Male menopause, also known as ‘andropause’ is a very real medical condition, contrary to what some people may believe, that can be experienced by men anytime from their mid-twenties. Andropause originates from a gradual decline in testosterone over approximately thirty years.
This hormonal imbalance can lead to a number of symptoms, one of which being a loss of libido. This is a very common symptom experienced by men going through andropause, and is sometimes a difficult one to talk about, as there tends to be a great amount of pressure on men to conform to the normal stereotype of having a high sex drive, and sometimes pre-conceived ideas that this is something that males do not experience issues with as much as women do. This article aims to provide some practical advice for men out there who may be experiencing a low libido due to andropause, and assure them that they are not alone in their experiences.
Why do men experience low libido?
Men going through andropause experience many symptoms such as fatigue, depression or irritability, hot flushes, loss of muscle mass, and low libido. Men normally experience a low libido due to a severe testosterone deficiency, which may also be accompanied by problems getting or maintaining an erection. More specifically, testosterone deficiency can happen when there is a signalling issue between the brain and testes, which can cause a drop in the amount of testosterone that is produced. It can be due to the brain sensing there is too much testosterone in the body, and signalling the testes to cut production. Another reason testosterone deficiency may occur is that the body simply can't produce enough testosterone due to a defect in the testes.
How diet can help
It would be beneficial to limit your intake of sugar, caffeine, white flour, and excessively starchy carbohydrates, as these can lead to hormonal imbalances. Diets high in omega 3 (oily fish, flaxseed and walnuts), organic foods, lean animal and plant proteins, whole grains and antioxidants (fruits and vegetables) and other healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, organic grass fed meat and organic butter) are generally beneficial for hormonal balance, as these are high in the vitamins and minerals needed to balance hormonal levels.
The best foods to increase to help testosterone production are foods containing zinc (lamb, seafood, nuts and seeds), vitamin D (fish, eggs and dairy), vitamin C (fruits and vegetables), and B vitamins (wholegrains, vegetables, eggs and meat).
Supplements for increasing libido
Fenugreek may increase sexual arousal, testosterone levels, and enhance athletic performance in men. It is believed the main mechanism behind fenugreek and its ability to increase libido is via two enzymes called aromatase and 5α-reductase, which modify cholesterol in the production of testosterone. The recommended dose for fenugreek is 500mg per day.
This herb can work to increase testosterone levels when they are too low, due to chemical compounds in the ginseng plant called ‘saponins’, which may have an effect on sexual performance, and a man’s ability to get and maintain erections. This increase in testosterone may lead to an increase in libido also. The recommended dose for this herb to increase libido would be 1,000mg three times a day.
As this herb helps to increase blood flow and oxygen throughout the body, especially blood flow to the penis, it thus increases endurance and sexual performance. A dose beneficial for andropausal males would be a minimum of 240mg per day, for at least two months.
Gingko biloba is thought to increase blood flow to the genital area, which supports obtaining and getting an erection. It also thought to increase testosterone levels in the body. The optimal dose for gingko to increase testosterone levels would be between 60-120mg per day.
Adequate zinc is vital for hormonal balance and libido. Without zinc the pituitary gland cannot release the hormones that stimulate the testes to produce testosterone. Zinc also helps to minimise irritability, depression and sleep issues, which may in turn influence libido. A good dose is 25 mg three times daily of zinc citrate or picolinate.
Reducing stress is important as this can decrease testosterone levels, and also have an effect on libido. It can become a vicious cycle when you are feeling pressure to perform, which makes you more stressed. Also low testosterone may lead to a low mood in itself, so this will exacerbate things further. Practising meditation, yoga or doing relaxation exercises, or even having a relaxing bath, massage, or listening to some soothing music may help to combat stress.
Resistance training that helps to increase muscle mass will help to increase testosterone levels, as does high intensity exercise. Exercise also has a positive effect on mood due to its effect on serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain, which are responsible for feelings of happiness, and may have an effect on libido, too, due to increased blood flow to your organs, and regulation of the stress hormone cortisol, which can help balance testosterone levels.
You should also minimise your use of household cleaning products and toiletries containing chemicals such as parabens and aluminium. Reduce the amount of time you spend around electromagnetic equipment such as mobile phones and wireless computers, as these can cause an imbalance on a cellular level and disrupt hormones.
Please check with your GP before taking any supplements, especially if you are on any medication, due to risk of a contraindication with herbs such as black cohosh, dong quai, and gingko biloba, which should be avoided in some cases.
From Claire Ward
Claire is a Nutritional Therapist with five years experience, specialising in sports nutrition, weight loss, hormonal and gut issues. Claire has a BSc Hons degree in Nutritional Therapy and runs her own nutrition and well-being business.