Testosterone has become a very in-vogue term. Many patients come into the office specifically asking for their testosterone levels to be checked. The pharma industry has aggressively pursued direct-to-consumer advertising of testosterone replacement products, which in turn has created a grass-roots awareness of testosterone issues, a topic that was previously the domain of urologists and endocrinologists.
So, what is testosterone?
Testosterone (or T) is that all-important male hormone that goes way beyond male sexuality and is now regarded as a key factor in men’s health. Aside from contributing to libido, masculinity and sexual function, T is responsible for the physical changes that begin at puberty, including the growth of pubic, underarm and facial hair, the deepening of the voice, and development of a prominent Adam’s apple and increased bone and muscle mass. Additionally, T contributes to your mood, bone and muscle strength, red blood cell count, energy, and general mojo.
What are the symptoms of low testosterone?
Most testosterone is manufactured in the testicles, although a small percentage is made by the adrenal glands. There is a gradual decline in T that occurs with the aging process—approximately a 1% decline each year after age 30. This will occur in most men, but will not always be symptomatic. 40% of American men aged 45 or older have low or low range T.
Specifically, symptoms of low T may include one or more of the following:
- fatigue despite getting adequate amount of sleep
- moodiness and irritability
- low sex drive – men with low T will likely experience a more drastic drop in their desire to have sex
- erectile dysfunction
- impaired orgasmic function
- decreased energy and sense of well-being – T influences many physical processes in the body and it can also influence mood and mental capacity.
- loss of muscle and bone mass which may lead to osteoporosis
- increased body fat due to an imbalance of T and estrogen in men
- abnormal lipid profiles
- difficulties with concentration and memory
- decrease in body hair
- decrease in hemoglobin and mild anemia
Contributing factors for low testosterone
While the amount of testosterone in men naturally declines throughout life, there are several other contributing factors that are associated with low T levels. While not all of these factors can be fully controlled, it is important to recognize what may be contributing to low testosterone levels when determining the best course of action. Common contributing factors to low testosterone include the following:
- trauma, injury or infection of the testes
- chemotherapy treatment
- acute or long-term illness
- medications such as opioids and steroids (i.e., prednisone)
- alcohol abuse
- sleep disorders (i.e., sleep apnea)
- autoimmune disease
4 Tips to naturally increase your testosterone levels
While a gradual loss of T due to age is normal, there are natural ways to boost your T levels and strengthen your overall health. This may require adjustments in certain areas of your lifestyle, diet, stress levels, sleep habits and exercise. By taking a holistic approach to your health, your T levels can benefit.
- Focus on healthy eating habits. A diet rich in protein (i.e., beef, lean chicken, eggs, tofu) and fatty fish boosts T levels. Fruit such as pomegranate lowers the stress hormone, cortisol, and can lower blood pressure. This helps raise levels of sex hormones. Magnesium rich foods spinach, almonds, cashews and peanuts keep more T floating in your blood stream. It is also recommended that you keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum to avoid throwing off your body’s hormone system.
- Engage in consistent exercise that includes a balance of aerobic, vigorous resistance, and core training. Weight training will increase muscle mass, which boosts T and metabolism. Cardiovascular exercise reduces stress levels, is good for heart health, burns calories, and keeps those cortisol levels in check. This will help the flabby abdomen disappear and build lean muscle mass, which in turn will increase your metabolic rate.
- Obtain adequate sleep. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Your body increases T when you sleep. Too little sleep (5 hours or less per night) can cause testosterone levels to drop by as much as 15%.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess abdominal fat and obesity has the potential to convert T to the female sex hormone estrogen. Too much estrogen slows T production, and with less T, more abdominal obesity occurs and even more estrogen is made, creating a vicious cycle of emasculation. However, keep in mind that sufficient caloric intake of quality food and nutrients is necessary to prevent the body going into “starvation mode,” which can substantially decrease T production.
Caution Regarding “Natural Supplements”
It is also very important to use caution when taking vitamins and mineral supplements to boost T levels. There are many “natural supplements” that claim to boost testosterone on the market. However, as natural supplements flood the market and make claims of efficacy, none are FDA approved (the FDA does not regulate the supplements themselves, only claims of advertising) and can be dangerous or are outright scams. You want to consult your urologist before taking any natural supplements to ensure you are taking the proper dose and/or whether they are indicated for your specific needs and considerations.
If lifestyle modifications fail to improve the symptoms of low T and levels remain measurably low via a simple blood test, a trial of T replacement under the supervision of your doctor can provide a meaningful improvement to your quality of life. The dedicated staff at New Jersey Urology (NJU) has more than 150 of the best urologists and providers across the New Jersey area and are available for consultation. Contact and make an appointment with NJU today.
If you’re looking for more information on low testosterone, we also recommend the following article: Do I have low testosterone? 24 questions answered by a urologist.