Let's say it's everyone's time of the month...
March 17, 2010 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Do men have hormonal cycles?

I remember a long time ago in a sociology class being told that men have hormonal cycles just as women do, and that they're slightly shorter, or longer. I also remember something about us having the same hormones but in different proportions.

I'd like to know if that's true, and if female pheromones can affect male behavior or hormone cycles.

I'm not science-y beyond your basic knowledge that hormones exist so go easy on me, please.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Not an expert on the topic, but I can tell you that Testosterone levels in men vary widely throughout the course of a day, and are at a peak near the end of sleep/early morning and decline rapidly during the morning. Not sure about variations in other hormones or any longer cycles.
posted by Diplodocus at 11:39 AM on March 17, 2010

Men have quotidian (daily) hormone cycles, that mediate sleep/wakefulness, down to the suppression of kidney output during sleep by modulation of ADH (Anti-Diruetic Hormone). That women share these quotidian cycles, and have longer cycles on other hormones, should come as little surprise. Men working in isolated environments like oil production platforms and submarines also produce more beard hair in anticipation of being reunited with their mates; this points to a possibility that ideas and thoughts can mediate some hormone levels in men, which competes with theories of female pheromone activity.
posted by paulsc at 11:42 AM on March 17, 2010

Men don't have monthly hormone cycles. Most do experience mild or moderate mood swings, however. Fish oil, taken daily, has been found to help smooth out smaller attitude speed bumps. But serious mood disorders affect 7 percent of men. Some have a condition called cyclothymia, which causes significant changes in mood. And untreated bipolar disorder leads to extremes so severe that they can ruin your life. If your moods impair your ability to work, cause you to be inconsistent with your family, or rob you of joy, try therapy, and possibly medication.
"Male PMS." Men's Health June 2005: 82. General Reference Center Gold. Web. 17 Mar. 2010.

This article from AltPenis.com goes into some interesting male hormonal fluctuation detail, but quotes "experts" and doesn't provide any real citation. Also, probably just skip to the para starting with For instance, testosterone in men fluctuates in a circadian rhythm...
posted by carsonb at 11:43 AM on March 17, 2010

I don't know about monthly cycles, but there are fluctuations over the course of the day, and watching a sport favoring the winning team produces similar fluctuations to actually winning at the sporting event. Here's the article.
posted by dhn at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2010

Men don't have such obvious cycles like women, but we are on a few hormonal schedules! Out estrogen pretty much stays the same, but testosterone fluctuates quite a bit.

1. Like has been said, testosterone levels are highest right after waking up and drop slowly throughout the day.

2. Like women, out hormones change over time. Testosterone levels are highest during puberty, then level off a few years later. Around age 45 our testosterone production starts slowing down a little to around 85% of our previous baseline.

3. Interestingly, our testosterone levels are tied pretty closely to our sexual activity. Testosterone levels begin to rise after about the 5th day after the last ejaculation and peak at day 7, as much 50% above a person's baseline!
posted by Willie0248 at 11:52 AM on March 17, 2010

If you google for the phrase "male hormone cycle" you'll find plenty of pages discussing this; many beginning with "Someone once told me..." Actual evidence of it (other than the 24 hour cycle mentioned above) seems to be absent, though.

Some representative samples:
In men there is no known monthly hormonal cycle. The male hormone testosterone is produced continuously but the hormone level is slightly higher in the morning than in the afternoon (so-called circadian cycle). source
Testosterone levels are notoriously difficult to calibrate because they're often dependent on one's psychological state, which in turn is largely a function of circumstance. Leaders of every kind (tribal, political, business) have higher relative levels of serum testosterone. Levels drop sharply in men who lose there jobs or watch their teams lose.... it's easy to see how a discernable and very real cyclical pattern might get lost in the background noise source
You are correct that both testosterone and estrogen are present at different levels in both men and women.
posted by ook at 11:54 AM on March 17, 2010

Just to clarify: There are dozens of hormones in humans. Most of them are present at similar levels in men and women, and have the same effect on men and women. Melatonin is related to circadian (daily) rhythms. Glucagon and insulin control blood sugar levels. Leptin and ghrelin are related to feelings of satiety and hunger. And many, many others. So in that sense, men have hormonal cycles which are not particularly related to sex the same way women do.

However, your question implies you're interested in sex hormones; i.e., hormones occuring at significantly different levels, and having different effects, in men and women. The major sex hormones are testosterone, present at higher levels in men; and progesterone and estrogen, present at higher levels in women. "Estrogen" is actually a class of compounds, not a single one, and includes estradiol, estriol, and estrone. You are correct that all of the above are present in both men and women, just at different levels.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:30 PM on March 17, 2010

Response by poster: However, your question implies you're interested in sex hormones;

You're correct (I forget other hormones exist). Although the other info has been interesting as well.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:32 PM on March 17, 2010

Best answer: Men also undergo hormonal changes when their female partners are pregnant. This involves both sex hormones (testosterone and estradiol that DevilsAdvocate mentions above; prolactin related to lactation and orgasms (I think it's a sex hormone)) and non-sex hormones (cortisol, a stress hormone).

From the abstract: "Men and women had similar stage-specific differences in hormone levels, including higher concentrations of prolactin and cortisol in the period just before the births and lower postnatal concentrations of sex steroids (testosterone or estradiol). Men with more pregnancy (couvade) symptoms and men who were most affected by the infant reactivity test had higher prolactin levels and greater post-test reduction in testosterone. Hormone concentrations were correlated between partners. This pattern of hormonal change in men and other paternal mammals, and its absence in nonpaternal species, suggests that hormones may play a role in priming males to provide care for young."

Article available here. I love the results of this study.
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:44 PM on March 18, 2010

Response by poster: The reason I asked initially is because over years we've noticed that Mr. Llama sometimes gets bitchy when I have PMS, even though we don't necessarily know I have PMS (I keep a chart online and sometimes I check in and sometimes I don't) and even when I'm not bitchy.

The real show-stopper, though, was when we realized that our female toddler also gets crabby.

Confirmation bias amirite???

But I don't think so, Mr. Llama's set up for pure skepticism in this area and I have no ax to grind, and we're not going looking for this. My theory is the only reason research in this area is so bereft is because there's no money in it for the pharmaceutical industry and selling men on 'you might be influenced by female pheromones' is not a great marketing strategy and what would you be selling anyway?

So if there's no money to be made, and no real problem, no one is going to research it for yuks.

Anyway, Hydro's study is pretty close to what I'm looking for, which is a sense of whether it's theoretically possible this is true.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:23 AM on March 19, 2010

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