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The Ultimate Guide to male hormones (plus, do men get periods?)

Maurice Beer M.D.
June 6th, 2021 · 8 min read

In this article

  1. Does testosterone follow seasonal, monthly, or daily fluctuation patterns? 

  2. How do men’s hormonal fluctuations compare to the ones that women experience each month?

  3. In which age groups are hormonal fluctuations or cycles more pronounced?

  4. Which hormones fluctuate as part of that cycle?

  5. In addition to loss of libido, what are the signs of hormonal imbalance in men?

  6. How can you tell whether a bad mood is just temporary, or if it’s a sign of something that may need treatment?

  7. How can you tell the difference between circumstantial fluctuations and long-term hormonal imbalances?

  8. How can you correct hormonal imbalances?

In Brief:

  • Periodic hormonal fluctuations are usually associated with women, but men experience their own hormonal fluctuations too

  • It’s known that men’s hormones - especially testosterone - fluctuate daily, but there’s some solid evidence of monthly and yearly fluctuations as well

  • Cisgender men don’t get periods as such, but there are definitely some parallels with monthly mood swings, as well as changes in energy and libido

  • Sometimes these hormonal fluctuations are just a part of normal life, and sometimes they indicate an imbalance; to find out what’s going on, you’ll probably have to take a step back and look at the big picture

Does testosterone follow seasonal, monthly, or daily fluctuation patterns?

According to some people, the answer is “all of the above”. Not every guy will experience all of these fluctuations; monthly cycles, for example, seem to be more subjective than daily cycles. The point is that women aren’t the only ones who experience hormonal fluctuations - it happens to men every single day!

  • Daily - Testosterone peaks in the morning, and falls steadily until reaching a low point at night. This is why testosterone levels are always tested in the morning - do the test past 9 AM, and your doctor will be measuring testosterone levels that are already on the decline.

  • Monthly - Ever heard of “Irritable Male Syndrome”? You probably haven’t, but it’s about time you did - IMS has been gaining traction in the last several years. It hasn’t been studied extensively, but there are some pretty good indications that many men do experience hormonal cycles every 30 days or so. The precise mechanics of these fluctuations aren’t clear, but whatever the cause, they seem to be responsible for mood swings, depression, lack of energy, and more at specific times in each monthly cycle.

Sound familiar? It should - these are classic period symptoms. This has sparked a discussion on whether or not these cycles can be described as “male periods”. As a nickname, it totally works, even if the fluctuations are generally less drastic than the ones experienced by most women. As a medical description, not so much. Even so, this doesn’t mean that men don’t need to pay attention to their emotional needs; it just means that they probably won’t need sanitary products to go along with their Ben and Jerry’s.

That’s not to say that men don’t have periods; it just means that most men don’t have them. What about the men who do have periods? They could be transgender men, nonbinary, gender-fluid, or intersex people - and anything in between. The requirement for having a period isn’t a particular gender identity; it’s simply having a uterus! If you happen to be a guy with a uterus, then you’re a dude who gets his period every month. So yes, men can definitely have periods, and they don’t have to feel any less manly because of it - it’s just their body doing its thing.

  • Seasonal - Daily fluctuations, monthly fluctuations - you’d think that men’s hormones are already busy enough. But no - distinct seasonal fluctuations have been documented as well. Men’s testosterone levels reach a gradual peak in October, and fall slowly to a low point in April. Interestingly, this has been observed in both hemispheres, so it’s clearly governed by something besides seasonal weather or sunlight patterns.

How do men’s hormonal fluctuations compare to the ones that women experience each month?

Are you ready for yet another revelation about men’s hormones? Sometimes they don’t even fluctuate on a schedule - it could just be a matter of opportunity or circumstance. A guy’s testosterone can spike after his favorite team wins, while he’s watching an action movie, or as he spends time with someone he’s really into.

Contrast this to the average woman’s menstrual cycle, which, biologically speaking, is all about fertility. She’ll menstruate and ovulate at specific points in her cycle, and her hormones will follow a steady pattern to keep the cycle going. In some cases, a guy’s testosterone might even adjust itself to his partner’s cycle so that his testosterone levels go up while she’s ovulating. In a word - men’s hormones tend to be quite opportunistic. 

Which age groups deal with more hormone swings?

You’re probably already well aware of the life-changing hormonal fluctuations that happen during puberty - that’s a whole different topic. What about major hormonal fluctuations that men experience as adults?

Time to talk about andropause, or male menopause. It may not be a legit medical condition (like female menopause), but guys will probably experience it at some point. Most men between ages 40 and 55 will experience a marked drop in hormone levels, resulting in any of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of libido

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Hair thinning or loss

  • Lower energy levels

  • Trouble sleeping

  • General irritability

  • Depression

  • Decreasing muscle and bone mass

  • Night sweats

  • Weight gain

  • Brain fog

Fortunately for men, that’s not the whole story - the symptoms of andropause can often be mitigated if you take the right steps! More on that later.

Why do men need estrogen? Where do they get it?

Testosterone is the big player when it comes to men’s hormones, but men need estrogen too. As it happens, andropause isn’t caused solely by dropping testosterone levels - rising estrogen levels are also to blame. What causes a man’s estrogen levels to become elevated?

  • Eating foods with too many phytoestrogens (the plant form of estrogen)

  • Eating animal foods that contain estrogen, such as beef from cows that received hormone injections

  • Using certain products that can mess with your hormones, like fabric softeners, most personal hygiene products, and many cleaning products

  • Excess weight - fat cells are partly responsible for the production of estrogen, so more fat cells = more estrogen

If a man’s testosterone is high enough (which it usually is until age 40 or so), most of these factors won’t make a huge difference, even if his estrogen levels are technically rising the whole time. What makes such a difference is that by the time his testosterone levels start falling, his estrogen levels are probably increasing even faster than before.

In addition to loss of libido, what are signs of male hormonal imbalance?

A man’s hormones, especially testosterone, help control all kinds of bodily systems and functions; so what happens when hormone levels are out of whack? You would notice things like:

  • A slower metabolism

  • Weight gain, especially around the waist

  • Disrupted sleep cycles

  • Weakened bones and muscles

  • Lack of motivation or ambition

  • Sudden mood changes

  • Gynecomastia

  • Sexual dysfunction

You might recognize a lot of these symptoms - they’re nearly identical to what can happen during andropause. If your hormones are imbalanced, though, these symptoms could make an appearance well before you hit middle age. This list isn’t diagnostic by any means, but you can still use it as a hormonal imbalance checklist. If you realize that you’re experiencing more than just a couple of these symptoms on a regular basis, it’s probably time to figure out what’s up.

How can you tell whether a bad mood is just temporary, or if it’s a sign of something more?

Everybody has good days and bad days, but if your mood keeps nose-diving for no apparent reason, it could very well have a hormonal cause. If you aren’t sure what’s going on, see if you can find a pattern. Does your mood start to tank in the evening, when your testosterone naturally decreases anyway? Maybe your testosterone levels are getting too low, and that’s why you keep getting so cranky.

Instead of a daily pattern, it could be monthly. Do you ever have days-long episodes of lethargy or depression, only to snap out of it without trying? If you start tracking your mood swings, you might see a pattern - which could be linked to a hormonal imbalance.

How can you tell the difference between normal hormone swings and a long-term imbalance?

The process of identifying hormonal imbalances is tough to do on your own (unless you have an actual medical-grade lab in your house), but you can get a solid head-start by asking the right questions.

  • Have your symptoms been getting worse over time? A temporary fluctuation will eventually correct itself; a long-term imbalance will have symptoms that get consistently worse over time. For example, say you’ve been working like a maniac in the hopes of getting promoted. That’s a lot of stress, and it would most likely affect your hormone levels. If you get the promotion, though, stress levels go down, and hormone levels return to normal. That’s an example of a circumstantial fluctuation; with a long-term imbalance, your hormone levels would never get back to normal, even if you were happy in your new position.

  • Are you experiencing signs of old age in your 30s or 40s? Hormone levels will naturally decline as you age, but experiencing things like drastic balding, muscle loss, or rapid weight gain before you’ve even passed middle age is a sign that something’s wrong.

  • Do you have any conditions that are known to cause hormonal imbalances? Thyroid disorders, diabetes (both Type 1 and Type 2), and chronically high or low cortisol are all hormone-related disorders. None of them are specifically associated with testosterone levels, but if one hormone is imbalanced, the rest of them will probably be affected eventually.

How can you correct hormonal imbalances?

A hormone imbalance doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s best if you don’t expect the solution to be a one-and-done fix either. There are several different routes you could take for fixing your hormone levels:

  • Testosterone replacement therapy - the closest you can get to a quick fix for your hormones. It’s even possible to get a diagnosis and prescription online. However, male hormonal replacement therapy isn’t the first choice for most doctors, as long-time users and older men are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. If you want to work with a doctor to fix your hormonal imbalances, ask about the options you have besides hormone replacement therapy.

  • Lifestyle changes - you could simply change your diet to include less processed food and more healthy options; that’s a pretty easy switch. For some people, fixing their hormones with what they eat means completing a “hormone detox” diet. The detox symptoms aren’t fun, but the payoff seems to be worth it for them.

If detox diets aren’t your jam, maybe Ayurvedic medicine will be. Instead of just treating the symptoms of male hormonal imbalances, you’ll aim for a long-term solution by fixing the root causes.

  • Get some expert help - it’s possible to request a lab test from your local doctor’s office, or you could use a service like Base instead. You could have your hormone levels tested, get the results explained to you, and get help formulating an action plan without even leaving your house. Simply choose the panel you want - one of their sex drive tests would be a great starting point - and complete the first at-home lab test. Your results will be available to view in the Base app after just a few days, and that’s when you’ll officially be on the road to more balanced hormones! As you complete a new test each month, you’ll be able to track your progress, as well as get updated recommendations on what to do going forward.

Doctors, diets, lab tests - the prospect of fixing your hormones can feel like driving through an obstacle course blindfolded; fortunately, you don’t have to be the one in charge of navigating. Base helps you eliminate the guesswork and get the results you were hoping for, no matter what problem you’re trying to fix.

Get your Base test

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