Do men experience a similar physiological stage to what women experience during menopause? Referred to as "andropause," "male menopause," "man-opause," and more recently, "Low T," this transitional phase shares certain characteristics with menopause. But while all women go through menopause, not all men experience andropause.
What Is Andropause?
Andropause is a slow, steady reduction in the male hormones testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone. Testosterone naturally decreases as men age, but in andropause (medically defined as "hypogonadism"), levels of the hormone drop below the normal range for a given age, typically in middle-aged men.
Symptoms of Low T
Do low levels of testosterone produce symptoms in middle-aged men? Absolutely. In fact, the classic symptoms were first recognized more than 70 years ago when two American physicians, Carl Heller, MD, and Gordon Myers, MD, showed the effectiveness of testosterone treatment for symptoms of fatigue, depression, irritability, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, night sweats, and hot flashes in men.
Over the years, subsequent studies have found that some-but not all-men with low, age-adjusted testosterone levels exhibit symptoms consistent with andropause. All experience improvement with testosterone therapy.
Why Do Hormones Drop?
There are a number of factors that can lead to low testosterone:
- Obesity, diabetes, and insulin resistance. The level of total and free testosterone is reduced in obese men in proportion to the level of obesity. Weight loss alone has been shown to increase testosterone levels by 50 percent.
- Chronic inflammation. Insulin resistance is the key factor in causing silent inflammation and elevated levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), a marker of inflammation that can be measured by a blood test.
- Increased exposure to xenoestrogens. Certain compounds found in food and the environment can amplify the effects of estrogen in men, thereby reducing testosterone production. These "xenoestrogens" include pesticides, phthalates from plastics, tobacco smoke byproducts, heavy metals, and solvents.
- Lack of physical activity. Engaging in regular bouts of short, intense exercise, especially weight lifting, is one of the quickest ways to boost testosterone.
- Stress. It has a negative effect on testosterone levels by increasing the release of the adrenal hormone cortisol.
Supplements for Low T
There are several nutrients that may be helpful, particularly the following:
- Zinc is involved in virtually every aspect of male reproduction, including testosterone metabolism. Several studies support the use of zinc for treating low sperm counts, especially when accompanied by low testosterone levels. In these studies, zinc has shown an ability to raise both sperm counts and testosterone levels. Many men may be suffering from low testosterone simply because of a zinc deficiency. Taking 30-45 mg of zinc per day is recommended; balance with 2-3 mg of copper for best results.
- Fenugreek is an herb that has been shown to aid in sexual stimulation. A proprietary fenugreek extract, Testofen, has shown promising results in boosting libido and testosterone levels in human studies. Use 600 mg daily.
- Tribulus is an herb that has been used traditionally in ayurvedic medicine as an aphrodisiac. Now, some clinical evidence shows that tribulus is also effective in raising testosterone levels in men with low testosterone. Use 100-250 mg per day.
- Royal jelly is a natural source of chrysin, a flavonoid that has been shown to inhibit the aromatase enzyme, which converts testosterone to estrogen. There is no scientific research on royal jelly for low testosterone, but anecdotal use has shown positive results. Try 50-100 mg per day.
Himalaya Herbal HealthcareGokshura is a certified organic, gluten-free tribulus supplement. You only need 1 caplet daily.
Nature's AnswerFenugreekhas been micronized for faster absorption. Each vegetarian capsule has 600 mg of the herb.
SolgarRoyal Jelly "500" softgels can be taken one to two times daily, preferably with meals. They are free of gluten and dairy.
What works for ED
Nearly 1 out of every 4 men over age 50 experience the pain of losing the ability to perform sexually as a result of erectile dysfunction (ED). Common causes of ED are atherosclerosis, diabetes, prescription drug use (namely high blood pressure, depression, and allergy drugs), and-you guessed it-low testosterone. Supplements that may help include the following:
- Arginine supplements may improve blood flow to erectile tissue, much like the drugs Viagra and Cialis.
- L-citrulline. In one study, 50 percent of men with mild ED who took 1.5 grams of the amino acid L-citrulline daily for a month showed improved erectile hardness scores.
- Pine bark extract (pycnogenol) was shown in some studies to dramatically increase the benefits of L-arginine for the treatment of ED.
- Maca, a plant grown in Peru, doesn't appear to directly alter testosterone levels, but rather acts on the endocrine system to reduce harmful effects of stress while improving mood, energy, and endurance.
Michael T. Murray, ND, is the author of more than 30 books, including The Complete Book of Juicing, Revised and Updated. He is regarded as one of the world's top authorities on natural medicine. Visit him online at doctormurray.com.