Profoundly relaxing yet invigorating, sex adds a vital dimension to our lives, and is an antidote to the crazy pace of our century. But when we’re sub-optimally nourished, it’s not just our skin, hair and moods that suffer – it’s our sex lives too. For men, the loss of libido or interest in sex is a largely unspoken about topic but is a very real factor plaguing the modern man.
“The male menopause or andropause is undeniably real, and is recognised as a common cause of decreased motivation and sexual performance and moodiness in middle-aged and older men,” says Patrick.
Andropause describes age-related changes in male hormone levels but is unlike menopause in that the decrease in testosterone and the development of symptoms are more gradual than what occurs in women. The same group of symptoms is also known as testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency, and late-onset hypogonadism.
The most common symptoms of andropause are loss of potency, loss of sex drive and loss of morning erections. The most common psychological symptoms are mild to moderate depression, irritability and an early reduction in memory and mental concentration. Physical symptoms related to the andropause are similar to those experienced by women, including joint aches and pains, dry and thinning skin, occasional sweating at night and the feeling that the body’s thermostat has gone wrong, causing flushing.
The age distribution for andropause peaks at 55, but often men suffer symptoms for three to five years, so the time of onset is similar to the female menopause, at age 50. If a man has had an infection, particularly adult mumps, and possible other viral infections such as glandular fever (especially during puberty when the testes are establishing their own immune identity), this can cause damage to fertility and testosterone production. A man may have enough testosterone to father children but not to carry him healthily into old age. Sexually transmitted diseases, such as non-specific urethritis, can damage the testes as can physical blows to the testes, including vasectomy.
Stress also has a major impact. Basically, anything that puts a man down will put testosterone down – loss of a partner or a job, loss of sleep, lots of traveling and high stress jobs. Being overweight or having insulin resistance or diabetes all increase oestrogen dominance, which inhibits testosterone.
Fortunately, optimum nutrition can put the zing back into sexual performance, says Patrick.
“First off, if the above symptoms sound like yours, it is well worth having your testosterone levels checked. If you do have low testosterone, supplementing can definitely help, but actual testosterone is only available on prescription from your doctor,” says Patrick.
Patrick recommends the following dietary changes to boost male sexual health naturally:
- Increase your intake of proteins as this increases the production of testosterone and reduces the production of the sex hormone binding globulin.
- Eat slow-releasing carbohydrates and avoid white breads, white pasta and white rice.
- A strict vegetarian or vegan diet is more likely to be associated with lower testosterone levels, so ensure a good supply of protein from vegan sources.
- Essential fats are required for healthy sperm and prostate functioning so ensure a good intake of oil-rich fish, nuts and seeds.
- Increase your intake of antioxidant-rich foods which prevent testosterone being destroyed. Think brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as peppers, red onions and broccoli.
- Supplement with Zinc, as this helps everything to do with male sexual health and hormone balance. Natural sources of Zinc can be found in dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, garlic and chickpeas.
- Avoid or cut down on alcohol and smoking.