A typical man in his 40s has only 33% to 50% of the level of testosterone that he had during his 20s. This gradual decline in testosterone as men age is called Andropause, usually occurring between the ages of 48-70 years.
To first understand the effect of declining testosterone, we must first take a closer look at its role within the body. Testosterone is essential for:-
- Healthy libido and erections
- Fertility – development and maturation of sperm
- Red blood cell production
- Protein metabolism
- Maintaining muscle mass and bone density
- Cardiovascular and metabolic health – influences fat distribution
So with this in mind, let’s look at some of the indicators of low testosterone:-
- Function – low libido, poor erection and prostate problems
- Nervous system control – reduced mood and concentration, poor sleep, headaches and tinnitus
- Muscular function – muscle weakness, constipation, slow bowel transit
If any of this sounds familiar, consider checking testosterone levels through your health care practitioner, a doctor will test your blood levels, which is a great start and then you might want to also consider a salivary hormone profile too.
The conventional approach is to look at Androgen Replacement therapy (ART), which is increasingly being used for men whose testosterone levels decline with age. Experiments have found ART benefited users by increasing lean body mass, maintaining bone mass, increased red blood cells count and capability of it to carry oxygen, reduced cholesterol and LDL levels. As well as increasing libido and general wellbeing. However, studies have noted adverse effects of ART including fluid retention, alteration of serum lipid profile, liver toxicity, increase in sleep apnea, impairment of spermatogenesis and increased in prostate cancer risk. One of the biggest risks is an increase in prostate cancer rates because tumours of the prostate are androgen sensitive. Therefore ART should be used on a risk benefit basis.
There is another approach to consider, and that’s a more natural one based on diet, lifestyle and nutritional and herbal supplements. Here are my 5 tips to get you started:-
- Have a diet low in saturated fats and avoid the dangerous trans fats found in heavily fried and processed foods. Instead focus on the good fats found in foods such as olive oil, nuts such as walnuts, seeds such as flaxseed, avocados and fish. When you do eat meat choose it lean, free range or organic and hormone free. A little organic butter is okay, but also consider alternatives such as avocado.
- Increase dietary fibre, this means to eat lots of vegetables (5-7 serves a day), fruit (2-3 pieces a day), beans, whole grains (think brown rice, quinoa, oats) nuts and seeds (flaxseed meal is fantastic here, sprinkle on your cereal).
- Eat adequate protein – a good measure is for a moderately active man (exercising 2-3 times a week) to eat approximately 1 g of protein for every kilo that you weigh. So if you are 70kg that would be 70g of protein.
- Reduce your alcohol intake and if you are smoking – STOP – both of these negatively impact your sexual function, so I ask you is it really worth it?
- If you are a poor sleeper, look to improve your sleep as this impacts your testosterone production, in a study 1 week of sleep restriction decreased daytime testosterone levels by 10-15%.
The exciting thing for me as a Naturopath is the usefulness of nutritional and herbal medicines to increase testosterone and benefit your health at this time. Andropause is something to embrace and to know that the healthier you are the better your experience will be, which will hold you in good stead as you age.