Andropause: Symptoms & Prevention


The term andropause first appeared in the medical literature in the early 1950s and is commonly defined as the natural decline of male hormone levels, primarily testosterone, which can start for some men as early as in their 30s. Testosterone levels may be one of the most important indicators of health in men. Its production increases rapidly at the onset of puberty with the majority of testosterone being produced by the testes and a much smaller amount by the adrenal glands.

When it is abundant, testosterone provides the foundation for youthful energy and stamina, abundant virility, increased bone mass and a naturally lean body. But as testosterone levels decline, things can change seemingly overnight: the hair recedes, energy levels go down, muscles appear to turn to fat, the “beer belly” appears and erections can become problematic. This slippery slope starts to happen in the 30s and as they age, men can lose about 1 percent of their testosterone each year or 10 percent per decade.

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Testosterone, fat gain, and... estrogen?

A 2004 study has helped confirm what, for many years had been a theory: that low testosterone is linked to excess body fat, specifically the visceral fat that surrounds the abdominal organs (affectionately called the beer belly or spare tire). In this study, researchers found that men with a large waist circumference of greater than 40 inches had 30 percent lower testosterone than the men with waist circumferences of less than 37 inches. Here’s where a vicious cycle comes into play. Increased belly fat means an increase in an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen. Increased estrogen in turn inhibits the production of natural testosterone, which then reduces muscle mass, lowers libido, increases erectile dysfunction, increases mood swings and depression and can lead to prostate problems. In fact, men of retirement age can have the same or higher estrogen levels than women of the same age.

Am I experiencing andropause?

While blood and saliva testing are very accurate ways of determining one’s testosterone levels (you want to measure “free” testosterone), the ADAM (Androgen Deficiency in Aging Men) questionnaire developed by John Morley at the St. Louis University School of Medicine is a self-screening tool for men that helps identify symptoms of low testosterone. When answering the questions, men are asked to choose the response that best describes how they are feeling.

Here are the 10 questions:

  1. Do you have a decrease in libido (sex drive)?
  2. Do you have a lack of energy?
  3. Do you have a decrease in strength and/or endurance?
  4. Have you lost height?
  5. Have you noticed a decreased “enjoyment of life”?
  6. Are you sad and/or grumpy?
  7. Are your erections less strong?
  8. Have you noticed a deterioration in your ability to play sports?
  9. Are you falling asleep after dinner?
  10. Has there been a recent deterioration in your work performance?

Low testosterone levels may be indicated with a “yes” answer to questions #1 or #7, or at least three of the other questions.

Healthy not Grumpy

Trying to stop the march of chronological time is futile, but with the right combination of lifestyle, diet, and nutrition changes, hormone levels can be maintained and the effects of biological aging greatly reduced. According to Brad King, nutritional researcher and author of Beer Belly Blues, the following are natural proven ways for men to reclaim their health and reduce the effects of andropause as they age.

  • Maintain muscle mass through regular resistance training with weights - one of the best ways to increase free testosterone.

  • Eat quality protein from organic lean chicken, turkey, fish and vegetarian sources and try supplementing with a high alpha-lactalbumin whey protein shake each day, especially after exercise.

  • Limit alcohol consumption – one night of drinking can lower testosterone levels for up to 24 hours.

  • Get sufficient sleep and reduce stress which leads to high cortisol levels – cortisol is the body’s favorite fat-storing hormone.

  • Eat cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage. These contain substances called indoles that reduce estrogen levels and block the most harmful form of estrogen. Supplements of indole-3-carbinol can also be taken.

  • Supplement with stinging nettle root, which has been shown to help free up bound testosterone.

  • Supplement with maca to enhance sexual desire, improve performance and reduce erectile dysfunction.

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Image: David Goehring

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Categories:  Care
Keywords:  Men's Health

About the Author

Jill Hillhouse BA, BPHE, CNP, RNT

Jill Hillhouse BA, BPHE, CNP, RNT

Jill is a passionate advocate of whole foods eating and nutritional education. She believes that health starts on your dinner plate and she uses diet and lifestyle shifts to mitigate and reverse health conditions. Jill focuses on addressing her clients’ metabolic individuality as a key factor in her functional nutrition protocols and coaching. A strong voice for self-advocacy, Jill encourages and empowers her clients to be active participants in their own health care. Working as a nutritional practitioner since 2001, Jill is part of the integrative health team at P3 Health Clinic in Toronto, Canada, and she also maintains a private nutrition consultation practice. Jill is the co-author of The Paleo Diabetes Diet Solution: Manage Your Blood Sugar with 125 Recipes and a 30-Day Meal Plan and the best-selling book The Best Baby Food: 125 Healthy & Delicious Recipes for Babies & Toddlers. She also writes articles for a number of national online and print publications.

Jill Hillhouse is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner from The Institute of Holistic Nutrition and has earned her Bachelor of Physical and Health Education and her BA in Psychology from Queen’s University. She is certified as a First Line Therapist in Lifestyle Medicine by Metagenics and as a Stress and Wellness Consultant by the Hans Selye Foundation and The Canadian Institute of Stress. Jill has been a faculty member of The Institute of Holistic Nutrition since 2005. She is a member of The Canadian Association of Natural Nutrition Practitioners and the Institute of Functional Medicine.

Follow Jill on her website (www.jillhillhouse.com), facebook (www.facebook.com/JillHillhouseNutrition) and on twitter and instagram (@jillhillhouse) for commentary about new scientific studies, topical health issues and practical tools for better health.

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