Today we have perhaps all become used to reading about menopause in regards to women but may not be so aware of the term as applied to men. Many people may also not realize that it would not an exaggeration to say that we perhaps are the most infertile society in human history when especially male infertility is becoming increasingly common. Although the purpose of this article is not to provide advice on male infertility, and it may even seem an odd topic for the best selling magazine on yoga, however, it is important to be aware of the factors that have led to low fertility rates amongst today’s men and how men are prematurely ageing, which is the underlying factor contributing to infertility. It is only recently that andropause or male menopause has become known as for decades the talk has only been about ‘menopause’.
Quite interestingly, 3000 years ago, during the classic era of Ayurveda, male menopause was given special attention and an entire specialization of Ayurveda is dedicated to ‘male sexual health’ called ‘Vajikarna’. The term Vajikarana is from the Sanskrit language consisting of two words ‘Vaji’ meaning ‘horse’ and karana, meaning ‘to make’. When combined and translated in to English, this would mean ‘making a man strong like a horse’. Not such an uncommon analogy as it is common across most cultures to associate the horse with that of power, strength and performance. It is interesting to note that when testosterone levels drop, several changes occur in men that contribute to a functional decline in areas beyond fertility. In fact if you are above 30 years of age, certainly you would need to consider the possibility of testosterone decline. This does not have to mean a blood test (however this is highly recommended if you have several of the signs mentioned below) but the following signs may indicate testosterone decline in men;
Inability to gain muscle despite adequate weight training.
Difficulty in loosing weight, particularly loosing fat around the waist region.
Fatigue disproportionate to physical activity.
A general lack of excitement in life or feeling depressed.
Lack of interest in sex or reduced sexual performance.
Disturbed quality of sleep.
An Ayurvedic angle on virility
From an ayurvedic perspective, both men and women process a factor called ‘Shukra’ often referred to as the seventh tissue (the others being lymph, blood, muscle, fat, bone and marrow) and is believed to be the essence of all tissues formed as a result of good nutrition. Shukra also means ‘bright’ as in the planet ‘venus’. Therefore, it is also believed that Shukra is the semen, which is a refined secretion in males and is bright. However, the question then would be what about the Shukra in women? This is where it gets interesting. From an Ayurvedic perspective, Shukra are of two types, one which is the reproductive tissue (as in semen containing sperms in males) and the other type of Shukra is said to be present in the entire body in both men and women. I would interpret this aspect of Shukra as hormones and particularly the growth hormones, hormones that combat stress and hormones that regulate one’s metabolism. It can be expected that when a man has insulin resistance (usually seen in men with wider waists due to fat accumulation), excess cortisol (a hormone related to stress) and when the testosterone levels are low, it can be concluded that one’s Shukra or virility is affected. This will result in poor energy, fatigue, low sexual desire, poor sexual performance and possibly poor fertility.
What dietary and lifestyle factors affect Shukra?
In general poor diet consisting of junk food, wheat, gluten containing food, refined carbohydrates, sugar, low amounts of protein and lack of good fats all lower Shukra. Inadequate physical activity, being overweight, obesity, diabetes, excessive medication, poor sleep, psychological stress will all contribute to poor Shukra. Usually a combination of these factors result in poor testosterone production.
A special note on mobile phones
Until recently, people would have laughed at you if you believed that carrying mobile phones in your pocket could drastically reduce testosterone levels. However, there have been several case studies when men carrying mobile phones in their pockets showed far less testosterone levels than those who carried their mobile phones in a bag or did not carry a mobile. There have also been cases where simply by reducing the use of mobile phones or by not keeping the mobile phone in the trouser front pockets, the testosterone levels doubled in as short a time as nine weeks. It is assumed that the radio frequency and the magnetic field exposure could reduce testosterone production.
Ayurvedic male ritual
An ayurvedic ritual for men that is very simple and highly rewarding physically and psychologically is the application of warm sesame oil to the entire body before shower. Plug the sink, let hot water fill with hot water and place a small bottle of organic sesame oil while you shave. By the time you have finished shaving, the oil in the bottle will have warmed up. Take generous amounts of sesame oil and smear it on the arms, chest, abdomen, legs and massage these into the skin by using long and circular strokes. Pour a few drops of oil on to the scalp and massage it in. After shower and rinse off the oil a with chemical free body wash and see for yourself how you feel after the even first massage. If you practice this daily, you will detox, your skin will rejuvenate, circulation increases, your body will produce more anti-stress hormones and you will experience a new type of energised feeling. Oil is fantastic in reducing stress on the nervous system and providing more energy.
Ayurvedic male food
Without a doubt, testosterone production needs cholesterol and providing the body with cholesterol food, which basically equates to high fats (eg; ghee), is a clever way to stimulate the right hormones to eventually produce freely available testosterone. Although, fat is fantastic and essential for better testosterone production, if you combine fats with carbohydrates and sugars, that will a recipe for disaster not only for your sex life but also on your long term health. So if you prefer sex to sweets, it is better to give up sugars and start incorporating good fats in your diet, especially have a fatty food before going to bed. Make it a habit to have avocados or a table spoon of almond butter, 20 almonds or even better 3 brazil nuts before going to bed. In fact the use of brazil nuts can make a huge difference to your sexual life, as they not only assist in increasing testosterone levels but also help increase sexual desire.
A word of caution for vegans
The use of organic ghee in your cooking as well as using ghee in moderate quantities in your diet is also very good. Not every man is the same and not all foods influence everyone in the same way. However, it might help to consider the lack of animal fats in vegan men possibly lowering fertility. In some vegan men, it is found that they may have high testosterone in their blood but may remain inactive due to excess of a sex hormone binding globulin in the absence of fats derived from animal sources. If for any reason, it is not possible consider eating ghee even for medicinal purposes, such vegans may have to consult a nutritionist who will be able to prescribe specific essential fatty acids derived from plant sources.
On the whole, it is important to acknowledge the fact that after the age of 30 years, testosterone levels drop by 1% every year and there are many ayurvedic ways to stay on top of it. If you need a comprehensive assessment and advice on how to improve male sexual health, consult a highly experienced and qualified health professional and for general wellbeing consult consider seeking advise from an ayurvedic professional from the APA .