Male Menopause and Testosterone, the Proverbial Fountain of Youth
by: Marina Silverio, RHN – Nature’s Vaughan Team Member!
Most of us know something about the challenges women endure when going through menopause; however, how many of us have given any thought to the changes that men have to go through? And did you know that men have their own version of menopause and that every man experiences it? While more subtle and gradual than the changes women experience, male menopause, which is referred to as andropause, is the gradual reduction of testosterone or reduction to the bioavailability of testosterone due to hypogonadism (diminished function of the testes).
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is the male sex hormone, primarily produced in the testes, which is responsible for much more than just sexual vitality; testosterone for men is like the fountain of youth and without the right balance, a man can experience low energy, failing memory, emotional changes, stress, moodiness, sarcopenia (loss of muscles), loss of strength, depression, lack of motivation, and some men develop gynecomastia (enlargement of breast tissue). As men age, they also have an increase in SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin), a protein that binds to testosterone and carries it around the blood stream; the above mentioned issues arise because of reduced free testosterone, so your blood test may show adequate amounts of testosterone, but most of it may not be available because it’s bound to SHBG. Don’t despair, there are things you can do to help improve those symptoms and regain health and vitality.
Testosterone’s effect on metabolism, weight gain, and belly fat
As testosterone dwindles with age, some men start to experience weight gain around their abdomen which is referred to as a “beer belly”, but in reality it has little to do with drinking beer and more to do with the changes in metabolism; testosterone helps with protein synthesis and when there is not enough of it, then some of the protein in the diet turns into fat instead of muscle; moreover, muscles help to burn fat so less muscles often translates into more fat. Increase in belly fat contributes to estrogen dominance because some of the testosterone is converted to estrogen in the fat cells through the action of an enzyme called aromatase; this explains the development of female characteristics like gynecomastia.
Low testosterone and the connection to heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s
Testosterone contributes to red blood cell production by stimulating a protein called erythropoietin, which regulates red blood cells that carry oxygen to our body. When red blood cells are too low, it can lead to condition called anemia which manifest symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, increase in heart rate, loss of appetite and nausea. Low testosterone has also been linked to cognitive and memory deficit and can increase susceptibility to Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also found correlation between low testosterone in men and type 2 diabetes because testosterone has been shown to help insulin sensitivity.
Low testosterone and erectile dysfunction
Another symptom of male menopause is ED (erectile dysfunction); many men suffer with this in silence and shame. There is a proven link between diminished testosterone and ED. Optimal blood flow is necessary for men to achieve an erection and nitric oxide is needed to achieve optimal blood flow. Testosterone mediates nitric oxide; therefore, less testosterone can lead to ED.
Increasing your testosterone and regaining health and vitality
Below are a list of important tips to help you maintain a healthy level of natural testosterone.
Increase your intake of healthy fats
Include healthy fats in your diet, especially organically sourced fats like: avocado, cold pressed olive oil, free run eggs, butter, walnut oil, nuts and seeds.
Avoid trans and hydrogenated fats (and be aware of the role of cholesterol)
Cholesterol is needed in the production of sex hormones like testosterone. There are a lot of misconceptions about fats and cholesterol; it’s important to understand that it’s oxidized cholesterol that can lead to plaque in the arteries which comes from trans fats, processed foods, hydrogenated fats, and fats that have been damaged with heat like those in fried foods.
Eat Protein – the building block of muscle
Protein breaks down into amino acids, which are the building blocks for muscle. Include moderate amounts of healthy protein: pasture fed, free-range animals, eggs, and dairy products free of hormones, antibiotics, and steroids.
Protect yourself against harmful estrogen
Include lots of organic vegetables in your diet especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy, arugula, kale, and cauliflower; they contain Indole 3 Carbinol which help to protect against harmful estrogens.
Promote the health of reproductive organs with zinc.
Include zinc rich foods in your diet like: safe seafood, mushrooms, spinach, squash, pumpkin seeds, cashews, cocoa, and mung beans. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for the health of men’s reproductive organs.
Increase your hormone production with exercise
Exercising at high intensity and weightlifting exercises help build muscles and reduce fat. Exercise has also been shown to improve hormone production.
Supplements and herbs for men
- B complex vitamins enhance the health of your cardiovascular system by improving blood flow. B complex vitamins also help to reduce stress, which is a key contributor to abdominal fat.
- Maca helps to balance hormones. It can be taken as a supplement or powder that you can put in your smoothies or protein shakes.
- Stinging nettle can help increase free testosterone by preventing it from binding to SHBG. It can be taken as a supplement or as a tea.
- Saw Palmetto has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of enlarged prostate and improve urine flow; it can also help enhance sex drive.
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Burn fat and promote liver health by avoiding alcohol
Avoid alcohol because it’s taxing on the liver and the liver is responsible for the production of the cholesterol needed to produce testosterone. Alcohol also causes chemical reactions that reduce your ability to burn fat.
Staying informed and aware of healthier diet options as well as committing to a healthier lifestyle today can help you achieve optimal health in the later stages of your life.
About the author
Marina Silverio is a registered holistic nutritionist (RHN) and a member in good standing with CAHN-Pro (the Canadian Association of Holistic Nutrition Professionals). She’s also a proud member of our Nature’s Emporium Vaughan team! Her personal struggle, with her health, put her on a mission to find answers for herself. Now she is passionate about sharing her knowledge to help others improve their health. As a practitioner, she assesses body systems and how they impact each other and takes into consideration the emotional and psycho-spiritual components to find a plan that suits the individual’s lifestyle to help them achieve balance and optimal health.