A Woman's Guide to Male Menopause
Forum: Ask Dennis Hardy ND
- A Woman's Guide to Male Menopause
R by dennishardyND
Ask Dennis Hardy ND
Here's everything a woman needs to know to make a big difference in the quality and quantity of her partner's so-called golden years. Paula had always done all she could to preserve her health and her youthful energy. At 48, the evidence of her nutritious diet and excellent self-care showed in the glow of her smooth skin, the slender curves of her body and the ease with which she maintained her busy schedule. Her husband, Henry, was not faring quite so well. Although only four years older than his wife, he looked 60 and felt 70. What energy he had was focused on his stressful job, which provided a welcome distraction from his constant fatigue, balding head and waning sexua| potency. Fast food and coffee were part of his daily diet even though he had begun to take drugs for his blood pressure and cholesterol. He had kept his occasional difficulty urinating a secret from his wife and his doctor—he didn’t want to hear that he might need some kind of prostate surgery.
Although concerned, Paula was at a loss as how to help him. At one time, Henry had taken pride in his trim, muscular body and had matched his wife’s energy and lust for life. Now, he just didn’t seem to care anymore.High-blood-pressure medications (e.g., beta blockers, calcium-channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors)
Antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor)
H2 blockers such as Tagamet and Zantac
Sedatives, tranquilizers, sleeping pills
Excessive alcoholUnfortunately, it took a mild heart attack for Henry to change his ways. Once recovered, he and his wife resolved to do whatever it took for him to stay healthy and enjoy every day. He cleaned up his diet and used supplements to wean himself off prescription drugs. Today, he looks younger than he did before his heart attack and is taking life a bit easier by working part-time and enjoying active vacations with Paula. He’ll tell anyone who will listen that male menopause is real, and that his life has turned around, thanks to his wife’s research on the subject.
A man who can be persuaded to make some simple adjustments during his 40s and 50s can sail through his version of “the change” with the same ease as his health-conscious partner. Henry was suffering from a classic case of male menopause. While many doubt the existence of such a life change in men, the scientific evidence shows that male menopause—more aptly called andropause—is real.
Andropause usually begins to appear in a man’s mid-40s. Symptoms include a decrease in energy, lack of sexua| desire or ability and physical signs of aging: wrinkles, hair loss and more serious problems such as heart disease or prostate troubles. And it isn’t just that the man is getting older, although that’s what most mainstream medical professionals tell men who complain of these problems. At the risk of generalizing the tendencies of an entire gender, it’s important to acknowledge something about men, particularly American men: They don’t often make health-supporting changes on their own. Usually, as with Paula and Henry, the woman is the driving force behind good nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices in the family. While a woman tends to remain in touch with her feelings and her general well-being (especially as she ages), a man tends to neglect his emotional side and adopt an “if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it” attitude toward his physical health.
This is why, when a man begins to show signs of andropause, it often falls to the woman in his life to help him make the changes that will restore his health, appearance and energy. A woman can make a big difference in the quality and quantity of her partner’s so-called golden years by buying and preparing the right foods; helping him to make better choices when not eating at home; persuading him to get regular, moderate exercise; encouraging him to find ways to tune in to his feelings; and supplying him with some nutritional supplements. Although both men and women experience a decrease in hormones gradually during midlife, the changes that women experience are more easily noticeable—after all, she can’t miss the fact that she’s not having periods anymore. Her hormone levels drop significantly, and she’s likely to experience the characteristic symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. A woman officially enters menopause when she stops menstruating completely. She will probably first experience a few years of irregular cycles and fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that eventually dwindle to low levels when menopause is complete.
Andropause involves changes in hormone levels, but they are much more gradual than the changes experienced by women. The primary hormones involved are testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Both of these hormones are androgens—hormones that make a guy a guy—bestowing physical characteristics such as a deep voice, hair on the face and chest, and for some, a bald head. Decreases in levels of other hormones, including growth hormone (which keeps muscles from deteriorating and skin from wrinkling), androstenedione (a precursor to testosterone), melatonin (which facilitates rejuvenating sleep), pregnenolone (which keeps the mind sharp) and thyroid hormone (which keeps metabolism high), also contribute. In men, these changes happen very gradually, over a period of years.
This slow decline in hormone levels seems to hit an important threshold when a man is in his 40s and 50s. Once this happens, the risk of age-related diseases, most notably heart disease and prostate disease, goes way up. Higher hormone levels protect a man from the repercussions of poor diet and lifestyle habits, but during andropause, that protection begins to fade.
While replacing dwindling levels of the hormones mentioned above in supplemental hormone form can be a big help to a man going through andropause, you can first try the simpler solutions of a healthy diet, nutritional supplements and herbs. Although traditionally, women tend to be the cooks and the grocery shoppers in the family, this may not always be the case. Nonetheless, there are plenty of ways to live by example and encourage smart food choices. And supporting these dietary guidelines at home will provide a foundation for health and longevity for both of you.
What Both of You Can Do:
Eat a whole-foods, vegetable-rich diet and drink six to eight glasses of pure water daily to provide a basic foundation for good health. Fresh, colorful, organic vegetables and fruits should be part of every meal, and make great snacks during the day.
Eat organic, range-raised, hormone- and drug-free meats. These choices will help you and your partner avoid getting a dose of estrogen with your pork or beef. (And yes, moderate amounts of lean red meat, say once or twice a week, are fine.) In the United States, livestock is fed estrogen prior to market to ensure optimal weight gain. The last thing that an andropausal man needs is estrogen.
Keep dairy products, added oils and packaged, prepared foods to a minimum, and do your best to make these organic when you do buy them.
Cook with olive or canola oils, and resist the urge to deep-fry; if you must, use butter, lard or coconut oils. These saturated fats are best for heating at high temperatures because they are more stable than unsaturated fats such as corn and safflower oils. Stable oils are less prone to oxidation—the process that creates harmful free radicals. Free radicals are implicated in most of the debilities of aging, particularly heart disease, cancer and skin aging.
Keep a high-potency, high-quality multivitamin in the house. Every middle-aged man (and woman) should take one daily. About half of all Caucasian men will end up with the characteristic “chrome dome” fringed with hair on the back and sides of the head by the time they reach old age. When male pattern baldness (MPB) strikes, it is due to a combination of hormones and heredity. In a man’s 30s, 40s and 50s, a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT)—a version of testosterone—begins to act on the hair follicles on the top and front of his head, causing them to shrink and lose function. Increased levels of sebum, the oily substance that can clog pores, are thought to contribute by holding DHT inside hair follicles. Poor scalp circulation, attributable to a combination of fatty buildup in the blood vessels and inadequate vitamin C for blood-vessel building, adds to the problem. It is possible, however, to slow the process with natural treatments.
What He Can Do:
Take saw-palmetto berry and zinc. Saw palmetto interferes with the action of the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT. Take 160 mg daily of saw palmetto, along with 15 to 30 mg of zinc picolinate twice daily.
Wash hair daily with a high-quality shampoo (check your health-food store) to clear away excess sebum and feed the scalp with antioxidant nutrients.
Use thorough brushing, scalp massage and even inverted yoga poses to improve scalp circulation. More men die from heart disease than from any other illness, and countless others take multiple medications to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
What He Can Do:
To protect blood vessels from the harmful effects of free radicals, take 400 IU of vitamin E, 2,000 mg of vitamin C and 200 mcg of selenium daily.
Supplement with flavonoids to help strengthen blood vessels and resist free radicals; they are found in green tea, ginkgo, bilberry and grapeseeds. Find a supplement that supplies 500 mg of mixed flavonoids from these sources, plus 320 mg of a standardized ginkgo extract daily. The prostate gland is a walnut-sized, muscular organ that wraps around the urethra and makes a nutrient-rich fluid that nourishes sperm. In 50% of men 51 to 60 years, 70% of 70-year-old men and 80% of men over age 80, the prostate swells and squeezes the urethra partly or completely closed. This condition, called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), may not seem so benign to a man who finds himself unable to urinate when he feels the urge.
In Europe, 90% of cases of mild to moderate BPH are treated with plant medicines, which work by blocking the action of DHT on the prostate. Like the scalp, the prostate becomes more sensitive to its effects with passing years.
What He Can Do:
Saw palmetto has been widely researched and works just as well as the prescription BPH medication Proscar (finasteride), with far fewer side effects. Take 160 mg of a saw palmetto extract (85 to 95% fatty acids and sterols) twice daily.
Other plant medicines that can work for BPH include nettle root (Urtica dioica), which has prostate-specific anti-inflammatory effects (take 250 to 500 mg daily); and pygeum (Pygeum africanum), another DHT blocker (take 50 to 100 mg daily).
Because isoflavones have a beneficial effect on the prostate, red-clover extract, which contains the entire family of isoflavones in a balanced ratio, shows real promise as a BPH remedy. The typical dosage is 40 mg per day.
Remember zinc, the mineral most highly concentrated in prostate tissues. For symptomatic BPH, take 30 mg daily for up to six months, then lower the dose to 10 to 15 mg per day. About 5% of men at the age of 40 and between 15 and 25% of men at age 65 experience impotence. While it may be hard to convince a man to deal with any health problem, persuading him to deal with impotence can be especially challenging, even with Bob Dole talking so calmly in TV ads for v!agra about “erectile dysfunction.” This is especially true of men who subscribe to the outdated belief that erection problems are caused by anxiety or other psychological issues. Today, we know that in 85% of cases of impotence, the problem is physical.
Impotence is defined as a total inability to achieve an erection, an inconsistent ability to do so, or a tendency to sustain only brief erections. Possible causes include diabetes, prescription drugs, prostate surgery or poor circulation to the penis because of unhealthy blood vessels. While failed attempts to perform certainly could make a man want to stop trying, impotence is not the same thing as loss of libido. Libido is the desire to have sex, and it can slip away because of low testosterone levels or certain prescription drugs.
What He Can Do:
Use herbal remedies, which have been used for centuries, for impotence and low libido. Here’s a glance at the options.
Yohimbine, a pharmaceutical derivative of yohimbe tree bark, increases blood flow to erectile tissue, which enhances libido and can help performance when taken just before sex. A decade’s worth of clinical research has proven yohimbine’s effectiveness. It should not be used more than once a week. Although yohimbine is available only by prescription, yohimbe products are available over the counter at health food stores. A man with heart disease should get his doctor’s OK before trying any of these products.
Ginkgo, which dilates arteries throughout the body, allows freer flow of blood into the penis.
Ginseng is a gentle stimulant that can make erections more rigid and longer-lasting. Both ginkgo and ginseng can be used on an ongoing basis for their general tonifying and balancing effects.
Ashwagandha is an Indian tonic herb that is excellent for improving libido and sexua| performance. Less well studied, but reported effective by many enthusiastic users, are wild oats (Avena sativa) and nettle root (Urtica dioica).
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