It's the classic scenario, a man in his 50's hits the mid life speed bump and out of the blue buys a sports car or Harley Davidson motorcycle. This is often accompanied by behavioural changes, such as becoming withdrawn and showing signs of depression and irritability. Oftentimes men may start seeking more freedom and spend less time with their wife and family. Many men actively seek out an affair at this time to try and bring back some excitement to their sex lives, and this is a major cause of divorce and family disharmony. While those around him may roll their eyeballs and whisper about mid-life crisis, what is really going on?
This period has been called 'Male Andropause" and it is characterized by a range of physical, mental and emotional changes. While it can come at different times for all men, in general, around the age of 50 (give or take 5 -10 years either side) men will experience the double whammy from a sharp decline in their testosterone levels and an increase in their estrogen levels (yes, that's right, the so-called female hormone). This hormonal shift leads to multiple disruptions in body chemistry that influences higher stress levels, reduced musculoskeletal strength, lower libido, slower metabolism and faster than usual weight gains, especially around the abdomen. While hormonally opposite for men, the response if something very similar to a woman experiencing menopause. To quote W. M. Lear, the mid-life crisis comes at a time when ‘The hormone production levels are dropping, the head is balding, then sexual vigour is diminishing, the stress is unending, the children are leaving, the parents are dying, the job horizons are narrowing, the friends are having their first heart attacks; the past floats by in a fog of hopes not realized, opportunities not grasped, women not bedded, potentials not fulfilled and the future is a confrontation with one’s own mortality.’
So is this a necessary part of ageing or can middle age men find the key that can turn back time and bring back the confidence and vitality and with it renewed sexual interest in one's partner? Yes, it is very possible to reverse the effects of mid-life changes on our hormonal balance, however it does require some important nutritional and lifestyle modifications, beginning with:
The root of the Malaysian rain forest tree Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia).
This is the herb of choice for improving useable testosterone and reducing its conversion to estrogen and has been extensively covered in our other Men's Health articles:
Get a gym membership or start an a new sport or exercise regime.
Sedentary behaviour is an indication to our body to slow metabolism and hormonal production and conversely a good exercise program consisting of cardiovascular, flexibility and resistance training (weight training) is a signal to the body to increase hormonal production. Think of the large spectrum of physical activities our paleolithic hunterer gatherer ancestors performed on a necessary daily basis and you can start to see that the gym is really only recreating the range of activities necessary to maintain our physical health as per our ancient genetic programming.
Improving our diet.
Many foods and drinks (such as beer) promote estrogen production and weight gains and these need to be avoided. Suggested reading would be many of the great books and online blogs on getting back to the healthy basics with natural unprocessed foods, an abundance of phytonutrient rich vegetables and an avoidance of many of the danger foods that you can learn about from the paleo / primal diet people. Check out our Coconut Oil Malaysia blog for more dietary info.
A mans hormonal balance and available testosterone is a primary factor influencing emotional satisfaction in men and their response to the mid life crisis. What middle aged men take for dissatisfaction in life and circumstances (and need for change) is often just depression brought on by a sharp decline in useable testosterone and higher than normal estrogen. It does not require rushing to have expensive doctor visits, blood tests, little blue pills or synthetic hormonal drugs. Indeed, resorting to pharmaceuticals at this time is to miss the point entirely and the body will only further be thrown into chemical imbalance and may predispose a greater susceptibility to chronic disease. Exercise, dietary changes and natural herbal medicines such as Tongkat Ali support optimal testosterone production and male hormonal balance. Thus there is no negative feedback loop whereby the body drastically reduces it's own production to compensate. At the same time, Tongkat Ali prevents the conversion of testosterone into estrogen and maintains a healthy ratio between these two hormones that promotes a positive physical and psychological state.