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Do Men Have a Monthly Hormone Cycle?

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It’s well established that women undergo a monthly menstrual cycle that includes fluctuations in hormones, and eventually a cease to these cycles at menopause. While there are numerous jokes about male “manstruation” and “manopause,” mental_floss spoke with two experts in male endocrinology and fertility—Paul Marshburn, a reproductive endocrinologist at Carolinas HealthCare System in North Carolina, and Brad Anawalt, an endocrinologist and chief of medicine at University of Washington Medical Center—to answer the question: Do men undergo a similar hormone cycle?

Despite one researcher’s controversial theory that men do have a monthly cycle (his results were never replicated), the short answer is almost certainly no, men do not experience a cyclical hormone shift on a monthly basis. Instead, they experience a daily (or diurnal) rise and fall of the most prominent hormone in their bodies, testosterone (T). While male bodies also produce a form of estrogen called estradiol (largely through a process that converts testosterone into estradiol), testosterone is either directly or indirectly the key to many health functions in their bodies, responsible for regulating sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and producing red blood cells and sperm. For men in good to average health, testosterone levels are highest in the morning hours, which cause morning erections, and increased energy and vitality. Testosterone levels then slowly drop as the day goes on and are at their lowest at the end of the day and evening. Because of this, men should get blood testosterone levels checked in the morning hours for an accurate baseline.

Certain activities can cause fleeting spikes of testosterone during the day, such as intense exercise or sexual activity. Likewise, stress and illness can cause sudden drops in testosterone in a given day. Levels also decline naturally over the course of a man’s life as he ages; his testosterone levels begin to drop as early as age 30 between 0.5 and one percent below his baseline per year.

Other causes for drops in testosterone include illness, from the seasonal flu to significant diseases like diabetes or cancer, since the body’s need to conserve energy often reduces the need to produce sperm or have sex. Some research points to seasonal sources of spikes and surges in testosterone, particularly in countries that experience longer than usual light and dark cycles, like Finland or Norway, where testosterone levels bottom out in summer and reach a high in late fall. Eating disorders and lack of sleep can also effect testosterone levels and sperm production.

Testosterone therapy to replace normal, age-related declines is a growing area of treatment. The research body on this is small, but a 2016 New England Journal of Medicine study found conclusively that testosterone therapy in men ages 65 and over improved sexual function and libido.

Loss of testosterone leads to a reduction in sexual arousal, decreased ability to achieve an erection, and loss of muscle mass and tone and bone marrow and density. More research has also found that low estradiol levels in aging men may be linked to cardiovascular disease and heart failure.

Ultimately, the best way for men to keep their testosterone at normal levels is to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors such as exercise and healthy eating, and to keep to a minimum opioid medications, alcohol and smoking.

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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