Well, well, well. What do we have here?! Okay let’s not get too excited ladies. Andropause, sometimes called ‘male menopause,’ is the decline in hormones in men. During menopause, women experience a sharp decrease in hormones that can lead to drastic side effects. In andropause, there is a gradual (read: gentle) decrease of testosterone and cortisol, along with an increase in other hormones like prolactin and estradiol typically starting around age 40.
Why is testosterone so important? Although it’s known for enhancing libido, testosterone also enhances bone development, supports hair growth, and can act as a mood stabilizer (that seems kind of backwards, right?). This change in hormone levels can lead to weight gain especially around the waist, hair loss, muscle loss, hot flashes and night sweats, drop in libido, feeling lethargic and even depression. Decreased testosterone can leave men more prone to other ailments and diseases like enlarged prostate, heart disease, osteoporosis and more. This experience naturally happens upon aging, but factors like alcohol use, xenoestrogen exposure (chemicals that mimic the body’s natural estrogen) and stress can all contribute to a loss in testosterone.
An easy way for men (read: people) to support their hormones naturally is through a healthy diet. Specific foods that support male hormones are foods with lycopenes, a plant nutrient that gives foods a red or other bright pigment: think tomatoes, watermelon, kale and spinach, and berries. Any foods that support liver detox will do double duty and assist in hormone support as the liver helps rid the body of harmful toxins from food and our environment. Citrus fruits, avocado, beets, cruciferous veggies like brussels sprouts and broccoli are a few examples of liver-friendly foods. Eating organic as much as possible is a great way to reduce our xenoestrogen (in this case pesticide) exposure. Incorporating ‘booster foods’ like seeds (standouts are flax and pumpkin seeds) is another way to enhance a healthy diet.
Adding herbs to the diet is another way to support hormones and in some cases naturally boost testosterone. Nettle root extract, vitex, panax ginseng are a few examples of this; they come in powder or pill form but as always, consult with a doc before taking that route. Ashwagandha is one exceptional herb that is becoming more accessible in conventional grocery stores – this adaptogen comes in powder form and can help with mood and stress, and even increase sperm quality. Aging, isn’t it great?! Eating for health can begin at any age and can really improve discomfort that may come with andropause.