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Andropause

Men's Health | October 5, 2016 | Author: Naturopath

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Andropause

While menopause refers to menstruation (meno-) coming to a halt (-pause), “andropause” refers to a decrease in androgens – specifically, a decrease of testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in men. Around age 40, the production of these androgens begins to decrease. While menopause is characterised by an abrupt halting of hormone production, testosterone tends to decrease gradually, causing gentle changes that don't really constitute “symptoms” the same way that hot flushes and thinning hair may be considered symptoms of menopause. Because of this (usually) slow onset of symptoms, the medical profession doesn't really consider andropause to be a legitimate thing.

But if you're suffering from decreased libido, depression and sudden changes in metabolism, then you are probably relieved to hear that andropause is real. Really real.

And there's something you can do about it.

Symptoms of Andropause

  • Lack of energy and fatigue
  • Malaise upon waking
  • Night sweats
  • Depression
  • Decreased libido
  • Memory impairment
  • Erectile problems
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of strength or muscle mass, and increased body fat
  • Hot flushes

More Than Testosterone

Without getting too deep into the science, it's important to know that there are three main hormones involved in andropause: testosterone, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Normally, these hormones work in a “negative feedback cycle”. Low testosterone triggers the brain to pump out more GnRH and LH, which tell the testes to produce more testosterone. Once testosterone levels are back to normal, the cycle stops. When levels dip, it begins again.

Between 40 and 50 years of age, a condition called hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (say that three times fast) naturally kicks in. This is characterised by low testosterone, which would normally cause the “negative feedback cycle” to begin. But in hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, GnRH and LH remain low. Without GnRH and LH to stimulate its production, testosterone also remains low, and signs and symptoms of andropause begin to emerge.

This process is usually so slow that symptoms come on gradually. But a sudden drop in testosterone can bring about early onset of andropause.

Lifesyle factors that decrease testosterone

  • Nutritional insufficiencies or deficiencies
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Some medications
  • Stress
  • Lack of sex
  • Lack of sleep

These factors all lower testosterone by snowballing its natural conversion to oestrogen and DHT (a potent androgen that is responsible for male pattern baldness). In young men, DHT is low while free circulating testosterone is quite high; the opposite is true in andropause. While low testosterone and high DHT can explain many signs of andropause, new evidence suggests that it it’s the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen that causes the most distressing symptoms.

5 Natural Ways to Boost Testosterone in Andropause

Conventional medical treatment of andropause uses medications to blocks DHT and oestrogen conversion, and boost testosterone production. Lifestyle modification along with herbal and nutritional medicine offer natural alternatives that are just as effective, and without the nasty side effects.

Weight Loss & Exercise

Carrying any extra fatty tissue promotes conversion of testosterone to oestrogen.

Short, intense exercise like High Intensity Training (HIT) has been shown to boost testosterone, as has lifting heavy weights with long rest periods. Long endurance running doesn't do much for hormones though. If you are an endurance enthusiast, do it after strength training for better results.

Diets that are low in trans fats and sugar are more likely to support your testosterone levels, as well as maintain a healthy weight to delay andropause.

Zinc

this micro mineral is hailed in bodybuilding circles as a testosterone-boosters. Zinc is essential for the release of GnRH and LH from the pituitary gland, and to moderate its conversion to oestrogen and DHT. Supplementation has been shown to boost testosterone levels, particularly if there isn't enough zinc in your diet, and may be useful in reducing symptoms of andropause. Zinc rich foods include oysters and seafood, egg yolk, beef, lamb, wholegrains, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Saw Palmetto Extract

Saw palmetto is a type of small palm tree. Extracts of its fruit have been shown to boost testosterone by blocking its conversion to oestrogen (specifically by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase and the aromatisation of testosterone to oestroges. A recent study showed that a supplement containing saw palmetto significantly raised circulating testosterone while decreasing oestrogen as well as DHT, suggesting it may be a potent treatment in andropause.

Bulgarian tribulus

Animal trials have shown promise in tribulus boosting testosterone levels, and anecdotal evidence suggests that it could boost sex drive during andropause. But so far, evidence-based human trials are a little less hopeful. While tribulus herbal extract has been successfully used in fertility treatment, it seems to work by promoting the conversion of testosterone to DHT.  This conversion is essential for the production of sperm, but may not very useful when it comes to delaying andropause.


Relaxation

Easier said than done when you're suffering from hot flushes and moodiness, I know. Cortisol, the major hormone that is released to help us deal with ongoing stress, directly suppresses testosterone's production, release, and action. It just totally squashes it. Anything you can do reduce ongoing stress and bring down your cortisol levels will help to bolster your testosterone. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or perhaps a vacation in the Maldives?

Ageing shouldn't be distressing. Combining potent herbal formulas with a good quality zinc supplement, extra down-time, exercise and healthy eating can help to ease the transition. For further help and targeted treatment, see a qualified nutritionist or naturopath.

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References

Anderson, M. L. (2005) A preliminary investigation of the enzymatic inhibition of 5α-reductase and growth of prostatic carcinoma cell line LNCap-FGC by natural astaxanthin and saw palmetto lipid extract in vitro. J Herbal Pharm, 5, 17–26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16093232

Angwafor, F. & Anderson, M. L. (2008) An open label, dose response study to determine the effect of a dietary supplement on dihydrotestosterone, testosterone and estradiol levels in healthy males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr., 5, 12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2525623/

Farzard, B., et al. (2011) Physiological and performance changes from the addition of a sprint interval program to wrestling training. J Strength Cond Res., 25:9, 2392 – 2399. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21849912

Rahimi, R., et al. (2010) Effects of very short rest periods on hormonal responses to resistance exercise in men. J Strength Cond Res., 24:7, 1851 – 1859. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20555276

Shafiei Neek, S., Gaeini, A. A. & Choobineh, S. (2011) Effect of zinc and selenium supplementation on serum testosterone and plasma lactate in cyclist after an exhaustive exercise bout. Biol Trace Elem Res., 114:1-3, 454 – 462. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21744023

Prasad, A. S., Mantzoros, C. S., Beck, F. W., Hess, J. W. & Brewer, G. J. (1996) Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition, 12:5, 344 – 348. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519

Salgado, R. M., et al. (2016) Effect of oral administration of Tribulus terrestris extract on semen quality and body fat index of infertile men. Andrologia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27401787

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