Irritable Male Syndrome
by Jean Lawrence, Submitted by Sue
"Men have hormone problems just like women," declares Cindy
Esterly, a certified aerobics trainer in Phoenix, who often
lectures on how men and women can better manage their hormones.
Indeed, Gerald A. Lincoln, a researcher at the Medical
Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in
Edinburgh, Scotland, recently coined the term "irritable male
syndrome" (IMS) to mirror the infamous PMS in women. Lincoln
says these hormone imbalances go far beyond the now recognized
"male menopause" and can manifest at any time in life.
"Men's hormones pulsate hourly, compared with every 28 days
for women, " confirms Larrian Gillespie, MD, a retired Southern
California urologist and author of The Gladiator Diet: How to
Preserve Peak Health, Sexual Energy, and A Strong Body at Any
Lincoln first noticed IMS in Soay sheep, a hefty,
curly-horned species given to noisy rutting rituals surpassing
even Sunday football. In the autumn, he found, the rams'
testosterone levels soar and they rut like mad. In winter, the
levels sag and the rams lose interest in the opposite sex and
are "nervous and withdrawn," striking out at other males
irrationally. They also were more likely to throw out the
rulebook and get hurt during such violent "discussions."
"Irritability-anxiety-depression syndromes associated with
withdrawal of sex steroid hormones are well recognized in the
female," Lincoln notes in his study, which appeared in
Reproduction, Fertility and Development. "The occurrence of
a potentially similar behavioral syndrome following withdrawal
of testosterone has received less attention."
Symptoms of IMS
Obviously, such declines in testosterone can be predicted
after prostate surgery. But according to Gillespie and Esterly,
they can occur at any time in any male as a result of diet,
environmental factors, or stress. "[Or] you can have a normal
testosterone level and elevated estradiol -- the usable form of
the so-called "female" hormone estrogen," points out Gillespie.
A simple blood test may tell the tale. Your total
testosterone level should be 400 nanograms per deciliter, free,
or unbound, testosterone 25-30 picograms per milliliter, and
estradiol 15-20 ng/dl. "No one really knows the ideal level of
testosterone," Gillespie adds. "The bound kind converts to
estradiol, which can cause problems. It's the unbound kind
Esterly, who often gets referrals from physicians to help
people tweak their hormones, says a relatively slender man with
enlarged breasts once consulted her. He had many of the symptoms
of elevated estradiol, she says. In addition to swollen breasts
and a bloated "fluffy" look, IMS symptoms include: exhaustion,
unexplained weight changes, frequent urination, gallbladder or
gut problems, hypoglycemia, snoring, incontinence, an elevated
PSA, high cholesterol, bone loss, hair loss (besides male
pattern), impaired thyroid function, loss of muscle or stamina,
skin problems, softer erections -- and irritability. "Many of
these men are overweight," Gillespie notes, and fat harbors
What Can You Do?
If you think your hormones might be out of whack, consult
your physician. He or she may tell you to take some
progesterone, another hormone that in some respects counters
estradiol. Esterly recommends smoothing a nickel-sized dab (1/4
teaspoon) of progesterone cream on face and hands each day.
Although increased estradiol usually is more of a problem than
low testosterone, Gillespie says some men may need to supplement
with testosterone. She recommends another topical -- androgel,
which is also applied to the skin. But she warns: "When it comes
to hormones, you want to baste, not marinate."
Esterly also recommends a high-quality vitamin, increased
calcium, magnesium, and saw palmetto, an herb.
After you have gotten used to these routines, take a look at
your diet. "Sugar and dairy are usually culprits," Esterly says.
An excess of meat, Gillespie says, may have helped IMS to
develop. Meat contains a number of hormones, including estrogen.
Prescription medications of many kinds also interfere with
hormone receptors. And stress increases corticosteroids, which
have been shown to depress testosterone. In other words, there
are many roads to Rome -- and Rome is where gladiators live.
Gladiators are fit, trim, and can wrestle tigers all day,
Gillespie says -- thus her Gladiator Diet
She recommends men eat a diet that's 40% protein (watch those
hormone-laced steaks and chickens), 35% low glycemic carbs
(think squash and green veggies instead of Twinkies), and 25%
fat. Of the latter, only 10% should be saturated fat, though you
are allowed a teaspoon of unsalted butter a day just to
jumpstart the gallbladder. Avoid licorice, though; even the
amount in four black jellybeans can drop testosterone in a
heartbeat, Gillespie notes.
Take heart, men! It's easier for you to diet and lose pounds
in addition to IMS -- because you have half as much leptin, a
substance that causes fat to be stored as love handles. Exercise
is good, too, of course, 30-40 minutes a day. Even that has
advantages beyond the obvious -- Gillespie says leg presses
dramatically increase blood flow to the head of the penis.
Wives, Take Note
Men go to the doctor 27% fewer times than women. Most wives
don't need the National Institutes of Health to tell them this.
"Many wives start this program," Esterly confides. "They may
apply the progesterone cream to their husbands during a massage.
Once the guy sees the results, it's amazing what he will do for
Most men, Gillespie advises, would benefit from getting a
baseline reading on their testosterone and estradiol at age 35."
You don't have to wait until experiencing a symptom or erectile
dysfunction, she adds. Many with IMS manage in that department
fine -- it's before and after that's not what their mates would
want it to be.