What is andropause? To answer this question, let me ask you another one. Have you ever heard of the term “male menopause”?
It refers to an age-related drop in male sex hormones, also known as androgens, that can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms, from decreased muscle mass to fatigue and lack of sex drive.
But unlike female menopause, “male menopause” or andropause doesn’t have to be an inevitability. Some men don’t experience it at all. For those who do, the changes prove gradual rather than dramatic.
After all, men don’t experience a full shutdown of their reproductive organs like women do. Nevertheless, andropause comes with far-ranging physical, psychological, and sexual symptoms that tend to worsen as men age.
Here’s what you need to know about andropause and how to gain relief from its adverse side effects.
What Is Andropause?
Andropause ultimately describes a series of age-related changes that impact male hormone levels. It also goes by names like:
- Androgen deficiency
- Testosterone deficiency
- Late-onset hypogonadism
When does the onset of andropause typically occur? In men aged 50 and older. That said, younger men may also experience the condition.
What’s more, andropause is often associated with hypogonadism or testosterone deficiency. Both conditions share similar symptoms and are both linked to lowered testosterone levels.
The Symptoms of Andropause
What do the symptoms of low testosterone and andropause look like? They can include any of the following:
- Reduced libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low energy
- Increased abdominal fat
- Depression or sadness
- Decreased motivation
- Decreased bone density
- Gynecomastia, or development of breasts
- Increased body fat
- Reduced muscle mass
- Feelings of physical weakness
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Lowered self-confidence
Although this list is by no means the be-all-end-all when it comes to andropause, it’ll give you a much better understanding of what you may be experiencing both physically and emotionally.
If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t suffer alone. Instead, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss lifestyle changes and treatment options.
With this in mind, let’s explore some of the more common symptoms in greater depth.
Warning Signs of Andropause
A decrease in energy can be among the first signs of andropause. Fatigue stems from a lack of testosterone, a hormone that helps stoke healthy energy levels. This lack leads to a loss of interest and enthusiasm when it comes to normal activities.
Along with less overall energy, many patients experience insomnia, which further exacerbates fatigue. When androgen levels decline, disturbed sleep or inability to sleep can play havoc with your body’s internal clock.
Besides sleepiness, other signs of insomnia include irritability, anger, and trouble focusing.
Loss of sex drive is also associated with andropause. Testosterone plays a crucial role in maintaining libido. When lower than usual, sex drive can fade.
Low testosterone levels or andropause can also contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED). This condition refers to the inability to get or maintain an erection. ED is also often associated with a decline in sperm count and can even lead to infertility.
Excess abdominal fat not only causes low testosterone but is a sign of andropause. (Testosterone naturally slows your body’s natural deposits of abdominal fat.)
When this decreases, you start accumulating fat around the middle. As this deposit builds up, the fatty tissue converts more testosterone to estrogen.
The result? A vicious cycle of weight gain and testosterone loss.
Besides the symptoms listed above, some men also report decreased testicle size, tender or swollen breasts, hot flashes, and loss of body hair. Osteoporosis, a condition where bones become brittle and weak, is also linked to andropause.
Andropause and Osteoporosis
Male osteoporosis affects two million American men. Yet, another 12 million remain at risk of developing it. Early signs of the condition include bone loss and low bone density, also known as osteopenia.
By the age of 65, many men begin to display warning signs of osteoporosis, and it’s considered symptomatic of testosterone deficiency. Nonetheless, men suffering from weak or porous bones often go undiagnosed.
This tendency to under-diagnose males with the condition is at least partially the result of the standards currently used to diagnose patients. Many of the standards compare the bone mass of healthy young women to the men in question.
But the bone mass of a healthy, young male proves quite different than that of a female. When aging men have their bone mass compared to younger men, this provides a better indication of whether or not there’s cause for concern.
Find out more about the links between osteoporosis and andropause.
Now that you’ve got a better understanding of the symptoms associated with andropause, let’s explore how testosterone levels in the male body change over time.
Changes in Testosterone Over Time
Pre-pubescent males have low testosterone levels. As they grow towards sexual maturity, these levels rise over time. This rise in hormone levels fuels many changes associated with male puberty.
- Changes in sexual function
- Lowering of the voice
- Growth of body hair
- Growth of muscle mass
The onset of puberty for most males occurs between the ages of 12 and 16. Physical changes associated with puberty often begin with the sprouting of pubic hair and enlargement of the testicles.
Boys also experience a significant growth spurt between the ages of 10 and 16. These changes can occur within a window as small as two-and-a-half years or require up to six years to complete.
Most men experience a peak in testosterone in adolescence and early adulthood.
After the age of 30 or 40, these levels start to drop off. On average, males will experience a loss of one percent per year after 30. Some conditions can result in an earlier or more significant decline.
This information begs a couple of questions. First, how do you diagnose andropause? Second, what can you do about it?
Testing your hormone levels is as simple as getting your blood drawn. Your physician will look specifically at your androgen counts. The most prominent of these androgens is testosterone.
If your doctor determines that your testosterone levels are low, you’ll likely have questions about how to treat the condition.
Unless symptoms prove significant and disruptive of your life, your physician will advise you to make healthy lifestyle changes. During the process of diagnosis, it’s critical that you openly discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
Many men feel too shy or intimidated to discuss sensitive subjects such as sexuality with their physicians. Nonetheless, without a full picture of the symptoms you’re experiencing, they cannot effectively treat you. So, be open and forthright.
Treatment Options for Andropause
Once your doctor has a clearer picture of the issues you’re currently facing, they may suggest the following course of action:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Reducing stress levels
- Getting enough sleep
- Making time for regular exercise
Although these might not sound like major changes to you, they can come with significant impacts. For patients who faithfully follow these guidelines, improvement can be dramatic.
What’s more, these lifestyle alterations will have an overall beneficial impact on their health.
Evidence-Based Ways to Increase Testosterone Levels Naturally
When it comes to andropause natural treatment, exercise represents a powerful weapon. Not only does a regular exercise regimen boost testosterone levels, but it also increases fitness and reaction time.
Research continues to show that exercise is even more effective than diet when it comes to restoring testosterone levels. When diet and exercise are combined, the beneficial impacts increase, too.
What are the most effective exercises when it comes to the fight to maintain androgen levels? Weight lifting remains the best treatment for both short- and long-term testosterone boosting.
Another useful exercise is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). That said, all types of physical activity help when it comes to anti-aging and preventing andropause.
As for exercise supplements? Studies have demonstrated that increased caffeine and creatine monohydrate intake in combination with exercise helps boost androgen levels.
When you combine this with a well-balanced diet rich in protein, fat, and healthy carbs, you’ve got the blueprint for revved up testosterone levels. To optimize hormones and your health over the long haul, go with whole foods.
Other Healthy Lifestyle Changes that Combat Andropause
Besides exercising regularly and eating healthy, you should also work to minimize stress. Why? Because elevated cortisol levels can squelch testosterone.
Stress can also lead to increased food intake, weight gain, and the storing of fatty tissues around your organs. Avoiding repetitive stressful situations proves critical to optimal health–physically, sexually, and mentally.
Getting outdoors represents a fantastic way to reduce your stress levels while loading up on another essential component to combating andropause, vitamin D.
A year-long study found that patients who supplemented their diet with 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day increased their testosterone levels by 25 percent. In combination with sunlight, this therapy can drastically improve testosterone levels.
Other supplements that may help with sexual health include vitamin B and zinc. Studies have shown these supplements boost testosterone in athletes and increase sperm quality by 74 percent.
Vitamins A, C, and E also appear to play a role in androgen production and, more specifically, testosterone levels, although further research is needed.
At the moment, vitamin D and zinc have both demonstrated the strongest relationships to testosterone increase.
Natural Testosterone Boosters
Scientific studies also support the effectiveness of a handful of natural testosterone boosters. So far, much of the research has focused on ashwagandha.
In studies where infertile men consumed the herb, ashwagandha increased testosterone levels by 17 percent, and sperm count by as much as 167 percent. Among healthy men, it increased testosterone by 15 percent.
What’s more, it also helped decrease cortisol levels by as much as 25 percent.
Besides ashwagandha, there’s also a growing body of research about the effects of ginger on male reproductive health. Although most of these studies have been conducted on animals, ginger extract appears to boost androgen levels.
In one study conducted with infertile males, ginger increased testosterone levels by 17 percent as well as had a beneficial impact on other vital androgens.
Substances to Avoid
Our modern environment can play havoc with hormones. A variety of androgen killers surrounds us.
These include estrogen-like chemicals such as parabens, BPA, and other chemicals found in some types of plastic. High exposure to these substances will impact your health negatively. So, do everything that you can to avoid them in day-to-day life.
You should also avoid excess drug use and consumption of alcohol. Whether for medical or recreational purposes, these substances can make testosterone levels nosedive.
When Lifestyle Changes Aren’t Enough
Of course, there are certain situations where additional therapy may be needed. For example, if you’re experiencing depression, you need to have a conversation with your doctor.
Your physician may prescribe you therapy, antidepressants, or other lifestyle changes. Effective treatments for depression mean you don’t have to suffer in silence.
Some doctors also recommend hormone replacement therapy. If so, you’ll want to have a thorough conversation about the pros and cons of this approach before moving forward with treatment.
Reversing Male Andropause
In this article, we’ve examined the question, “What is andropause?” and how it differs from menopause in women. We’ve discussed andropause symptoms and how they can negatively impact your life.
We’ve also looked at how a variety of factors, from diet and exercise to stress and lack of sleep, can exacerbate the symptoms of andropause. The good news is simple lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on low testosterone levels.
What’s more, a handful of natural supplements, including vitamin D, zinc, and ashwagandha, have shown promising results when administered to men suffering from infertility.
Coupled with a healthy lifestyle and nutritional supplementation, it’s critical that you avoid testosterone killers present in our environment such as parabens, BPA, and plastics.
When it’s all said and done, information remains your best ally in the fight against andropause. Keep reading for 15 foods that lower testosterone so that you can steer clear of them and take back your life.