Testosterone is an important androgen hormone for men. Low testosterone in men is associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome, less ability to build muscle and hypertension. All hormones are chemical messengers. They travel through the bloodstream and act on various target tissues enabling them to function correctly (1, 2). It's said that men lose 1.5% of their testosterone production each year after 30. Males today have far less testosterone than our grandfathers did. And this is due to environmental and nutrition reasons. Men who lose a greater proportion of their testosterone are said to have andropause (3 ,4). When testosterone is low it has some unwanted symptoms that tag along for the ride.
- Low libido (sex drive)
- Impaired sexual function
- Decreased muscle mass
- Decreased strength
- Aches & pains
- Wrinkled skin
- Dry thinning hair/skin
- Sagging cheeks/thin lips
- Hot flashes
- Lack of drive
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty making decisions
- Poor concentration
- Weight gain around the midsection
- Enlarged prostate
Ladies, you are not in the clear either. Women produce testosterone but in much lower amounts than men. Women produce testosterone in the adrenals and ovaries. If you have too high testosterone you may experience many of these unwanted symptoms.
- Acne or oily skin
- Irritability or aggression
- Lack of impulse control
- Hair loss or thinning hair on the scalp (may also be caused by low prog. Or low estrogen levels)
- Hair growth on the face, chin or chest
- Deepening of voice
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, PCOS
- Increased cardiovascular risks (both men & women)
The Low-T Problem and Solutions
Chronic stress may in fact be the contributing factor to decreasing testosterone levels. Stress, when chronic and unaddressed, can result in excess cortisol production. This production in and of itself inhibits testosterone production (6, 7).
When cortisol, our stress hormone, is elevated, this causes a rise in insulin. When there is a constant influx of insulin released, resistance occurs at the cells. And this leads to blood sugar dysregulation. When most people think of stress they imagine job, financial or relationship stress. But, any stress that goes unchecked like poor diet, blood sugar issues, gut infections, sedentary lifestyle, poor indoor air quality, leads to more chronic inflammation and causes an imbalance in our hormones.
There is also a process called aromatization. This process may also be an important factor that affects testosterone levels and the ratio between testosterone and estrogen. Aromatase is an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen, further depleting free testosterone levels and increasing estrogen levels. This occurs due to abdominal obesity or accumulations of belly (unwanted) fat. Genetics may also play a role in this disorder.
The Hypothalamic-pituitary Axis & Hormone Levels
The major control center in our brain, the HP (hypothalamic-pituitary) axis, is heavily influenced by our limbic system. The factors listed above are very common reasons why this axis is easily disrupted which leads to hormonal imbalances. In this case testosterone or reproductive hormones. The next large obstacles to overcome outside this HP axis is being overweight and high insulin levels. Obesity and high levels of insulin suppress the function of another gonadal hormone in the testes of men which reduces circulating testosterone levels (8). Moderate obesity decreases total testosterone due to insulin resistance-associated reductions in sex hormone binding globulin. More severe obesity is associated with reductions in free testosterone levels due to suppression of the HPT (hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular) axis.
Data from the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney diseases report that more than 1 in 3 adults were considered to be overweight and more than 2 in 3 adults were considered to be overweight or have obesity in 2013-14 (9). Because a man has low libido and fatigue doesn’t make him a perfect candidate for testosterone replacement. What it does make him a candidate for is diagnostic testing to reveal metabolic chaos and hidden stressors that are causing dysfunction. To order inexpensive Testosterone or any blood test you can do so here. If you are located in Chattanooga, TN, you may come to Nutrition World every Tuesday until 11am for a walk in blood testing.
Environmental toxins are ubiquitous and a major enemy of testosterone. This is why we must give our body the support it needs to combat the daily onslaught of chemicals we encounter. No one wants to live in a bubble. Endocrine disrupting chemicals or, EDCs, are just that. They disrupt our own body’s ability to produce hormones. And they block cell receptor sites for hormones to do their job. Other terms for EDCs are xenoestrogens, xenohormones or xenobiotics. It is wise to consider nutritional supplementation to increase the excretion of these poisons. Supplements such as Indole 3 Carbinol, Silymarin, and consuming quality green drinks.
Some say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But do you want a chemical used in plastics imitating the sex hormone estrogen in your body? NO! Unfortunately, this synthetic hormone can trick the body into thinking it’s the real thing. And the results aren’t pretty. BPA has been linked to everything from breast and other cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease. According to government tests, 93 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies (10).
Here are some other enviro-toxins that disrupt hormones and are carcinogenic (20).
- Fire Retardants
- Perfluorinated chemicals
- Organophosphate pesticides
- Glycol ethers
- Chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides
- Car exhaust
- Solvents and adhesives (nail polish remover, paint thinner, glue, etc...)
- Emulsifiers and waxes in soaps and cosmetics
- Nearly all plastics
- Dry cleaning chemicals
- Synthetic hormones taken orally which make their way back into the food chain
When it comes to hormone testing methods, people ask, “Which one is better? Saliva, blood or urine testing?” The answer is, “The relevance of any medium used for hormone testing is dependent upon the therapeutic purpose and interests of the clinician.” Without the context of relevancy and purpose, one might as well compare apples to oranges.
The conventional medical community uses this method as the standard for measuring hormones. But it provides only a poor estimate of the unbound bioavailable fraction. Also, many of the serum testosterone assays are not particularly sensitive due to lower concentrations found in women (5). Serum is ideal for testing peptide hormones such as FSH, LH, prolactin, fasting insulin, and thyroid hormones including Reverse T3, as well as thyroid antibodies. It is also used to measure Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) and Cortisol Binding Globulin (CBG). For sex hormones, serum testing has a more limited utility. For most sex hormones, no distinction is made in serum between bound and free hormone. Because hormones secrete in a pulsatile manner over the course of the day (and night), it is difficult to know whether the levels in serum represent a peak, a valley, or something between (11).
Measuring hormones in urine is less common in clinical practice than serum or saliva. Urine test levels reflect the production and catabolism of hormones but not the bioactive hormone fraction that living cells can use. 24-hour urine is not time specific. And, it does not reflect time sensitive hormonal and stress responses.
Saliva test results provide an accurate and direct peek into current cellular or bioactive levels of hormones. And, it provides a gauge of how well organs and systems are actually functioning. It measures the unbound bioactive hormone fraction available to living cells. This is the hormone level that needs evaluation. Saliva testing is non-invasive as well as accessible to practitioners such as naturopathic physicians, chiropractors, and acupuncturists who may be practicing in states where they are not licensed to order blood tests or draw blood.
Optimizing Testosterone Levels
An anti-inflammatory diet is key. Loading your diet down with phytonutrient rich fruits and vegetables is key. And, eliminating grains and sugars which stimulate the release of insulin and cortisol. Include these foods in your anti-inflammatory diet.
- Wild caught seafood
- Grass-fed meats
- Pasture raised eggs
- Nuts/Seeds (raw & sprouted)
Healthy fats are also critical because all hormones are synthesized from cholesterol.
- Olive oil
- CLA (conjugated linoleic acids)
- And EFA or essential omega 3s from wild caught cold water fish & grass-fed meats
Herbal Support for Low Testosterone
Tribulus. One of the many exotic herbal plants recommended for the use is Tribulus terrestris (TT). This herb was used by traditional, ancient medicine in Greece, China and India (Ayurvedic medicine). Recommended as a remedy for infertility, impotence, erectile dysfunction, and low libido. Since the early 1980s its extract has also been an attractive product of unconventional medicine in Western countries as a testosterone booster, an enhancer of libido and an adaptogenic aid for healthy and physically active men. The results of a few studies have shown that the combination of tribulus with other components increases testosterone levels.
Maca. Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is an Andean plant that belongs to the brassica (mustard) family. Preparations from the maca root improve sexual function in healthy populations. Recent clinical trials have also suggested significant effects of maca for increasing sperm count and mobility and improving sexual function in humans.
Muira Puama. Muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides). Although used in Asia, this potency wood is actually the best known Amazonian folk medicine which increases libido. Rich in sterols e.g., sitosterol, campesterol and lupol, it activates the body’s receptors for hormones like testosterone to heighten libido and enhance performance.
Fenugreek. Fenugreek extract (Trigonella foenum-groecum L. Fabaceae) has a significant effect on total serum testosterone. Traditionally, fenugreek seeds have been reported to be useful in hormonal regulation, in particular for male impotence and as a galactagogue in lactating mothers. In India, ground fenugreek seeds mixed with jaggery are recommended for females after childbirth for their anabolic effects to develop and strengthen muscles (14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19).
For more information on supplements to increase your testosterone, vitality, and libido, check out this article.
Lacking energy and sex drive does not mean you have a severe testosterone deficiency warranting hormone replacement therapy. Yet, “low-T”, is now a popular mantra today in radio ads pushing men to take testosterone therapy without identifying other causes. Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet, prioritizing sleep and taking supplements that promote testosterone can be excellent ways to assist any man looking to enhance their hormones. A strong feeling of stamina and increased libido after experimenting with these natural recommendations should be seen after 3 weeks of daily use.
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