Once men hit middle age, practically all of us experience a phenomenon comparable to menopause: male andropause. You might think this is just a midlife crisis, a temporary phase when some men become anxious about their mortality, buy expensive sports cars and have affairs with younger women.

In reality, bodily changes accompanied by shifts in attitudes or moods do occur in men between the ages of 40 and 55. A man frequently begins to question his values, accomplishments and the direction of his life. Most andropausal men experience a decline in sexual desire or libido, reduced sexual potency, or difficulty developing or maintaining erections. They may also suffer more ejaculatory problems, reduced fertility, increased urinary frequency (especially at night) and other urination difficulties. These changes may be due, at least in part, to lower levels of testosterone and DHEA, the male sex hormones.

Role Of Testosterone

Testosterone, the principal androgen, regulates sexual function in men. It must be freely available to brain-cell receptor sites in order to promote libido, sexual satisfaction and performance. Unfortunately, as men age, testosterone becomes more and more bound to a carrier protein called serum globulin–even though the actual level of testosterone production does not generally decrease with aging. The result is that testosterone is no longer available to the sex-stimulating centres in the brain.

The solution isn’t as simple as taking more testosterone or DHEA, which the body converts to testosterone. This is because supplemental testosterone, through the action of liver enzymes, also becomes bound to its carrier protein and is unavailable to receptor sites. How can this bound testosterone be freed and the expected vigour of male youth restored?

Diet And Lifestyle Solutions

To enhance your sexual energy, consider such methods as deep breathing exercises, regular moderate aerobic exercise, meditation and visualization. Nutritional support is another cornerstone of sexual health. I recommend a balanced diet free of animal fats, fried foods, sugar, caffeine, white flour products, alcohol and junk foods.

Avoid severe stress, excessively vigorous exercise, or the overuse of hot tubs and saunas, all of which can lower production of hormones involved in potency, fertility and sex drive. Eliminating these stressors can make a significant difference for some men.

Whole Food Factor

Potency, fertility and sex life are also affected by the presence of drugs, estrogen-like chemicals, antibiotics and other pollutants in the environment. That’s why it’s critical to avoid the chemicals, growth hormones and antibiotic residue commonly found in animal products (other than organic ones) and processed foods. Your healthiest choice is a whole food diet with plenty of organic fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Eat cold-water fish for their omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). In your daily diet, include unrefined cold-pressed nut and seed oils such as hemp seed, flax seed, walnut or pumpkin seed oil. EFAs are particularly important for sexual health because the body uses them to make hormones called prostaglandins, which are necessary for normal sexual response.

Eat your oats. Rich in vitamin E, oats release testosterone from its binding protein, making it more available to cells that require this hormone. This leads to enhanced libido, improved stamina and a generally stronger nervous system.

Avoid alcohol and high-caffeine products such as coffee, tea and cola drinks. They deplete the body of zinc, manganese, magnesium and other nutrients. It’s wise to bypass foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. They boost estrogen levels, destabilize blood sugar levels, and devour nutrients such as chromium and B-complex vitamins.

One or more of the following remedies, in order of most to least effective, may be all that’s needed to reverse the symptoms of andropause.

L-arginine

L-arginine is an essential amino acid that can be very effective for erectile dysfunction, producing harder and longer-lasting erections and increasing libido. Supplementation with arginine has also been shown to improve low sperm counts and male infertility.

Arginine supplements promote natural body production of nitric oxide, a substance that opens up penile arteries much like the drug Viagra. But unlike Viagra, arginine is safe, relatively inexpensive and has never caused any deaths.

Besides boosting nitric oxide levels, arginine stimulates the release of growth hormone, which also acts to rev up your sex drive. Still more good news is that growth hormone helps increase muscle mass while decreasing the amount of body fat. This, of course, will make you feel sexier and perhaps more appealing to your partner!

Dosage Directions

The best way of using arginine is to take between six and 12 grams in capsule form one hour before an anticipated sexual encounter. If you can’t tolerate this much arginine in one sitting, don’t despair. You can get almost as good results on sexual performance by taking the arginine in divided doses, three or four times during the day. Alternatively, arginine comes in a powdered form and can be mixed with fruit juice.

If you have kidney disease or herpes simplex, avoid taking arginine. Both conditions can be worsened by high-arginine, low-lysine foods such as chocolate and nuts.

Herbal Helpers

Stinging nettle root (one to two teaspoons, five to 10 millilitres of the standardized tincture or 500 milligrams twice daily in capsule form) can reduce the testosterone-protein binding process almost tenfold, making more free testosterone available to brain and other receptors.

Avena sativa (same dosage as above) is an extract from wild oats straw that can also help release bound testosterone.

Red clover extract is high in the isoflavones genistein and daidzein, which are also found in cultured soy products. Not only do these natural compounds help normalize sexual function in men after age 50, but they also prevent prostate cancer as well as other cancers.

Muira puama, a plant from the Amazon rainforests of South America, has shown significant libido-enhancing effects and has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac. People typically use one to two ml of the extract (one dropperful) in water two to three times daily, or take two 500 mg capsules. Muira puama fortifies the system over a period of months, but some men report increased vitality within two weeks. It has no known toxicity at any dose and is well tolerated by generally healthy men.

Maca is a newly rediscovered Peruvian herb root that can significantly improve erectile tissue response. Apparently, it normalizes the levels of steroid hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and estrogen to those seen in young adults, thus bolstering libido. Men typically use 1,500 to 6,000 mg or more per day in three divided doses. A teaspoon of root powder containing 2,800 mg of maca root is used in one cup (250 ml) of water three times daily.

Saw palmetto is a very popular herb known for its ability to reverse an enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH). About 60 per cent of all men over age 50 suffer from varying degrees of prostate enlargement, which can interfere with normal sexual function. Saw palmetto can be instrumental in reversing this situation. It works by preventing testosterone from converting to dihydrotestosterone, the form of testosterone thought to stimulate prostate enlargement. The recommended daily dose is one to two grams of whole berries or 320 mg of a standardized extract.

Other natural andropausal remedies are zinc, vitamin C, niacin, ginkgo biloba extract, panax ginseng, gokhru fruit, damiana leaf, gotu cola and elk antler velvet.

About the Author

Dr. Zoltan Rona has practised preventive medicine in Toronto for more than 20 years. He is the best-selling author of several books, including The Joy of Health and Boosting Male Libido Naturally (alive Books) available through your health