The male menopause: Myth or misunderstood?

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I spend lot of time talking about the menopause and I also spend a lot of time fending off the question “what about the male menopause?”. 

For many women that is like a red flag to a bull because, as women, we are consistently battling to get our symptoms taken seriously.  We are ignored, belittled and stigmatised because of our periods and menopause transition. We are only now starting to talk about our symptoms and we’re only just starting to be really listened to.  

So when we finally get a stage to talk about our menopause or our periods and that question pops up, well, if you envisage ‘spitting coffee over your keyboard’ kind of reactions you’re not far off. 

But is that reasonable?  Are we not doing to men and their symptoms what (mainly) men have been doing to ours all these years?  Is the male menopause actually a thing?  Well, June is Men's Health Month, so there's no better time to delve a little deeper...

Is there a male menopause?

Men have hormones.  And those hormones do what the female hormones do – they impact pretty much everything!  Our happiness levels, our physical and sexual development, our sleep, our libido, our weight management and our stress responses.  

Ok male hormones don’t hit the same intensity as the female ones, they don’t have the same levels of fluctuation and men don’t have as many hormones as women do, but that doesn’t change the fact that, similar to female hormones, the levels do change over time and that can impact on men’s wellbeing. 

As men get older, their hormones do start to diminish.  So, yes, I guess you could well say that there is a male menopause. 

What does the male menopause look like? 

The male menopause is essentially the same as the female version but, generally speaking, a lot less intense.   Rather than a dance of several pertinent hormones all running their own journey until they finally settle into a new state of balance, as men get older their prominent hormone (testosterone) starts to decrease.   Unlike the female menopause, this decrease tends to be a steady, gradual and minimal decline. 

Testosterone is the main hormone responsible for sexual and physical development so as its levels decrease, men can start to see changes that reflect in these areas:

  • Bowel issues (IBS-type symptoms) 
  • Brain fog 
  • Depression or anxiety 
  • Development of breast tissue 
  • Dry skin 
  • Erectile dysfunction 
  • Facial puffiness 
  • Fatigue  
  • Hot flushes 
  • Heavy limbs 
  • Joint stiffness 
  • Infertility 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Reduced libido 
  • Reduced muscle tone 
  • Restless leg 
  • Sensitivity to cold or to heat 
  • Sleep problems, such as insomnia or ‘light’ sleep 
  • Thinning hair or baldness 
  • Unintentional weight gain 
  • Weakened bones and osteoporosis 

In some cases this can happen earlier that anticipated or levels decrease faster than expected and so symptoms can be exacerbated.  However it’s really important to note that stress and overwhelm can also cause a lot of these symptoms.  All of the women I work with through their menopause see an improvement in their symptoms as their stress levels reduce and men are no different; it you are reading through this list, ticking off a few of the symptoms then the first thing to do is to look at your stress levels and general lifestyle.   

Of course, if you’re concerned about your hormones as a man, then do speak with your GP but there are things that you can do to naturally slow down the decline. 

Relax! 

Stress is the major disruptor of hormones.  When we live with stress for prolonged periods of time, the impact on our hormones is palatable.  Taking time out to relax and unwind, changing situations that bring high levels of stress, and learning how to calm that ‘fight or flight’ is the best thing you can do.  For many reasons, but not least for your hormonal health.  

Techniques and treatments such as massage, Reiki, acupuncture, abdominal breathing.  Take a weekend retreat.  It’s different strokes for different folks so try a few different things to find out what really works for you.   

Move more! 

Movement and exercise are essential to our wellbeing and play a huge role in getting rid of the pent-up anxiety and boosting our happiness hormones.  You don’t have to hit the gym, rung a 10k or push out 50 150kg reps.  You can just make a pledge to get off the bus a stop earlier than usual, use the toilet on the next floor down, do some squats while you’re brushing your teeth.   Even small movements get our blood flowing better.  And better flowing blood equals better functioning minds, bodies and souls.   

On which note... 

Nourish your body, mind and soul 

Your body is fuelled by the food you put in it.  Your mind is fuelled by the thoughts you put in it.  And your soul is nurtured by the books you read, music you listen to and the things to do to make you happy. 

I’m not one for faddy diets and restrictive eating – in order to serve your body best, I always advocate eating a balanced diet.  Include as much fresh and seasonal food as you can and eat things in a state that’s as close to their natural state as possible (ie minimise the amount of processed foods you’re eating).   When it comes to the mind and the soul, make mindful choices about the voices you surround yourself with; as much as you can, pick positivity over negativity.   

Talk to someone 

Bottling things up not only adds to our stress levels, it also causes physical issues.  Talking to someone about how you’re feeling really does help.  If you are struggling with your symptoms but can’t face the GP, then there are plenty of other options; 'alternative’ therapists, counsellors, even the employee support options that most employers now have will be all too willing to listen and offer advice.  

Summary 

So yes, whilst the ‘male menopause’ is, in most cases, nowhere near as complex as the female one,   hormonal decline in males can indeed cause issues that shouldn’t be ignored.  If you do feel as though you’re struggling, please don’t be put off by people like me banging the drum for the female menopause.  I don’t mean to disrespect or dismiss what you’re going through – it's very real and the physical and emotional impacts can be huge.  Don’t ignore it and assume it will be OK.  You don’t need to go through this alone.  

_________ 

About Sarah 

Sarah Darwen is passionate about women’s health.  She was diagnosed with endometriosis in her mid 20s and, having undergone treatment (including an induced menopause) under the NHS unsuccessfully was faced with the heart-breaking news that a hysterectomy was the next (and only) step.  She refused to accept that this was necessary and looked for alternatives to help her manage her condition.   She’s been managing her endometriosis successfully for those last 20 years - most of those in remission, with only 2 flare-ups in that time.   

She now offers training on reproductive, hormonal and menstrual health to managers and staff, as well as effective treatment and self-management programmes to people struggling with their symptoms.   Men included.

www.halcyontherapies.co.uk  

www.naturalendometriosisexpert.com

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