Yes, they do! Male menopause also known as andropause is similar to female menopause, however there are some distinctions. For males, it is a more gradual hormonal shift (it can span 20 years) and not all males experience it. The cause of andropause is a decline in the hormone testosterone and a possible shift to estrogen by an enzyme called aromatase. Testosterone starts to increase during the adolescent years and it is responsible for the puberty changes that a male goes through such as increased muscle mass, body hair growth and lowering of the voice. It peaks at the age of 20 and then starts to decline at a rate of about 1% per year with symptoms of andropause usually starting on average between the ages of 40-60. The biggest and most modifiable risk factor for testosterone deficiency is increased waist circumference. Chronic increased cortisol levels (i.e. long-term stress) can also be a contributing factor in lowering testosterone levels.
What are the symptoms of andropause?
- Decreased lean muscle mass
- Sexual dysfunction
- Central obesity (“apple shape”)
- Lowered libido
- Decreased energy
- Excessive sweating
- Mood changes – depression, decreased self esteem, concentration difficulties
- Gynecomastia – breast development
- Lowered bone density/osteoporosis
- Loss of body hair
- Insulin resistance – which leads to high blood sugar
Can lab tests be used to diagnose andropause?
Yes, saliva hormone testing can be very valuable for testing the following – testosterone, DHEA, estrogen (estradiol specifically also known as E2) and cortisol. If there is too much cortisol or estrogen, or lower values of DHEA, this can contribute to decreased testosterone levels. Saliva hormone testing is an excellent starting point to assess hormone levels and it’s offered at Yinstill through Naturopathic Doctors.
How can andropause be treated?
Even though decreasing testosterone levels are part of the natural aging process, there are many lifestyle modifications, dietary changes and supplements that can slow it down.
- Lifestyle changes – maintaining a healthy weight is key to preventing lowered testosterone levels. The enzyme aromatase (which converts testosterone to estrogen) is present in fat cells. So, in other words, when a male gains weight, there is a more of a shift towards estrogen production and less testosterone. Therefore, the first recommendation is regular exercise which will help prevent excessive weight gain.
The next suggestion is to keep cortisol levels balanced by decreasing stress levels as much as possible. General stress relieving techniques such as exercise, deep breathing or yoga are a good starting place. I’m happy to discuss more involved stress reducing therapies using naturopathic medicine and can be contacted at [email protected].
2. Dietary changes
- Eating a diet rich in antioxidants helps to strengthen the immune system and encourage a healthy balance of hormones. Antioxidants can be found in dark leafy vegetables, orange fruits and vegetables, fish and green tea
- Consume a diet rich in protein, especially plant-based protein. Eating lots of beans, nuts, seeds and legumes contribute to increased lean muscle mass. They also assist the liver in processing and eliminating any unhealthy hormones.
- Avoid refined sugar and excess fat. This will help to prevent weight gain as discussed earlier.
3. Supplements – there are many excellent herbs as well as vitamins and minerals that can help to promote healthy hormone balancing. These supplements can be prescribed after a thorough assessment has been done as everyone’s hormone values will be different.
4. Acupuncture – many studies have shown the benefits that acupuncture has on hormone balancing.
As a naturopathic doctor, my goal is to minimize the symptoms of andropause by using natural therapies to assist the body during these hormonal changes.