Aging is a natural part of life. In my experience, there are ways we can slow down the aging process and support our health so that it isn’t the unpleasant, painful process our culture deems it to be, but aging still inevitably happens. Women tend to focus more on the mental, physical and hormonal changes that accompany aging, yet it’s equally important for men to be aware of their health and the intricate changes that occur as they get older. With men, andropause is a common hormonal disorder and the good news is there are plenty of diet and lifestyle changes we can implement to address it!
What is Andropause?
Andropause is a male hormonal disorder caused by a decline in testosterone as they age. It’s sometimes referred to as the ‘male menopause’ but this isn’t truly accurate. When women experience menopause, it’s a relatively quick and determined ceasefire of the hormones that lead to ovulation. With men, the hormonal changes are a much more gradual process, beginning at about age 40, and testosterone levels drop at a rate of about 1% per year. Diminished function of the gonads (the testes) occurs in 3.1–7.0% in men aged 30–69 years, and 18.4% in men older than 70 years. It’s estimated that by the year 2025, 6.5 million men in the US alone will be experiencing andropause symptoms – that’s up nearly 40% from the year 2000.
Unfortunately, men aren’t always forthcoming at asking for help and that means anywhere from as little as 5% to 35% of men will actually seek treatment for andropause. Let’s help the men in our life feel comfortable and safe to ask about it!
Some of the common symptoms of andropause include:
- low libido
- erectile dysfunction
- decreased muscle mass and strength
- increased body fat
- low bone density
What Does Testosterone Do?
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone responsible for the development of male sex characteristics (facial hair, voice, etc.) and reproduction. But that isn’t all. Testosterone is also involved in various parts of the body:
- The brain: it impacts libido, positive feelings, and memory and cognition
- Muscles: it aids with muscle mass and strength
- Bone marrow: it helps with red blood cell production
- Bones: it supports bone health and bone density
- The sex organs: it produces sperm, affects prostate growth and impacts erectile dysfunction
- Skin: it promotes collagen production and the growth of body/facial hair
Health Risks Associated with Low Testosterone
Low testosterone can lead to additional health risks, including:
- Metabolic Syndrome. Low testosterone can boost the risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of health conditions including obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol that can raise our risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- Infertility. Obese teenagers between the ages of 14 and 20 have 50% less testosterone than their peers of a healthy weight. This can lead to impotence and infertility.
- Mortality + Longevity. Mortality levels are 88% higher in men with low testosterone.
Also, other conditions men may be dealing with can also impact their testosterone levels. Low testosterone levels are prevalent in:
- Obesity: 52% of obese patients also have low testosterone levels.
- Diabetes: 50% of diabetics have low testosterone as well.
- AIDS/HIV: 30% of patients with HIV or AIDs have low testosterone.
- Hypertension: 42% of patients with hypertension also have low testosterone.
- Hyperlipidemia: 40% of these patients show low testosterone levels.
- Erectile dysfunction: 19% of men with erectile dysfunction also suffer from low testosterone.
How To Boost Testosterone Naturally
Thankfully, there are many diet and lifestyle strategies we can implement to help boost and balance testosterone levels. Here are tips that men can implement today to improve their health!
Zinc is an important mineral for sexual health. There are multiple studies on zinc levels and low testosterone in men. Begin to include some of these high-zinc foods in your diet:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Organic + grass fed beef, turkey and lamb
Foods that are high in Vitamin C can help to regenerate hormones such as testosterone. Vitamin C-rich foods include:
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Beet greens
- Summer squash
- Black beans
- Raw cacao
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok Choy
Another dietary strategy that is helpful is following a low glycemic diet, which helps to balance blood sugar levels and encourages hormone balance.
Strength training and high-intensity cycling can help to increase testosterone levels. These vigorous activities also help to boost our body mass index (BMI), bone strength and muscle mass, which are all symptoms of andropause.
3. Eliminate Toxins and Xenoestrogens
There are numerous toxins that we are exposed to in the environment that can impact andropause and our testosterone levels. Evidence indicates that exposure to phthalates, parabens and glyphosate can all negatively affect testosterone production. So, to combat this, start examining your personal care products and opt for products that are phthalate and paraben-free. Avoiding genetically modified foods will help lower our exposure to glyphosate as well.
Xenoestrogens are compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen and they can also disrupt hormones like testosterone. They’re found in chemical compounds like bisphenol A (BPA), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), parabens, phthalates, and various pesticides and insecticides. They can also be found in conventional meat and dairy. I find the best way to avoid xenoestrogens is to buy organic food whenever possible, or purchase from farms who follow organic practices but perhaps cannot afford to officially become certified organic. You can also grow your own.
Sleep is important for proper hormone production and not getting enough of it can drastically reduce testosterone levels. In this study, just one week of sleep deprivation (5 hours per night) caused a 10-15% drop in testosterone. Sleep apnea can also lower testosterone levels. Developing good sleep hygiene can take some time at first, but once you develop the habit you will not only help to balance hormones, but also feel more energetic, more focused and attentive, increase your ability to learn and remember, and reduce stress levels. I share my top tips to better sleep in this quick video.
Andropause, testosterone balance and hormone levels are a delicate balance. By incorporating some of the diet and lifestyle practices I’ve included above, you can begin to support andropause or prevent its debilitating symptoms. If there’s a man in your life who could use this advice, please share this post with him!
And if you’d like to learn more about our hormones, my Hormones and Endocrinology course will help you discover how you can bring your hormones into harmony.