When the topic of menopause comes up, one normally thinks of a woman experiencing hot flashes, low libido, insomnia, and weight gain. But women may not be the only ones who suffer the effects of changing hormones. Many doctors are noticing that their male patients are reporting some of the same symptoms that women experience through peri-menopause and menopause.
Hormone changes are a natural part of aging. Unlike the dramatic hormone plunge that occurs in women during menopause, hormone changes in men occur more gradually over time. The term “male menopause” also known as Andropause, is often used to describe decreasing testosterone levels related to aging. In general, testosterone levels gradually decline throughout adulthood – about 1% a year after age 30 on average. By about age 70, the decrease in a man’s testosterone level can be as much as 50 percent. What appears to drop the most dramatically is the free testosterone. Free testosterone is not bound to hormone binding globulin, which makes it the active form.
As a result of Andropause, men will produce less testosterone but MORE estrogen. So ladies, if you are wondering where all your estrogen has gone during menopause…you’ve got it, it’s the men who have it!
This excess estrogen may also be due in part to the environment, which is full of estrogen mimicking substances called xenoestrogens, which confuse our own endocrine system. These xenoestrogens come from pesticides, plastics, personal hygiene products, and household detergents only to name a few.
Increased body fat can also lead to more estrogen production as testosterone is actually converted into estrogen through an enzyme called aromatase. Much research is now finding that excess estrogen in men can contribute to BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy) and initiate prostate cancer development.
And let’s not forget about the adrenal glands! Our adrenal glands are our main stress responders in the body and also serve as a back up to hormone production when testosterone levels are on the decline. Therefore, having healthy adrenal gland function during and before these hormonal changes is extremely important as well.
Testosterone can also be converted into a more dangerous and potent form of testosterone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone). High DHT levels can increase prostate growth and has been linked to male pattern baldness. Maintaining healthy testosterone levels and reducing the conversion of testosterone to both DHT and estrogen as well as supporting healthy adrenal function is essential during Andropause.
Some natural strategies to help men through the transition of Andropause are listed below:
Tongkat Ali, also known as Malaysian ginseng, has well documented aphrodisiac and testosterone enhancing effects. Animal studies have shown that supplementation with Tongkat ali enhanced sexual desire and increased testosterone levels. Studies in humans have supported these findings. In one study, supplementation with 200mg per day of Tongkat ali significantly increased testosterone levels and improved various symptoms of male ageing including libido, sexual performance and general fatigue. It has also shown potential for improving male fertility.
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a major role in prostate and sexual health and is an important modulator of testosterone levels. Moderate deficiencies in zinc have been associated with low testosterone levels. Zinc also helps to prevent the conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is the fat-soluble extract of the fruit of the saw palmetto tree and has been shown to significantly diminish the signs and symptoms of BPH by blocking the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into DHT (the stronger and more potent form of testosterone).
Adrenal supportive nutrients such as B vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, Siberian ginsengand Ashwagandha are essential for maintaining healthy adrenal function during andropause and fluctuating hormone levels.
Chrysin helps to increase natural testosterone levels by blocking its conversion into estrogen and therefore leading to the production of more testosterone in the body.
Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), Calcium-d-glucarate and Sulforaphane all contain specific nutrients that help reduce the conversion of testosterone to estrogen and therefore reduce estrogen dominance in men and women.
African plum extract (Pygeum africanum) is an evergreen tree native to Africa. Its bark has historically been used in the treatment of urinary tract disorders and therefore is useful in symptoms of BPH. Pygeum also helps block the enzyme responsible for producing more of the potent form of testosterone DHT.
Maca root is found growing in the Andean highlander zones of Peru at altitudes of 14,000 ft. It functions as an adaptogen, helping the body withstand stress by supporting healthy adrenal gland function. It also helps to boost libido and has hormone-balancing properties.
Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
- Ensure a diet rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids from purified fish and low in saturated animal fat
- Increase cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts etc) and high fiber foods to insure proper elimination and promote bowel health
- Reduce or eliminate simple carbohydrates and refined sugar
- Lower alcohol consumption as it is most definitely associated with BPH. High alcohol consumption is also hard on our detoxification organs such as the liver and kidneys and this may inhibit the elimination of excess estrogen affecting healthy hormone balance.
- Maintain a healthy exercise program of both weight bearing and aerobic activity.
- Adequate sleep and stress management are both key in supporting healthy testosterone levels and optimal energy!
Remember that men all experience the transition into Andropause differently and what may work for one may not for another. Please consult your health care professional for supplements that cater to your individual health concerns.
Dr. Marita Schauch, Bsc, ND
Tall Tree Integrated Health Centre
5325 Cordova Bay Rd.
Victoria, BC V8Y 2L3