By David Blyweiss, M.D.
Many women may be skeptical, but it’s true. Men go through the change of life, too.
And although male menopause has been a quiet secret for years, the condition has recently gained credibility. Research has shown a man’s testosterone level begins a slow downhill slide as early as age 30. And it drops one percent a year after the age of 50.
Add that to the fact that other sex hormones and brain chemicals also begin to fluctuate, and middle-aged men can experience an array of symptoms, including loss of muscle mass, fatigue, depression and even hot flashes. More concerning, studies now link low testosterone levels to heart disease, cognitive decline, bone loss and erectile problems.
If you think your testosterone levels are low, you can have them tested. But the problem with testing is that testosterone levels normally fluctuate throughout the day (higher in the morning), from season to season (highest in the fall; lowest in the spring), and can vary according to your stress levels and diet.
This means that you and your doctor can have a hard time knowing whether testosterone levels have truly dipped, or if you took the test at an inopportune time.
To get a true reading, it’s best to have at least two tests several months apart, taken at the same time of day.
If your levels are dropping, there are a number of natural ways to boost your levels.
One of the easiest is close as your neighborhood gym. Since there is a direct relationship between muscle mass and testosterone, exercise—especially weightlifting—can help.
Studies have shown as few as two sessions of strength training per week can increase muscle strength by more than 30 percent. Other benefits include boosting bone density (another victim of declining testosterone), speeding up metabolism and pushing up production of testosterone and other sex hormones.
Exercises that target large muscle groups (like squats or bench presses) boost testosterone levels more than those that train isolated muscles (like curls).
Keeping your weight in check also makes a difference. Fat cells tend to convert circulating testosterone into estrogen (a process called aromatization). And that means having too much fat around your mid-section can sabotage what little testosterone the body still produces.
Supplements can also play a key role in managing male menopause. I’ve found that the B vitamins can help manage stress and boost energy. Together with Vitamin C, ashwaganda and ginseng, B vitamins stabilize the production of stress hormones. And DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is also critical because it is a building block for testosterone and other sex hormones.
Unfortunately, DHEA also declines with age. But studies show that taking this hormone in supplemental form can improve skin, sex drive, mood and strength in aging men.
But before adding DHEA to your daily supplement regimen, have your blood DHEA levels tested and then have them retested periodically once you start taking it.
But the most effective testosterone-boosting supplement is chrysin. It’s a naturally-occurring polyphenol found in passionflower, honey and propolis (the resinous “glue” bees use for hive construction).
Numerous studies show that chrysin prevents the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. As a result of this blocking action, testosterone levels are raised. As an added bonus, Chrysin quells inflammation and inhibits COX-2, the enzyme that triggers pain and swelling. But this is definitely a “man’s nutrient.” Because of its ability to significantly boost testosterone levels, it should not be taken by women.
Because testosterone is vital to overall health, maintaining healthy levels can mean the difference between aging well or the slow deterioration that often occurs after a man hits 50. Being proactive with these healthy nutrients and lifestyle changes can help you manage the change that comes with age. And it will keep you virile and vibrant for many years to come.
Jana K. Chrysin, a natural flavonoid enhances steroidogenesis and steroidogenic acute regulatory protein gene expression in mouse Leydig cells. Journal of Endocrinology. 2008;197:315-323.
Om AS, et al. Dietary zinc deficiency alters 5-alpha-reduction and aromatization of testosterone and androgen and estrogen receptors in rat livers. Journal of Nutrition. 1996;126:842-848.
Petrov RV. Age-dependent changes in the concentration of active sex steroids, their precursors, metabolites, and regulating agents in male blood. Ontogenez. 2009;40:456-465