Did you know there’s a male equivalent of menopause? It’s called andropause. When men go through andropause, there’s no night sweats or hot flashes like there is with menopause. But that doesn’t mean that the quality of life for men going through andropause doesn’t suffer. In fact, andropause can lead to a severe reduction in energy levels, libido, and sleep quality.
Recently, Jonathan Carp, M.D., founder and President of Miracle Noodle, presented a webinar on andropause, which you can watch here. This post summarizes the webinar. (The first half of the webinar discusses andropause and the second half discusses adaptogens; this article will summarize andropause only; a future post will highlight Dr. Carp’s talk on adaptogens.)
What Is Andropause and When Do Men Experience It?
Andropause is when a man’s level of testosterone declines to the point that there’s obvious physical signs. One of the most noticeable manifestations is increased abdominal fat. Other signs of andropause include:
- Nocturia: The increased frequency and urge to urinate in the middle of the night; due to an enlarged prostate gland.
- Hair loss, graying of the hair
- Reduced zest for life (can occur as early as age 40)
- Sarcopenia: Loss of lean muscle tissue and an increase in fat
- Weight gain
- Erectile dysfunction
These conditions can occur over a period of time of 10-15 years. Testosterone levels are highest at around age 30, however, levels start to slowly decline.
Metabolism is another physiological function that wanes with andropause. And what this means is that even if you eat roughly the same amount of calories you’ve been eating for years, you can easily gain weight.
Why is this? It’s because as muscle mass decreases, fat takes its place, and fat is a slower-burning tissue.
Unfortunately, many lab tests don’t reveal the optimal levels of testosterone a man of 50 or older should have. Rather, testosterone levels on lab tests are adjusted for age, based on a sampling of people. This is why some men may experience common andropause symptoms yet have normal lab readings for testosterone.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy For Andropause
Chances are you’ve heard or seen a commercial for “Low T” or “low testosterone,” featuring a virile-looking male in his 50 or even 60s, with a chiseled physique and a woman at least a decade younger with arms wrapped around the man’s torso.
Anti-aging doctors have built fortunes promoting Low T therapy. However, Dr. Carp thinks that “it’s not a good idea for a 60 year old to have the testosterone of a 21 year old.” Having the testosterone levels of a young adult breeds an abnormal intensity.
So what’s a man going through andropause to do if Low T therapy isn’t the healthiest option?
The good news is that there are viable alternatives for men to regain their vitality.
Decreasing SHBG: The Key to Increasing Free Testosterone
SHBG is a hormone in the body. It stands for Steroid Hormone Binding Globulin. SHBG binds to testosterone. If testosterone is bound to SHBG, it can’t move about the bloodstream freely. And this means that your body can’t uptake testosterone.
There are some lifestyle interventions that decrease SHBG and increase free testosterone:
- Decrease body fat
- Eat lots of cruciferous vegetables
- Supplement with the following minerals: boron, zinc, magnesium.
- Supplement with vitamin D3
- Supplement with DIM (Diindolylmethane), a compound that reduces harmful estrogen metabolites (men also have estrogen)
- Eat enough protein: As you get older, your protein demands increase. Eating a high-protein diet earlier in life can cause problems, however, as you get older, protein needs increase. Dr. Carp recommends slowly increasing your protein intake.
- Take a high-quality fish oil supplement
- Avoid using plastics with HPTE and other xenoestrogens (estrogen-mimicking compounds)
Exercising to Increase Testosterone
Exercise not only helps decrease the added belly fat caused by andropause, it can also increase free testosterone. However, not all exercise is ideal for boosting testosterone levels. “Chronic cardio” as Dr. Carp refers to walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes, while certainly better than no exercise, won’t do much good for increasing testosterone levels.
The one activity that will is the same one associated with people in the gym displaying the same abnormal intensity mentioned earlier: weightlifting.
Resistance training is vital for vitality. And the good news about strength training is that even if you’re in your 60s or older, it’s never too late to start. Seniors can experience a huge gain in strength in a short time.
The Pros and Cons of Testosterone Supplements
In research studies, taking supplements to reduce symptoms of andropause has been shown to improve:
- Mental clarity
- Bone density
In addition, a lower risk of developing heart disease has been associated with increased testosterone in older men.
The downside of testosterone supplements, according to some reports: an increased risk of blood clots and acne, as well as an increase in PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels, which is a marker for prostate cancer.
Dr. Carp says that the risk of developing prostate cancer lacks sufficient evidence; if you have normal PSA levels, he says, there’s no increased risk of developing prostate cancer if you take supplements to boost testosterone.
Best Testosterone Supplements
DHEA is a hormone precursor that’s released by adrenal glands. In the body, DHEA can be metabolized into sex hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. DHEA is one of the most popular supplements for boosting testosterone.
There are also several herbs that have been used for centuries to increase virility. Although not mentioned in Dr. Carp’s webinar, some of the herbs that have been shown in research studies to improve either libido, blood flow or testosterone, include:
In addition to these herbs, a special class of herbs called adaptogens have also been shown to help regulate testosterone levels. But we’ll save that topic for another time.