what does estrogen dominance look like?

Common symptoms of low progesterone and estrogen dominance include:

common symptoms of low progesterone and estrogen dominance - How To Boost Low Progesterone Naturally - Diagnost

As the graphic above shows, the range of symptoms of progesterone deficiency and estrogen dominance is quite broad. Besides decreasing well-being by triggering headaches, bloating, hot flashes or breast pain and tenderness, it can also disrupt menstruation cycles, causing irregular or shortened periods and increased PMS. Weight gain and decreased sex drive are two additional symptoms that significantly influence the every-day life. Finally, this hormone imbalance can even have a major impact on our mental health, causing mood swings and depression, as well as affect our energy levels, leading to fatigue, difficulty to concentrate and even insomnia.

Luckily we can reduce these symptoms by boosting progesterone, to help your body get back to its natural, healthy balance. Let’s take a deep dive into the best practises for increasing your progesterone levels, naturally!

The dos and don’ts of boosting low progesterone naturally

You can boost your progesterone levels naturally by focusing on adding certain vitamins and minerals into your diet. These will create the optimal conditions for progesterone to flow forth, naturally.

Do:

happy woman celebrating - things to do to boost your progesterone - Diagnost

Magnesium

This is a fun one to work on because magnesium is in some of the best foods: dark chocolate, nuts, avocados. Try this vegan avocado chocolate cake and sprinkle some nuts on top for extra crunch. Almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews are particularly good sources of magnesium at around 82mg per ounce – so focus on these as you make the progesterone cake of your dreams. It’s also found in beans and legumes so why not make a whole vegan dinner party out of your progesterone-boosting project? You’ll make your friends feel amazing too with some of these great recipes.

Happily, magnesium supplements are some of the best you can buy. Magnesium helps relax your muscles and alleviate anxiety. Studies have shown that magnesium helps improve sleep. And why not combine this with an evening bath in Epsom Salts and Magnesium Flakes for a relaxing wind-down into progesta-joy?

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that makes you feel sparky and amazing. Research carried out by the World Health Organization has shown that nearly 75% of Americans suffer from a zinc deficiency. It’s time to fix that!

Zinc helps your pituitary gland regulate hormones. At the right time of the month, it helps the gland produce FSH hormones which tell your ovaries to produce progesterone. Aside from these hormonal benefits, Zinc also helps boost your immune system and promote overall wellbeing. Foods that are rich in Zinc include meat, shellfish, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate and whole grains.

Vitamin B6 and B12

Vitamins B6 and B12 also play key roles in keeping the hormones in your body at an optimal level. One research study showed that increasing B6 vitamin consumption to 200-800 mg each day can raise progesterone levels and reduce estrogen enough to improve symptoms of PMS. Other research shows the potential to increase fertility by up to 120% and reduce miscarriage rates by around 50%.

B6 has gained infamy as the essential vitamin that you can’t get on a vegan diet. For this reason, supplements abound. Whilst it’s easy to find plant-based B6 supplements, a serving of sweet potatoes or carrots can also provide up to 16% of the recommended daily intake. Alternatively, a serving of salmon or lean meat can provide almost 100% of all the B12 you need. That means whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian, there are endless ways to get that all-important B6 in your system!

Don’t:

woman screaming - things to avoid when trying to boost your progesterone - Diagnost

Stress

This won’t be the first time you’ve heard that when it comes to living healthily, stress won’t help. But it’s worth saying again. When things in your life trigger your adrenal glands to produce cortisol and adrenaline, just say no! Stress hormones actually use up progesterone that your body needs, so trying to keep calm in stressful situations will bring you positive returns – and your progesterone reserves will thank you.

Drink too much alcohol

Alcohol, in addition to everything else, changes the way your body produces estrogen and can raise your levels of estrogen and lower your progesterone levels. A study published in the 2000 edition of Alcohol and Alcoholism found that women who drank moderately had much lower levels of progesterone than non-drinkers. Too much alcohol can also keep you from absorbing that sparky Zinc we spoke about above. Instead of winding down with a glass of wine at the end of the day, why not try a Magnesium Bath with lavender essential oils or a Yin Yoga class.

Consume processed foods

Sadly, these days, processed foods are hard to avoid. Despite that, it’s important to know that many of them are packed with harmful byproducts such as xenoestrogens which contribute to estrogen dominance.

Most mass-farmed meat is pumped with synthetic hormones that are harmful to consume. Check that any meat you buy is labelled as “hormone-free.” Soy milk and tofu are other ones to avoid in excess. The ways in which soy has been genetically modified and processed on its way to becoming milk often lead to products becoming overloaded with estrogen. This means processed foods can disrupt your body’s natural hormonal balance and lower levels of progesterone in your body – so take care when the fast food cravings hit.

Conclusion

We should all be focusing more on fighting progesterone deficiency. Indeed, progesterone might be the missing link in your health questions. It’s hard to tell when hormones are behind our symptoms but, with Diagnost’s home testing kits, you can finally get to know your hormonal landscape and start to take steps to regulate it by encouraging the production of progesterone if your levels are too low.

Our old friend progesterone only wants the best for us, and many of the most impactful things we can do to encourage higher levels of this fabulous hormone simply involve good self-care:  not stressing and making sure we’re getting key vitamins and minerals from healthy foods. Health radiates from the inside, out – so good luck!

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