Do Men really suffer the Male Man-o-pause?
Around the age of 50, give or take a few years, it’s thought that most men go through period in their life called andropause. Much like a woman’s menopause, in which a woman’s body stops making as much estrogen, men go through a so called ‘man-opause’, in which their bodies stop making as much testosterone. But just how real are the symptoms?
Sceptics think it’s a Midlife Crisis in Disguise!
Some doctors still reject these ‘man-o-pause symptoms’ and put this change in physical and emotional behaviour down to a male midlife crisis of sorts.
Others will argue that the male-midlife crisis is more related to changes in behaviour only, as the man in midlife transition starts to have fears of lost virility.
Andropause refers to physiological changes. It is these physiological changes, not behavioural ones, that are the symptoms of what many now recognise as the male man-o-pause.
Female Menopause Vs Male Man-opause
In brief, the female menopause is best defined as the time when a woman’s menstrual periods cease to be. Based on this definition, a man simply cannot have a male equivalent of a womanly menopause.
Women going through menopause tend to experience those very well known interludes in which their hormones seem to work and don’t. They go through hot and cold, angry and lethargic, dry and moist, as their bodies adjust to ‘the change’. It’s certainly no picnic!
Men don’t go through any of the above of course, hence the sceptical views by some medical experts (including men themselves), that the andropause is nothing but a myth. But is it?
A middle-aged man going through his variation of ‘the change’ will tend to more or less merge with his favourite armchair and get more excited about television than about the woman nagging him to get up, or get it up! But you’d be right to think there’s more to it than this.
What is it about aging that makes testosterone teeter and fall to low levels? It’s not like Mother Nature was preventing men from fathering little rug rats in old age. Testosterone levels usually don’t fall quite that much. But men going through the masculine equivalent of “the change” kind of just run down like an ageing car with a dead battery and flat tires.
How can a man know he’s going through Man-o-pause?
Women know they are going through menopause because they stop menstruating. Menopause symptoms in women have an obvious beginning and an obvious end.
Men don’t really have clear cut signs they are going through andropause. The effects of andropause may start about 45 (almost never before age 35) and wind up when it’s time to retire some 20 years later.
Common Symptoms caused by Andropause include:
- Loss of muscle mass
- Loss of muscle tone
- Loss of erectile strength & premature ejaculation
- Loss of sex drive and enjoyment of sex (getting the impression it’s mostly about sex?)
- Potential prostate problems.
Prostate problems can include anything from retrograde ejaculation (cumming in rather than out), to problems with finishing urination and having to go all the time, or not being able to go at all. The latter is when when men usually break down and finally go to see a doctor.
The reason men start having lower testosterone levels is that their bodies begin to turn testosterone into estrogen.
Despite all of these studies a number of doctors are still sceptical about an actual male menopause, although there is less scepticism today than there used to be.
If only it were possible to connect a husband going through man-o-pause with his wife going through menopause, then maybe their hormones would balance out. But since we can’t do that, men going through their ‘change of life’ have to contend with the effects of ever more estrogen being produced in their bodies, and whatever consequences that brings..
How and Why Men’s Bodies Start Making Estrogen
It happens in fat cells. There’s an enzyme produced by fat cells that converts testosterone into estrogen. The more fat you accumulate, the more estrogen your body makes. Having said that, not all fat cells are equal when it comes to making estrogen.
Buttocks fat converts testosterone into estrogen at a rate ten times faster than fat elsewhere in the body. By the time you earn the nickname “lard arse” you could also earn some nicknames about your performance in the boudoir.
Fat and estrogen become a vicious cycle. The more testosterone a man’s body converts to estrogen, the lower his muscle mass. The lower his muscle mass, the fewer calories his body burns. The fewer calories burned, the more fat stored and the production of still more estrogen follows. It gets worse!
Man’s Constant Exposure to Xenoestrogens in Daily Life.
Xenoestrogens are chemicals in the environment that behave like estrogen. Some of them are natural. Soy makes phytoestrogens, for example, that keep men from eating soybeans. It’s a mother soybean’s way of protecting her beanie babies.
There are also xenoestrogens in hops and marijuana. Men who indulge in lots of beer or lots of pot – over a period of years, tend to get bosomy. It’s the estrogen in the hops or the marijuana that contributes to the unsightly man boobs that a lot of middle-aged guys sport.
There’s also a phenomenon called “beer drinkers droop” or the ‘pot-doesn’t-make-me-horny-anymore’ condition that we’ll discuss elsewhere on this site.
Beware of bisphenol-A (BPA)
But the most harmful xenoestrogen of all is a compound called bisphenol-A (BPA). It’s used to harden plastics. It keeps men from getting hard by locking into the same receptor sites on the cells in a man’s body as estrogen. It has become almost impossible to escape bisphenol-A. Even middle aged male Eskimos test positive for it.
Even so, it’s not necessary that testosterone levels drop enough for this ubiquitous chemical pollutant to cause loss of libido, or any of the other unwanted effects that manifest at borderline low testosterone levels.
Am I going through Andropause?
It depends. If you’re over 45 and are:
- More than 10 kilos (20 pounds or so) heavier than you were at 18
- More than 1 cm (about 1/2″) shorter than you were when you were at 18
- Have much less sex than you did when you were 18
- Have more flaccid erections than you did when you were 18,
- Need more sleep than you used to, have less energy than you used to, or tend to doze off at the dinner table more often than not.
If you experience some or all of the above, then there’s a likelihood that you are having issues related to andropause. But wait! Don’t run to the doctor just yet asking for testosterone injections or hormone replacement therapy, or dash off to the herb shop for bioidentical (hormones derived from natural plant compounds), replacement therapy.
The first thing you need to do is to take off the fat that is playing havoc with your male sex hormones. We’ll be discussing that in a lot more depth elsewhere on this site.
Getting back good fitness levels by reducing blubber is the best thing a man can do to boost sagging testosterone levels, and to keep that level (and other bodily parts) up on command.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY ROBERT RISTER | 50ish Site Contributor
Robert Rister is a senior health writer here at 50ish.org