While women's health holds a number of taboos — from menstruation to menopause — the same goes for men's health and, it’s worth turning our hammers to the walls that hide conversations around these topics.
While cisgender men don’t experience menstruation and don’t necessarily have the same sort of physical milestones, they do experience hormonal changes much like women do, and they can experience significant side effects when those changes are drastic. This is often known as male menopause. Yep, it's a thing.
Here's what you need to know.
What is menopause?
Menopause is the natural process marking the end of a woman’s reproductive years. It’s usually signified by a range of symptoms such as the end of menstruation, insomnia and hot flushes, and is caused by a significant drop in oestrogen and progesterone as the body runs out of eggs .
Do men experience menopause?
Well, sort of. Male menopause is a little bit of a misnomer stemming from the response to a landmark study in 1944.
This study found that some older men experienced a drastic decline in testosterone in their 40s and 50s, timing with the age women generally experience menopause, and with similar symptoms — particularly in hot flushes, insomnia, low mood and weight gain — the term ‘male menopause’ was coined .
It's generally considered unhelpful to refer to it as 'menopause' as male menopause doesn’t affect anywhere near as many men as women.
On top of that, it's actually usually a symptom of something else affecting men's health, for instance, a different condition such as hypogonadism, or a side effect of a treatment for prostate cancer, as opposed to a natural phase of life .
So, men’s hormones don’t slow down?
They do, just nowhere near to the extent of women, and not enough to create a defined period like menopause.
Healthy men will find their testosterone levels start to naturally decline in their 30s, but this decline averages out to less than two per cent per year, making it a pretty slow, organic process, and one that’s often barely noticeable outside of general maturing .
This should not give them much in the way of male menopause symptoms.
Can you talk a little more about testosterone?
Sure! Testosterone is a type of androgen (so, a sex hormone), and is to men what oestrogen is to women. It's crucial in the development of the male reproductive system, body hair, muscle mass, sperm and maintaining a healthy sex drive .
All men and women produce testosterone, just as all men and women also produce oestrogen, albeit in very different amounts. In fact, male hormone levels vary person-to-person as a result of their body makeup and environmental factors, which can make identifying low testosterone, or in fact any androgen deficiency, a challenge .
That said, it can usually be diagnosed with a blood test. A testosterone deficiency beyond that two per cent annual drop can be caused by late-onset hypogonadism, also known as andropause.
This is where the testes stop producing hormones altogether (or at least very few of them) and can cause the symptoms often known as male menopause . This is an uncommon condition and is mostly seen in adult men who are obese or have type 2 diabetes.
Male menopause signs and symptoms
Many of the symptoms of andropause are similar to menopause, hence why they are often conflated. These symptoms include a range of emotional and physical changes that can impact the way men feel about their bodies and themselves in the same way it can affect women.
Some of these symptoms include:
- Decreased sexual function, erectile dysfunction and infertility
- Insomnia and difficulties with sleep
- Weight gain, fat redistribution (such as developing a belly or ‘man boobs’) and/or muscle loss and loss of strength
- Hot flushes and sweats
- Hair loss
- Low energy levels and poor concentration
- Psychological problems such as depression, mood swings and low self-confidence .
While mild symptoms are a natural part of ageing and declining testosterone levels, if your symptoms are severe, you should speak to your doctor.
Are there lifestyle changes involved in male menopause?
Many studies have found that lower testosterone levels can be caused by more than just ageing.
Alcohol consumption, smoking, certain medical treatments, particularly for cancer, stress, depression and poor diet can all cause symptoms of male menopause, particularly anxiety and erectile dysfunction .
Is there a way to treat the symptoms of male menopause?
The symptoms of male menopause for older males are wide and varied, and as they’re not necessarily caused by any one thing, treatment is wide and varied as well. A good place to start to relieve symptoms though is with:
- Eating a balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, grains and lean meat
- Reducing your alcohol or cigarette intake
- Getting regular exercise
- Getting more regular sleep
- Trying to reduce your stress levels, and looking after your mental health and wellbeing.
You might also want to consider trying a daily supplement that can help with the production of testosterone, like Pilot's Testosterone Support. This formula is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, which also help to support your immune system and maintain skin health.
With ingredients like zinc, which enables testosterone development, and vitamin B6, which plays a role in suppressing the male body's regulation of oestrogen and magnesium, for optimised muscle growth and function, our Testosterone Support can help you navigate menopause-like symptoms.
If your symptoms are severe, you may have late-onset hypogonadism and you should speak to your doctor. In this case, you will likely be prescribed a testosterone replacement to manufacture what your body has stopped producing.