By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
You can argue that testosterone makes you manly, as it is often considered the “male hormone” because it is responsible for the development of your sex organs and your sexual characteristics.1 Yet, it also serves many other important functions in the body including: contributing to muscle and bone development, immunity, and brain function.2
So – what happens when you begin losing testosterone? Starting between the ages of 30-40, men’s testosterone levels begin to slowly decline.2-4
The term for low testosterone is called “hypogonadism” and the result is what some call Male Menopause, also known as “Andropause”.
Low Testosterone – Symptoms
Low levels of testosterone may result in the following symptoms:2
- loss of sexual desire/function
- mood disorders
- lack of motivation
Bones, Blood & Brains
Because of the other important functions testosterone plays, when it starts to lower, this has effects on the bones, blood cells, and brain.
Osteoporosis: It is estimated that 1 in 5 men will suffer from a broken bone as a result of osteoporosis.5 This may relate to the levels of testosterone men have in their bodies. Testosterone signals muscles to grow, which promotes building strong bones.6 When testosterone levels decline, there is an increased risk of weakened bones.
Anemia: Testosterone is responsible for producing erythropoietin, which is a hormone that stimulates red blood cell formation.2 Low testosterone levels can result in a decline in red blood cell formation, which can result in anemia and contribute to weakness and fatigue.2
Mood & Wellbeing: Losing your sexual desire and motivation can result in depression and general irritability.2 Research suggests that testosterone may act directly on the brain in men with andropause to improve mood, or it may just be an effect of improving other symptoms.2
Managing the Change
There are several things to consider if you have low testosterone levels.
Some health care practitioners may prescribe testosterone replacement therapies to help increase your testosterone levels. However, this is a controversial topic and one that you should consult with your health care provider.
Physical activity and nutrition are two key areas of managing andropause.
A specific exercise program may be designed for you to help increase your testosterone levels. High intensity, cardiovascular exercise may lower testosterone.7 A health care professional (doctor, kinesiologist, physiotherapist) may be able to provide you with information on which exercises stimulate increases in testosterone.7
In general, a balance of cardio, resistance training, stretching and yoga is recommended.7 Weight bearing physical activity (such as jogging or jumping rope) is also very important to prevent osteoporosis.
Many vitamins and minerals are important in keeping testosterone levels balanced in the body. Below are a few examples.
This is an extremely important nutrient for ensuring a balance between testosterone and estrogen in the body. Without zinc, the human body will convert some testosterone into estrogens, which further depletes their level.8,10
Food Sources of Zinc: Beef, pork, lamb, dark meat of chicken, nuts, whole grains, legumes9
This antioxidant works in a similar way as zinc to prevent the conversion of testosterone to estrogens.8
Food Sources of Vitamin C: dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, rapini), red & yellow peppers, pineapples, grape fruits, berries11
Vitamin A & E
Some experts suggest that these vitamins may also play a role in enhancing testosterone production.10
Food Sources of Vitamin A: Liver (chicken, beef, etc.), spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes12
Food Sources of Vitamin E: dark leafy greens, sunflower seeds, almonds, fish (halibut, sardines, tuna), eggs13
No matter what you call it, male menopause is a natural part of aging. Maybe it’s time to test your testosterone! Don’t be shy to discuss this with your friends, family or doctor. It’s something you can manage to continue to live a healthy, vibrant life!
- Androgel. (2013). What is testosterone? Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.androgel.com/what-is-testosterone.aspx
- Bain, J. (2001). Andropause: Testosterone replacement therapy for aging men. Canadian Family Physician, 47, 91-97. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.cfp.ca/content/47/1/91.full.pdf
- Health Central. (2013). Testosterone. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.healthcentral.com/encyclopedia/408/491.html?ic=506048
- Harvard Health Publications: Harvard Medical School. Is there a “male menopause?” Will hormones help? Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Is-There-a-Male-Menopause-Will-Hormones-Help.htm
- Osteoporosis Canada. (2013). Men and Osteoporosis. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.osteoporosis.ca/osteoporosis-and-you/men-and-osteoporosis/
- Office of the Surgeon General. (2004). Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45504/
- West Minister Medical Clinic. (n.d). Andropause: Exercise & Activity. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.westminstermedicalclinic.com/conditions/andropause/exercis
- Bamrom, J. (2002). Andropause: A Review of Treatment Options. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.huntsvillecompounding.com/andropause%20treatment.pdf
- Medline Plus.(2013). Zinc in diet. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002416.htm
- Niharika, M. & Jyothi, A. (2013). Indigenous Nutrition Medicine for Andropause. Golden Research Thoughts, 3(2), 1-3.
- Dietitians of Canada. (2012). Food Sources of Vitamin C. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-C.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2012). Food Sources of Vitamin A. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-A.aspx
- Dietitians of Canada. (2012). Food Sources of Vitamin E. Retrieved December 23, 2013, from http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-E.aspx