It’s a change any woman can expect from the day her menstrual cycle begins for the very first time: its end. While the intricacies of menopause aren’t widely publicized, its existence is—at the very least—recognized by the general public. But men can have their own version of a midlife hormonal shift that’s rarely discussed.
What Exactly is Andropause?
The medical term, hypogonadism, refers to a decline in testosterone—a hormone that’s predominantly produced by men and is responsible for promoting sperm count, muscle mass, bone density, and sex drive.
Unlike menopause in women, though, andropause doesn’t happen to every man (likely why it’s not really talked about). Plus, its arrival can be hard to read: “There’s a clear onset for women, when the ovaries are no longer producing eggs,” says David Melladew, L.Ac., The Hao Life’s Traditional Chinese Medicine advisor. “For men, andropause is a slow downward slide of testosterone production over a long period of time.”
Everything from fatigue to feelings of depression can hint at andropause, so doctors typically test your testosterone levels to know for sure if you’re dealing with the actual condition... or just life itself. The most ubiquitous sign, however, is low libido and other sexual difficulties.
How to Treat Andropause Naturally
While Western protocols diagnose the condition by zeroing in on testosterone levels, TCM takes a more nuanced approach. “Andropause signals an imbalance in the body, most typically a deficiency of Kidney Yang,” explains Melladew. The Kidney is one of the five major organ complexes in Chinese Medicine, and it’s responsible for the sexual and reproductive systems, among other things. Without enough Yang, the systems essentially lose the power they need to run properly.
There are a variety of prescription testosterone treatments available for addressing andropause, but Melladew says a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner would provide a more holistic regimen, including a plant-rich diet and “low-impact exercises that strengthen the lower body, boosting testosterone while supporting the Kidneys.” Think tai chi, not ultramarathons.
Herbs, adds Melladew, are essential. Eucommia bark (du zhong), broomrape stem (rou cong rong), and Chinese dodder seeds (tu su zi), for example, are known for building Kidney Yang and improving sexual function, says Melladew. Typically, your practitioner would custom-blend these in a powder or tincture. That’s essentially what Melladew has done with Got Game: The Superblend combines the Chinese herbs mentioned above (and then some), which work synergistically to bring the body into balance.
No matter what you do, you probably won’t get the virility of a 20 year-old back. But—all things considered—that’s probably a good thing.