Menopause and the male equivalent, andropause, are normal processes of aging, however, the symptoms associated with either are often frustrating, confusing, and often depressing. In women, the symptoms tend to be more overt and can greatly impact one’s quality of life. When hormones are out of balance, it’s surprising how much it affects everything.
Menopause is defined as when a woman stops menstruating for a year and there is a drop in her estrogen levels.¹ Going through menopause means you are no longer able to bear children. Perimenopause may begin as early as your thirties (early perimenopause) but typically begins in your forties or early fifties. This period of time before true menopause occurs can take many years, sometimes up to ten.
Periods occur less often and as estrogen levels drop they eventually stop. Once you have stopped menstruating for a year you are in menopause. The time in your life after this is referred to as post-menopause.
Andropause is the change in the body that occurs when a man’s testosterone levels drop significantly, typically this occurs in your fifties. While testosterone levels begin to reduce in your thirties at approximately 1% a year, andropause occurs when the levels drop to a point that it affects your health, mood, and sex drive.²
Menopause is caused by a decline in estrogen and progesterone – your ovaries begin to make a lot less when you enter your forties. Estrogen is responsible for the regulation of your monthly cycle, including your fertility. Progesterone also regulates your cycle but is also in charge of many of the processes of pregnancy. This decline of sex hormones is normal, and when you stop producing eggs, your periods will stop completely. Premature menopause can occur in women below the age of forty. It begins with primary ovarian insufficiency, which can be caused by autoimmune disorders, but often no reason can be found.
Menopause can also be triggered by surgery – the full removal of your uterus and ovaries. This is called surgical menopause. The symptoms of surgical menopause are usually quite intense as the absence of your ovaries negates any gentle reduction of sex hormone levels. Sometimes, even when the ovaries are left in after a hysterectomy, a woman might still experience surgical menopause if the blood supply to the ovaries is reduced.
Cancer treatment can also induce menopause. Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause the change – though often it is only temporary in younger women. Many women with certain types of hormone-responsive breast cancers are placed on ‘chemotherapeutic’ type medications to reduce sex hormone production. These medications induce menopause in women.
The reduction in sex hormones is what causes many of your indicators of old age. Your skin becomes much thinner and your bones more brittle. Diminished estrogen raises your risk of heart disease and cholesterol abnormalities are often noted. Your metabolism slows and you’ll find it easier to gain weight. Vaginal dryness and atrophy and an increased risk for urinary tract infections occur. Memory is typically affected too. Interestingly enough, the most common time for a woman to develop breast cancer is in the post-menopausal time frame.
Andropause may in part be caused by aging but there are often other factors at play. Risks for andropause include the presence of one or more long-term health issues such as heart, lung, kidney, or liver disease. Cancer and stroke can also affect testosterone production. Andropause is also linked to the use of medication and malnutrition. Exposures to toxins can certainly impact the testes’ ability to produce testosterone.
The signs of old age are in fact the results of lower testosterone and androgen levels. Your hormones regulate many processes of your body, not just your sexual vitality. If your hormone levels are dropping off, you may notice that you are losing muscle mass and strength, some physical functions, and your sense of balance. Your bones become brittle and your skin much thinner. You find it more difficult to keep trim, and your doctor may have warned you you’re at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
You may be experiencing hot flashes and night sweats but there are other more subtle symptoms associated with menopause.
If you are struggling with the following, then you may be experiencing menopause:
As your hormone levels have been gradually reducing for years, it may feel like andropause has snuck up on you. It’s hard to accept, especially if you have always been a physical man who prides himself on his vitality.
If you are struggling with the following symptoms, then you may be struggling with andropause:
As with everything we do and especially when dealing with symptoms of menopause, we recommend a change in the way you eat. We always advise you to reduce your consumption of sugar and carbohydrates, as this can contribute to an imbalance in your sex and adrenal hormones, and can make inflammation in your body worse. We place emphasis on a diet rich in nutrients.
You may be a candidate for compounded bioidentical hormone replacement therapy – an effective treatment for menopausal symptoms that is safer than conventional hormone therapies and tailored to your individual needs. We work with you to manage and track your symptoms and make adjustments to dosage as needed. Our goal is to help you become Fully Functional® for life and to empower you to understand and be in control of your own health.
When treating andropause, we also recommend a careful look at your diet. We urge you to give up alcohol as the endorphins you feel as you drink a beer can actually hinder testosterone production. For the perfect andropause diet, it is important that you reduce carbohydrate consumption and focus on eating good fats (healthy fats such as grass fed-butter, coconut oil, grass-fed red meat, olive oil, avocado).
Also, make sure you are getting your nutrients – zinc, vitamins C and E, and calcium are all vital andropause natural treatments. Exercise can also boost your testosterone levels. A major contributor to andropause is sleep apnea. If you snore and wake up feeling unrefreshed you may be experiencing sleep apnea and a home (or in hospital) sleep study should be performed.
You may be a candidate for compounded bioidentical hormone replacement therapy – an effective treatment for andropause symptoms that’s safe and tailored to your individual needs.
If you are struggling with menopause or andropause, you need to see one of our certified Functional Medicine Physicians. Drs. Scott and Ellen Antoine have extensive training and experience in helping patients with menopause and andropause become Fully Functional® for life.
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The Center for Fully Functional Health® is led by a team of award-winning, internationally recognized physicians, committed to providing personalized, life-changing care.