Androgen & Antiandrogen: Read This For A Healthy Hormone Balance
Androgen is a hormone that is produced by both males and females. However, when levels of this important hormone are lower or higher than normal, dysfunction can occur.
Even in the absence of hormonal imbalance, certain conditions necessitate the reduction of androgen. In these instances, anti-androgen drugs, supplements, and compounds may be helpful.
Understanding Androgens And Antiandrogens In The Male Body
Androgens belong to a group of hormones known as sex hormones. Hormones function as chemical messengers in the human body, relaying signals between individual cells and organ systems. In the absence of adequate hormones, the human body would undergo the normal, healthy processes of cellular growth, repair, and reproduction.
Sex hormones are hormones that function in the sense of sexual reproduction. However, their roles are not limited to the sexual reproduction, and dysfunction in sex hormones can be far-reaching.
In addition to aiding in processes of sexual reproduction, sex hormones (such as androgens) are responsible for gender characteristics. In men, androgens give men their set of male characteristics, including (but not limited to) body hair, a deeper voice, and body composition.
Why are androgen levels so important for a healthy life?
Androgens Are Hormones That Are Related To Male Characteristics
Both men and women produce androgen. However, males produce more androgen than females. As such, androgens are often referred to as male hormones.
Testosterone is the major sex hormone in men, which is produced largely in the testes. The hormonal function is controlled by the pituitary gland in the brain, located in the region of the hypothalamus.
While most men do not suffer from a hormonal imbalance, some men produce too much or too little androgen. The state of having low amounts of androgen is often referred to as low testosterone or low T.
Antiandrogens Are Drugs, Supplements, Or Therapies That Block Androgen Synthesis And Build Up
While the subject of low testosterone tends to be more popular than the reduction of testosterone, there are occasional instances in which the amount of androgen produce in a person’s body must be reduced.
In these instances, anti-androgen medications are used to reduce the number of male hormones produced in the body, or otherwise reduce the amount of male hormone that reaches the receptor site of a cell.
Why Do Men Use Antiandrogen Therapy?
Anti-androgen therapies are approved and used regularly for a number of diseases and conditions characterized by abnormally high levels of androgen, or in conditions where the reduction of androgen may benefit long-term health outcomes and/or survival rates.
Antiandrogen drugs work by binding to androgen receptors on the cell, preventing androgens from working in the cell the way they typically would in the absence of the anti-androgen drug.
In the absence of anti-androgen drugs, androgen binds to the androgen receptor of a cell, where it delivers the chemical message that anti-androgen drugs are meant to inhabit. Treatment with an anti-androgen drug prevents androgen from delivering the chemical message.
Anti-androgen drugs mainly work to prevent androgen from working on tissues in the testes, hypothalamus, prostate, hair follicles, and pituitary gland.
Although anti-androgen drugs are used to treat a variety of conditions in patients, including acne, prostate cancer, male pattern hair loss, and occasionally enlarged prostate.
Men Often Use Antiandrogens To Treat An Enlarged Prostate
Also called benign prostatic hypertrophy (or BPH), an enlarged prostate affects a large number of men as they grow older.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located under the bladder. The prostate gland is responsible for the production of semen. As men age, the size of the prostate gland tends to increase.
If the prostate gland becomes too large, it can cause bothersome symptoms, including (but not limited to) the frequent need to urinate (especially at night), urinary urgency, an irregular urine stream (characterized by a slow, weak, or “stuttering” urine stream), the urge to urinate even after having urinated recently, and small amounts of blood in urine.
If an enlarged prostate is left untreated, it can cause serious health problems, including frequent urinary tract infections and damage to the liver and kidneys.
Although there are a number of treatments available to men with BPH, anti-androgen medications and hormone therapy are occasionally prescribed in an effort to control the condition.
These are also used to manage testosterone levels.
Many Men With Prostate Cancer Take Antiandrogens
Antiandrogen drugs are commonly used in the treatment of prostate cancer. Anti-androgens function by reducing the ability of testosterone to affect the cellular site, thereby limiting the ability of cancer cells to grow or multiply. However, anti-androgen drugs are typically used in conjunction with other treatments and medications in cancer treatment.
Antiandrogens Can Be Used In Small Doses To Treat Hair Loss
In limited doses, anti-androgen drugs are occasionally used to treat male pattern hair loss. Antiandrogen drugs are also used to control body hair in women with hirsutism. Most men will encounter hair loss at some point in their lives as a component of the aging process. While many medications and treatments are available to control hair loss, anti-androgen drugs therapy may be an effective means to lower a hormone known as dihydrotestosterone, high levels of which are associated with increased hair loss.
Antiandrogens Can Also Treat Sexual Problems Like Long Lasting Erections
Antiandrogen drugs often cause the reduced inability to get or maintain an erection. For men with rare sexual dysfunctions that cause longer than normal erections, anti-androgen drugs may theoretically control or manage their condition. However, it’s important to consult a doctor to determine the best course of action for any individual case, as the causes of sexual dysfunction are wide-ranging and treatment depends on the underlying cause of dysfunction.
Bottom line: Patients might have to go for hormonal therapy if levels drop too low.
What Are The Main Antiandrogen Drugs Out There?
There are various drugs that function as antiandrogens that are used in the treatment of hormonal disorders, acne, prostate cancer, and prostate conditions. However, the type of antiandrogen drug used in the treatment of anyone health condition may vary depending upon the condition and the individual needs and physiology of the patient.
Flutamide is a Medication Commonly Used To Treat Prostate Cancer
Flutamide is an antiandrogenic drug used in the treatment of prostate cancer, typically in conjunction with other medications and occasionally- radiation treatments. Flutamide works by blocking the effects of testosterone at the cellular site, reducing or halting the spread and growth of cancer cells.
Cyproterone Was One Of The First Antiandrogens Developed
Cyproterone is an antiandrogen that is used in various parts of the world in the treatment of prostate cancer. However, cyproterone is not currently used in the United States, as it is associated with liver injury.
Bicalutamide is a Common Antiandrogen That’s Used To Treat Prostate Cancer
Bicalutamide is an oral antiandrogen that is regularly used alongside other medications in the treatment of prostate cancer. Like other anti-androgen medications, bicalutamide works by blocking the effects of androgen. In the context of prostate cancer, anti-androgen medications can help stop or diminish the spread and growth of cancer cells.
While there are potential side effects with the use of bicalutamide, this medication is almost always prescribed for the treatment of serious health conditions, such as prostate cancer. As such, a prescribing physician has deemed that the benefits of bicalutamide treatment outweigh the potential side effects.
Side effects of bicalutamide may include (but are not limited to) gynecomastia, blood sugar abnormalities, liver dysfunction, drowsiness, bloating, body aches, weight gain or weight loss, dizziness, and nervousness or anxiety.
There Are Other Over The Counter Anti-Androgen Pills And Antiandrogen Herbs
While prescription anti-androgen drugs are the most commonly used antiandrogens for the treatment of various, serious health conditions, there are other herbs and supplements that may elicit anti-androgen effects.
However, it’s important to note that supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), leaving them prone to issues of potency and undeclared ingredients.
Licorice Root May Have Antiandrogen Properties
Licorice root may elicit anti-androgen properties thanks to its function as a phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are natural compounds found in plants that mimic estrogen. However, phytoestrogens are not as potent as the form of estrogen in the body.
A number of studies have shown that licorice root may reduce testosterone, albeit to a small degree. Other studies have shown a more moderate reduction in serum testosterone.
Red Clover Has Been Shown To Reduce Nighttime Urination Associated With An Enlarged Prostate
Red clover is an herbal supplement that is occasionally used in the context of cancer prevention therapy and the management of enlarged prostate (BPH).
Red clover elicits estrogenic effects thanks to its classification as a phytoestrogen. While supplementation with red clover has shown to be moderately effective for the reduction of the frequent nighttime urination that serves as a trademark of BPH, supplementation has not been shown to reduce prostate size.
Reishi Mushroom Supplements May Help Reduce Testosterone
A very small number of studies have suggested that reishi mushrooms may reduce testosterone. However, follow up studies have not yielded similar results, leaving the effect of reishi mushrooms debated. Studies on reishi supplementation in the context of prostate cancer are ongoing.
Peppermint Tea Has Been Found To Limit Testosterone
In rat models, peppermint tea extracts have been shown to reduce testosterone in testicular tissue. However, given the scarce amount of scientific literature devoted to this topic, evidence for its effect and replicability in human models is insufficient. In female subjects, peppermint supplementation and/or consumption has been shown to moderately reduce free testosterone.
Progesterone is a Supplement To A Compound Found Naturally In The Body
Progesterone medications and supplements are synthetic forms of the hormone progesterone that is naturally found in the human body. Progesterone inhibits the effect of androgens, working in an antiandrogenic context. Progesterone in the form of oral contraceptives is often used for the management of acne in women.
Other progesterone medications and supplements are used in the treatment of prostate conditions.
How To Introduce Antiandrogen Foods Into Your Diet
Before undergoing any dietary modifications, always speak with your individual physician or dietitian, especially if you are undergoing treatment for a health condition, or if you are taking medications or dietary supplements.
Foods, drugs, and supplements can and do interact with each other and may cause serious side effects by diminishing or enhancing the absorption or utilization of medications or natural chemical compounds.
Tofu is a Well-Known Food With Phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic estrogen in the body, albeit not to the same level of potency as actual estrogen. Anecdotally, consuming too much soy food reduces testosterone.
However, this has been largely debated in the scientific literature, with many health organizations maintaining that regular soy consumption does not reduce testosterone to any large degree.
Currently, many large health organizations assert that regular soy consumption is not largely helpful in the prevention of prostate cancer, as per current research. Many studies have shown little to no association between phytoestrogen consumption and risk of prostate cancer, while others have suggested an association. For those studies that have shown an association between phytoestrogen consumption and a reduced risk of prostate cancer, the underlying mechanisms and strength of the association have not yet been determined.
Regularly consuming tofu and other soy foods with phytoestrogens may be helpful in other contexts, however, as soy foods tend to be relatively low in Calories, high in protein, and low in saturated fat and trans fat. For this reason, including more of them in your diet may be helpful in the context of long-term health.
Spearmint And Peppermint May Help Reduce Testosterone
A number of small studies have suggested that various forms of mint (including spearmint and peppermint) may reduce free testosterone. However, these studies focused primarily on female subjects, and the effects may not be replicable in males. Rat models have also shown potential reductions in free testosterone with mint supplementation or consumption but these results may not translate to human models.
Flax Seeds Have Been Found To Be Estrogenic
Flax seeds contain phytoestrogens, which may have anti-androgen effects when consumed in large number. However, the amount of flaxseed that would need to be consumed to have any effect may be beyond that that is reasonable. However, given the healthy fats found in flax seeds, regular consumption may be beneficial to overall health.
Anti Androgens: Where To Go From Here.
Anti-androgens are drugs, supplements, and natural chemicals found in foods that either reduce the number of male hormones in the human body or reduce the ability to male hormones to work at a cellular receptor site.
While anti-androgen drugs have shown to be of great use in the treatment of various health conditions (including prostate cancer and enlarged prostate), continuing research is needed to determine whether anti-androgen drugs and supplements hold merit in the treatment of other health conditions.