Andropause, which is more commonly referred to as male menopause, is the term used to describe age-related changes in male hormone (i.e., testosterone) levels. In fact, it’s also called testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency, and late-onset hypogonadism. Andropause is not a disease, although there are definite symptoms, and those symptoms typically can be managed with lifestyle changes. Yes, andropause is about changes, and if you’re willing to make a few of your own, you can likely sail through this phase of your life.
What happens during andropause?
Andropause is a process that occurs over time. Although men’s testosterone levels begin a slow decline around age 30, symptoms typically aren’t noticeable until near age 50. As men grow older, the level of leydig cells in the testicles declines, or there is a disruption in the hypothalamic-pituitary balance. The result is abnormally low release of luteinizing hormone and low testosterone production.
Along with the drop in testosterone levels is a decline in sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). Lower levels of SHBG brings down testosterone levels even further. However, it’s important to note that many men still maintain testosterone levels within a normal range as they age, even though the levels decline. In fact, only about 10 to 25 percent of men have low testosterone that often is accompanied by symptoms (see “What are the symptoms of andropause?).
How is andropause diagnosed?
Two criteria are used to diagnose andropause: testosterone level and the presence of clinical symptoms. To identify low testosterone, your doctor will give you a blood test. The so-called normal range for testosterone is 250 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) for total testosterone. Some labs use slightly different numbers. If your testosterone is low, your physician may conduct a pituitary test to see if your gland is functioning properly. This gland is responsible for making and regulating many of your hormones, including testosterone.
Symptoms are also considered when diagnosing andropause. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, make a note of them and talk about them with your physician.
What are the symptoms of andropause?
A wide variety of symptoms are associated with andropause. That’s because testosterone affects many segments of a man’s life, from his sex drive to muscle mass, mental abilities, physical energy, mood, and more. Therefore symptoms of andropause can include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low sex drive
- Low energy or fatigue
- Reduced motivation
- Low self-confidence
- Sadness or depression
- Lower bone density
- Reduced muscle mass
- Physical weakness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems with sleep and insomnia
- Increased body fat
- Breast development (man boobs, or gynecomastia)
- Tender or swollen breasts
- Reduced testicle size
- Hot flashes
- Loss of body hair
Although the optimal testosterone levels for sexual functioning can vary significantly from man to man, it is generally considered to be around 250 to 300 ng/dL (10.4 mmol/L). Some men have low testosterone and have little to no difficulty with their sex lives, while others have higher levels and face erectile dysfunction or lack of sex drive. Thus a man’s response to declining testosterone is highly individual.
How to treat andropause naturally
Several lifestyle changes can make a significant impact on how you weather andropause.
- Diet: A whole-foods, natural diet is recommended with a focus on healthy fats (e.g., coconut oil, olive oil, avocado), fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. Limited amounts of animal protein and dairy are recommended, and sugary foods should be limited or avoided.
- Nutrients: Those especially helpful for andropause are vitamin C and vitamin D, calcium, and zinc. Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish, walnuts, and flax seed are also recommended. D-aspartic acid is an amino acid that has been shown to raise testosterone levels by increasing the amount of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can boost testosterone levels. It also slows loss of muscle mass and releases endorphins that can aid in boosting mood and self-confidence. High-intensity training can boost the body’s production of human growth hormone, which in turn can reduce andropause symptoms.
- Herbs: Natural herbal remedies may help with symptoms and testosterone levels. Fenugreek, tribulus terrestris, and ginger may be helpful.
- Sleep: You need at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Testosterone is manufactured while you sleep.
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol cuts testosterone production, so limit or eliminate alcohol use
- Stress: Practice stress reduction techniques every day. The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol can cause testosterone levels to plummet when left unchecked
- Weight: Excess body fat cells transform testosterone into estrogen. When you lose fat and body weight, you also help stop the loss of testosterone.
- Toxins: Avoid exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals, including food additives, phthalates, bisphenol-A, air pollutants, and a wide variety of chemicals found in beauty and health care products and household cleaners. These can interfere with testosterone.
Andropause is a natural process that typically occurs when men reach around age of 50 and beyond. Although testosterone levels decline, most men do not experience any significant symptoms. However, making some minor lifestyle changes may help relieve or prevent them from occurring.