You may know a guy of a certain age whose personality might best be described as a royal pain in the neck. He can be sarcastic, impatient, demanding, angry, finding fault with everyone and everything. And these are only a few of the possible traits and symptoms. This guy may be someone you live with, love, share a life with everyday, or he may even be you. A little understanding of this often missed condition in men can help you point this guy, or yourself, in the right direction towards help.
Irritable Male Syndrome: Is It Pushing People Away from You?
Irritable male syndrome, or IMS for short, is a mind-body disorder that can affect you usually starting around age 50 or so. Getting older and entering andropause (male menopause) can cause your testosterone levels to drop and cortisol (stress hormones) and estrogen levels to rise. You start gaining weight around your belly, your sex drive diminishes, and you become more and more irritable. The out of whack hormone levels can wreak havoc with moods and cause you to experience symptoms similar to PMS (premenstrual syndrome) in women – angry outbursts, combativeness, mood swings, sadness, and increased tension.
Because the focus on “changing hormones” and their symptoms is usually premenstrual and postmenopausal women, IMS in men frequently flies under the radar of a real health issue. Men themselves help hide the syndrome because they often don’t want to admit to friends, family, spouse, that they’re not feeling so great physically or mentally lately. They don’t want to be seen as weak, or worse, as getting older.
So, most men suffer in silence with IMS symptoms. Yet, people around them know that something is not right with the good-natured guy they used to know. They see a great guy who’s suddenly become:
- Argumentative in a moment’s notice, going around with a chip on his shoulder
- Tense – unable to relax and enjoy social events with friends, family
- Defensive – always denying any hint of something bothering him
- Impatient – snapping at people, becoming more and more difficult to interact with
- Hostile – withdrawing into themselves, becoming unloving, cold, in their own world
- Gaining weight, especially around the middle.
- Having problems sleeping
- Apathetic – seeming not to care about anything
What Can Be Done About IMS?
If you, or someone you know, are suffering with IMS symptoms, you really don’t need to. Like treating hormonal imbalances in women, there’s really a very simple treatment for IMS in men as well – hormone rebalancing and/or replacement. The root cause of IMS is falling testosterone levels, so replacing them back to normal levels can be very beneficial in dealing with IMS symptoms. Replacing/boosting testosterone can be done 2 ways:
1. Testosterone injections, patches, cream: Your doctor can prescribe testosterone injections that you get at a determined dosage; patches or cream that you apply to your underarms, or inner arm, which can help boost your testosterone levels back to normal. Many men report that the testosterone boosting benefits, and a sunnier mood, can be felt within a week. Possible downside side effects are increased blood pressure, possible hair loss, may aggravate prostate cancer, high cholesterol. Usually these problems are addressed with lower dosages.
2. Bioidentical herbal testosterone boosters/supplements: Supplements that contain herbs like Tribulis terrestris, Maca, zinc, selenium, saw palmetto, Chrysin, Korean Ginseng which can help boost testosterone levels. Natural products like these take a little longer for the testosterone boosting effects to be felt but they don’t have the side effects of prescription medications.
Other things that can help lower estrogen and normalize cortisol hormones are:
1. Estrogen normalizing products and foods. Eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, etc can help balance estrogen levels in men. These foods contain DIM, or diindolymethane, which help normalize estrogen. There are also natural, herbal supplements that contain DIM, as well as Tribulis terrestris, et al, to help reduce both xenoestrogens (environmental estrogens from pollutants, plastics, etc) and natural estrogen and boost testosterone at the same time.
2. DHEA supplementation. DHEA helps reduce cortisol hormones. When cortisol levels rise, DHEA levels drop. This further diminishes testosterone and encourages more fat gain. Taking DHEA 25 mg a day can help normalize cortisol and boost testosterone production. As DHEA is a hormone precursor, it should really be taken under the supervision of a doctor who can monitor your blood levels.
3. B vitamins. Many men, and women, become deficient in B12 as they get older simply because their body no longer absorbs it as well as it used to. Supplementation with 400 mcg of B12 a day can help calm jangled nerves and fight low moods. B12 is crucial to the brain as well as your nervous system, and deficiencies can cause many of the symptoms that accompany IMS.
4. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids. Researchers find out more and more about the role of EFA’s in moods as well as overall body health. 2,000 mg of EFAs daily from fish, krill, walnut oil, flax seeds/oil, can really help stabilize moods.
5. Weight loss. Fat cells hold onto estrogen in both men and women. Cutting down/omitting refined sugars can help normalize blood sugar levels, which, too high, can help pack on fat.
6. Exercise. Regular aerobic and weight training exercise helps boost testosterone and decrease cortisol levels. It also increases “happy mood” hormones serotonin and endorphins as well as help you get to sleep better at night.
7. Sleep. No one feels good mentally or physically if they’re not sleeping well at night. Now, researchers say that 6 hours of sleep is absolutely crucial to ward off highly damaging lipid peroxide free radicals that can cause brain and cardiovascular problems. If you’re having a hard time sleeping, try 1-3 mg of melatonin per night 15 minutes before bedtime to help you sleep.
No one likes to be around a cranky, irritable, angry, person, no matter who they are – family, friend, spouse, neighbor or co-worker. If you feel that IMS symptoms could be describing you, or someone you know, see a doctor whose knowledgeable about bioidentical hormone replacement in men. Start working on losing that belly fat, improving your sleep, eating a better diet and rebalancing those all-important male hormones. In no time, you’ll bring back the great guy everyone used to know!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Irritable Male Syndrome, Mood Swings in Men, http://www.bodylogicmd.com/for-men/irritable-men-syndrome
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement, http://www.bodylogicmd.com/bioidentical-hormone-therapy