Andropause refers to a state of physiologic dysfunction and symptoms caused by male hormone disruption. While andropause is more common with aging it can, unlike menopause, occur at any age—even teenage boys can be in andropause. Why? Because it is closely related to the current Standard American Diet (SAD) and improper carbohydrate metabolism, that is also at the heart of pre-diabetes (insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, syndrome X), diabetes, and fat deposition at any age, but now starting increasingly in the younger population.
One misconception is that loss of libido and/or erectile dysfunction is synonymous with andropause. This is not true. In fact, most erectile dysfunction is a vascular (blood flow) or psychological problem, not a hormonal one. Another misconception is that taking testosterone will fix it. Nothing could be further from the truth and the unwise use of testosterone may make the problem infinitely worse, while the real problem continues unchecked. The most crucial area to be significantly effected, and the one of most concern, is not the penis but what should be the man’s real decision-maker—the brain.
The onset of andropause is usually gradual and the symptoms are often missed, ignored as “normal aging,” or treated as a singular problem by herbs or drugs without consideration of the possibility that it is a manifestation of an underlying hormonal imbalance. These are the common signs or possible indications of andropause (remember this can, and often does, occur in teenage males as well):
• decrease in spontaneous morning erections
• irritability, emotional outbursts
• depression, discouragement, pessimism, loss of enthusiasm for life
• loss of energy, strength, muscle tone, or stamina, with increasing fatigue
• decreased initiative, loss of interest in work, hobbies, travel, or socializing
• decreased libido
• decreased memory, alertness, and concentration, “brain fog”
• sleep disorders, insomnia
• fatigue after eating
• muscle soreness
• increased cholesterol, triglycerides, and/or blood pressure
• central weight gain, with increased fat in the hips and chest (gynecomastia), or obesity
• increased blood sugar
• prostate problems (frequent or difficult urination)
• increased sweating
• poor blood flow to extremities causing cold hands/feet, sore feet and/or nail fungus
• poor digestion, constipation, heartburn
• erectile dysfunction (this is usually vascular, neurologic, or pysychogenic however)
Of the 50 most-prescribed drugs in the USA, over half are for conditions listed above. These symptoms are also associated with most of the common causes of death in males. Any of them can have a negative effect on a man’s sense of well-being, and often effect his family relationships and career as well. Again, the problem is almost never a low testosterone level, which usually doesn’t start to decline until very late in life and, even then, SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) gradually elevates with age, resulting in a steady level of serum testosterone.
The most common cause of andropause is “aromatization,” wherein testosterone is converted to estrogen. This is the same process that contributes to the development of several cancers in women. In men, the symptoms are more commonly those listed above and correcting it is vital as increased levels of estrogen in men is directly linked to significant cardiovascular risk and diabetes. Systemic inflammation in the body and insulin surges, both most commonly created by the Standard American Diet, are the primary cause of aromatization. It especially effects tissues with less anti-oxidant protection–the brain and testes, and results in suppression of normal testosterone production. This is precisely why taking testosterone is so dangerous–the extra testosterone is simply converted to estrogen by the body, increasing the harmful estrogenic effects. The process of aromatization must be reversed. In addition to diet changes, there are a number of natural approaches to enhance this process. But they will not be effective if there is no dietary modification. Taking zinc, saw palmetto, and fish oil won’t cut it.
The insulin resistance resulting from poor diet and decreased testosterone/increased estrogen is most problematic in the brain, resulting in rapid neurodegeneration, often blamed on “aging” and accepted as “just the way he is.” The brain degeneration makes the andropause sufferer into an uncommunicative loaner without any drive to do or change anything–your classic couch potato. Low testosterone has also been found to be a risk factor in Alzheimer’s disease. And it is a self-perpetuating vicious cycle. That is why it is very difficult to treat–the sufferer doesn’t have the desire or energy to change despite the discomfort and disruption in his life. It’s not that “he’s just a stubborn guy”–the capacity to change simply isn’t there. It’s not personality, but brain degeneration. It becomes incumbent upon the spouse, partner, or family member to take charge and facilitate the necessary changes to reverse the degenerative process.
Checking for andropause is a simple saliva test that measures the tissue levels of all the important male hormones. The sample is collected at home. The cost is $120. If you are interested, please contact me to pick up a kit.