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Manopause: The Facts on Andropause, or Male Menopause

By , MD
Thursday, December 27, 2012
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We have tons of material written for women about handling menopause. What about men?

Do men undergo a similar hormone-related mid-life change? You bet! It’s related to decreasing testosterone levels. Whether you call it MANopause, andropause or male menopause, it’s real and it may have more negative health implications than previously thought. The good news is there are natural approaches to supporting your body and improving health related to andropause.

What’s Going On
On average, a man's testosterone levels peak at about age 40 then rapidly start tailing off. While "normal" levels are published for each age group, this isn’t necessarily "optimal" if you have symptoms of andropause.

We’ve known about age-related decrease in testosterone for more than 60 years, but it’s never been considered a big problem. Very few men have been treated through a physician with testosterone replacement when levels dip or symptoms related to hypogonadism surface. The symptoms of this condition include:

Thankfully, this area of medicine is rapidly evolving. If you're experiencing these symptoms, a series of blood tests and additional screening can identify low testosterone and related diseases like hypothyroidism and diabetes. Checking for levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), for example, can be helpful. When SHBG is elevated, it binds with testosterone, rendering it unavailable, therefore affecting the amount of free testosterone in the body.

Can you fix it?
Is there a risk to "optimizing" testosterone? We know men with low testosterone tend to have heart disease, diabetes and fragile bones and are at a greater risk for becoming obese. This is not to mention the depression and poor sexual performance and all the quality of life issues that hit men hard at this point in life.

If your symptoms are severe, your quality of life low and you want a quicker-than-average solution, work with an anti-aging physician who's specially qualified to work on this type of problem. They’re not cheap but they get results. Before choosing a physician, do your research and check to see they have a track record in this area of medicine.

On the other hand, those with elevated PSA (a prostate cancer marker) should think carefully before adding testosterone artificially. There’s a risk of liver toxicity, worsening symptoms of sleep apnea and congestive heart failure, gynecomastia (male breast enlargement), infertility and skin diseases. Admittedly, it's not all smooth sailing, which is why one should work with a physician before trying supplemental testosterone.

Lifestyle Tips to Increase Testosterone
What if you don't want to spend big bucks for a specialty doc and just want to regain the vigor of your youth? First of all, at least visit your regular doctor and ask for some of the blood tests to be run. Make sure you don't have medical issues like prostate disease, diabetes or thyroid disorders. Once you know nothing bad is going on and your symptoms are being caused by low testosterone, you can try these tactics:

  1. Lose Weight:  It's possible your free testosterone is low because it’s being bound by SHBG. Losing weight alone can increase your testosterone levels in this situation. Remember, you can lose weight by improved diet as well as increasing exercise. Work on both.
  2. Limit Alcohol Intake: Cutting down your alcohol intake will also improve your SHBG levels and raise your free testosterone.
  3. Reduce Stress:  You can make an impact on your stress by trying yoga, meditation and other related mind-body approaches. Do your thing at work but take a chill pill in the best way you can. Stress leads to increased cortisol, which reduces testosterone production. It’s as simple as that.
  4. Limit Exposure to Toxins: We live in a toxic dump world these days. Plastics, many personal care products, pesticides, processed foods and many other sources contain something called xeno-hormones. These act like hormones, often like estrogen (the "female" hormone), and reduce the relative amount of testosterone in your body. 

Supplements to Try
Once you’re sure you’ve tried these lifestyle changes, you can look to supplements for additional support. Again, it's best to work with a doctor because even “natural” solutions can interact with prescription medications and impact any medical conditions you may have. Consider these options to support your body and improve your health and wellbeing:

  1. Yohimbe -- This herb can increase testosterone, penile blood flow and erection strength.
  2. Zinc -- This mineral is a critical cofactor to essential enzyme activities. This could be why reduced levels of zinc are associated with low testosterone levels.
  3. DHEA – Dehydroepiandrosterone  is an adrenal hormone and a necessary building block for other hormones like testosterone.
  4. Tongkat ali -- Also known as "long jack," this herb has been used to support libido, possibly through improving testosterone levels.
  5. Tribulus terrestris -- This herb effects testosterone by either lowering body fat or directly increasing testosterone. The jury's still out.
  6. Epimedium -- Also known as "horny goat weed," this substance may improve blood flow to the penis and brain (go figure). However, it’s not something you should take all the time. It has side effects which can be serious. Work with a practitioner who understands all of these approaches and both their positive and negative effects. It has similar biochemical activity to Viagra.

Bottom line: Andropause isn’t just male mid-life crisis and sexual frustration. It’s related to a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and brain dysfunction. Do yourself a favor and explore these options to achieve a healthier and more vibrant new you.

Products you may like:

Solaray Yohimbe Extract  Solaray Yohimbe Extract 
Why you may like this product? This supplement boosts libido to improve sexual desire and performance. Each capsule provides 135 mg of yohimbe extract plus 210 mg of butcher's broom extract and can be taken up to four times a day.
Life Extension DHEA  Life Extension DHEA 
Why you may like this product? DHEA is known to help balance hormones and improve overall health for improved weight, sexual health and adrenal function as well as mental health. Each tablet provides 25 mg of DHEA -- your doctor can determine your exact dosage by a blood test.
Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc  Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc 
Why you may like this product? Support enzyme activity while boosting the immune system by adding zinc to your diet. This supplement provides 30 mg of zinc per serving as well as a raw vegetable blend, probiotics and enzymes for improved digestive health.
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