Male menopause, sometimes known as ‘andropause’, is a very real medical condition, contrary to some people’s beliefs. Andropause arises from a gradual decline in testosterone levels over the years, which can actually begin as early as your twenties.
This hormonal imbalance can lead to a number of symptoms, one of these being hot flushes, which is actually the most common symptom experienced by men going through andropause. This symptom may be disconcerting for any males out there, as hot flushes are something that is thought to be experienced only by menopausal women. However, whilst hot flushes a very real experience for many men going through andropause, there are ways to manage these symptoms and reduce discomfort.
Why do men experience hot flushes?
Many men experience hot flushes due to a severe testosterone deficiency. More specifically, these depleted levels of testosterone cause the hypothalamus (the thermal control centre in the brain) to believe that the body is over-heating. As a result of this, a signal is sent to the blood vessels in the skin to expel this perceived excess heat. These hot flushes are essentially the body’s way of trying to keep cool, and not over-heat.
Natural ways to manage hot flushes:
Black cohosh: It is believed the main mechanism behind black cohosh and the reduction of hot flushes could be its ability to reduce elevated levels of sex hormone binding globulin, which is directly related to a decrease in testosterone and the incidence of hot flushes. A recommended dose would be somewhere between 40-80 mg per day.
Dong quai: This herb can act as an ‘adaptogen’, which means it can work to decrease or increase testosterone levels depending whether they are too high or too low, which, in the case of men experiencing andropause, are too low. This increase in testosterone may lead to a decrease in hot flushes. The recommended dose for this herb to decrease hot flushes would be 200mg three times a day.
Gingko biloba: As this herb helps to increase blood flow throughout the body, this is thought to aid in the reduction of hot flushes due to better circulation, and thus regulates the frequency and severity of hot flushes. A dose beneficial for male menopause would be a minimum of 240mg per day for at least two months.
Vitamin D: It is thought this vitamin may play a role in the increase of testosterone by improving the function of its receptor sites (proteins on the surface of each cell that receive messages), and also by helping testosterone be more readily available in the blood stream, which in turn would help alleviate hot flush symptoms. A dose of 600iu minimum per day would be beneficial in increasing testosterone levels and reducing hot flushes.
Zinc: As zinc is a potent testosterone booster, which works by stimulating the pituitary gland to produce more testosterone, this may result in the reduction of hot flushes. The optimal dose for zinc to increase testosterone levels would be 75mg per day divided into three 25mg doses.
Vitamin E: This vitamin works in a similar way to zinc, by causing the pituitary gland to send a signal to the testes to make more testosterone. This in turn again will help reduce any hot flushes. A good dosage for vitamin E to help increase testosterone levels would be 400iu.
Regular exercise (especially resistance training)
Resistance training that helps to increase muscle mass will help to increase testosterone levels, as does high intensity exercise. Examples of these would be full body heavy exercises such as squats, deadlifts or bench presses two to three times a week, for 45 minutes at a time and cardio exercise such as sprints of no more than between 6-15 seconds, two to three times a week minimum for around 20 minutes at a time.
Avoid any longer cardio of more than one hour as this tends to decrease testosterone levels and makes for a more slender body frame. It is important to have a rest of around two minutes in between each weight training exercise, as this also helps to increase testosterone levels.
Diets high in omega 3, organic foods, lean animal and plant proteins, whole grains and antioxidants and low in saturated fats are generally beneficial for hormonal balance, as these are rich in the vitamins and minerals to balance hormonal levels, and also have anti-inflammatory properties which help to balance hormones indirectly. Triggers for hot flashes can be alcohol, caffeine, smoking, tight clothes, stress, hot environments or spicy food, as these may affect hormonal balance, trigger the hot flushes by causing inflammation or by simply over-heating.
Exercise caution if you are on any medication, as herbs such as black cohosh, dong quai and gingko biloba should be avoided in some cases. It is best to check with your GP or a medical herbalist before starting any supplementation in case of any contra-indications.