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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By Jill Hillhouse| June 08, 2015
Categories:  Care
Keywords:  Men's Health

About the Author

Jill Hillhouse

Jill Hillhouse

Jill has received her designation of Certified Nutritional Practitioner from The Institute of Holistic Nutrition and is registered with the International Organization of Nutritional Consultants (IONC) as a Registered Nutritional and Orthomolecular Practitioner. She is also a graduate of Queen’s University where she earned a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Additionally, Jill has been certified by the Hans Selye Foundation and The Canadian Institute of Stress as a Stress and Wellness Consultant.

Jill has a successful nutritional consulting practice based on her philosophy that each individual is metabolically distinct and unique. She seeks to identify the root cause of a client’s health concern and works with whole foods, supplements and herbs to help bring the client’s health into balance. Jill is the nutritionist at the Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique, the Canadian Institute of Bariatric Options as well as at Ageless, an executive medical clinic. In conjunction with her practice and clinic work, Jill is a nutrition and lifestyle writer who has authored dozens of articles for publications such as Alive Magazine, More Magazine, Today’s Parent, Ski Canada Magazine, IHR Magazine, Wal-Mart and IDA and Guardian Drug Stores. Jill is also co-author of the book Easy Gourmet Baby Food: 150 Recipes for Homemade Goodness.

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