It’s common knowledge that women will, at a certain age, experience a shift in their hormone levels as a result of menopause. Hot flashes, moodiness, night sweats and changes to sex drive are all possible signs and symptoms.
But did you know that men go through a similar change in hormone production as they age? Manopause, or andropause, is the term used to describe this phase in which a man’s testosterone levels begin to drop, resulting in changes to his body, sex drive, and overall attitude.
Often, the changes can be profound, leaving men feeling confused and frustrated.
To help men and their partners understand these changes, here are a few facts about the male ‘change of life.’
It’s All About Testosterone
Testosterone, a hormone present in both men and women, helps regulate fat burning and energy levels, encourages a strong libido, and supports muscle growth, among other functions. Testosterone levels in men naturally begin to decline around the age of 30, though some men experience the decline much earlier, and many also experience fluctuations in levels due to other factors throughout their lifetime.
At a rate of decline of about 1% per year, most men will not feel the effects of low testosterone until sometime in their 40s, with men in the 50-to-60 year range likely to be in the full swing of manopause and it’s associated symptoms.
It’s Not Just Age: The Symptoms of Manopause
The symptoms of low testosterone levels include a decrease in muscle mass accompanied by an increase in body fat, loss of physical strength, lower energy and concentration levels, moodiness, and diminishing sex drive. Men may also begin having difficulties achieving and maintaining erections during manopause. Osteoporosis, or loss of bone density, is also a risk as testosterone levels continue to decrease.
Social, Psychological, and Interpersonal Effects
While the gradual ebbing of testosterone is a natural part of every man’s life, a lack of awareness and education around this important life change means many men experience a great deal of stress and confusion around manopause.
Many of the symptoms of manopause directly challenge a man’s sense of self and masculinity, and can cause emotional and psychological distress, often leading to some form of that stereotypical ‘midlife crisis.’
Co-author of the book Manopause: Your Guide to Surviving His Changing Life, Kathy Silverman says, “As testosterone begins to decline, it’s not easy to maintain those standards of manhood, particularly if you’re confused about what’s happening with yourself. Men need to understand it is normal. It’s not just them, it’s every man.”
Testosterone Replacement vs. Natural Remedies
The pharmaceutical industry has been quick to jump on the manopause bandwagon, offering testosterone replacement therapies as a means of addressing the various symptoms. However, just as with female hormone replacement therapy, there are serious side effects to consider, and the long-term safety of this type of therapy has not been determined.
One of the most important things you can do if you are going through manopause is to attend to your overall health and fitness. Eating well, reducing processed foods and sugars, getting enough quality sleep, reducing stress levels, and staying physically active are all things that are known to positively impact hormone levels.
There are also a number of well-researched herbs and supplements that can mitigate and ease many of the symptoms of manopause. Check with your natural health care provider or your local health food store for blends that support hormonal health in men (click here for a list of herbs to look for on the label). Always discuss with your physician if you are taking other medications to make sure there are no unwanted interactions.
While the changes associated with manopause may be challenging to a man’s sense of identity, it can also herald a time of increased self-reflection and awareness, and be the catalyst for positive growth and development. By educating yourself on what is happening in your body and taking positive steps to maintain your physical and emotional health, you can sail through this and any other life change that comes your way.