When the word testosterone is mentioned it is often followed by a joke, a grunt or a muscle flex. Men want brag-worthy levels of the hormone and identify with it as their “manhood”. Low testosterone, however, has become a common finding in men over the age of 30. The most recent comprehensive study from 2007 revealed a “substantial” drop in U.S. men’s testosterone levels since 1980. The study identified that 40% of men over 45 have low testosterone and that the U.S. average testosterone level is declining 1% per year.
Low testosterone can impact men in a wide variety of ways. Some men can experience extreme symptoms while others will have almost no noticeable symptoms. Deficient levels of testosterone may manifest in low libido, erectile dysfunction, sleep disruption, decreased sense of well being or depressed mood, moodiness, decreased bone density, decreased muscle mass, decreased energy levels and decreased red blood cells. These severe symptoms are now affecting a large percentage of the US male population. With average testosterone levels dropping every year what can men do to promote healthy testosterone production and prevent testosterone depletion?
The answer is complicated. Everyone wishes it was as easy as simply taking a pill or supplement to increase testosterone levels. There are some natural remedies that have been shown to increase testosterone production like sandalwood essential oil and oysters, but it’s not that simple! Low testosterone is actually a symptom not “the problem”. When low testosterone is found there is some dysregulation in the body that is causing the testes to produce less testosterone. The first thing, and probably the hardest thing to do is to identify the cause. Sometimes it could be easy; for example, this 2011 study found that low vitamin D levels can have a drastic negative effect on testosterone. The results of the study demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation can boost testosterone naturally in some men by up to 30 percent. Unfortunately, it is not always that simple.
Here are the most common causes of low testosterone and how to address them.
Blood Sugar Dysregulation. Sugar in all forms, including processed flours, reeks the most havoc on testosterone and other sex hormones. The first way to protect testosterone is to balance blood sugar. How do you do that?
Adding healthy fats to a diet can decrease cravings and hunger for unhealthy carbohydrates and sugars. Good quality fats are needed to make hormones in the body and are important to incorporate into every meal. An article released this year found that men on low-fat diets have lower blood testosterone levels as a consequence. Increasing good fats in a balanced diet will help raise testosterone. Focus on increasing the proportion of good fats with avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, raw nuts, and seeds.
Equally as important as increasing good fat is decreasing sugar intake. Sugar lowers testosterone almost instantaneously. This is demonstrated by a study that found when a sugary drink (75g of sugar) was given to men, regardless of whether the men had diabetes, prediabetes or normal sugar tolerance, the blood levels of testosterone decreased by as much as 25 percent. Adding to the problem is that sugar also causes an increase of belly fat which releases estrogen hormone and makes the symptoms of low testosterone even worse.
A fast solution to low testosterone caused by poor blood sugar regulation and weight gain is to try intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting can increase testosterone levels by 180 percent. Intermittent fasting can be done in many ways but the most popular is to limit eating to a 6 to 8-hour window and fast the rest of the day. Intermittent fasting is not a perfect solution, but it can be an effective strategy to increase testosterone because it reverses insulin resistance, establishes leptin sensitivity, decreases inflammation and burns fat.
HPA Axis Dysregulation. Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis is how the brain communicates to the adrenal glands to regulate stress. The stress hormone called cortisol destroys testosterone. The body produces a special enzyme, 11ßHSD-1, to protect testosterone from being broken down due to cortisol. This enzyme works well short term, but when there is chronic stress the enzyme cannot keep up, causing cortisol to destroy testosterone. To combat chronic stress leading to low testosterone levels adopt DAILY stress-relieving activities. These daily practices could include gentle exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, or breathing exercises. In addition to coping with stress it is very important to get adequate sleep to elevate testosterone levels.
Train for Higher Testosterone. Burst training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a very effective way to increase testosterone. In addition to interval workouts, weight lifting has an almost instant positive effect on testosterone. This study found that even light to moderate weight lifting helps increase testosterone. Combining the two--HIIT workouts with weight lifting will raise testosterone even more. Aim for 3 days a week of these types of workouts.
Strategies to increase testosterone:
Increase healthy fats
Decrease or eliminate sugar and processed flours
Try intermittent fasting
Decrease stress and find healthy ways to manage stress levels
HIIT workouts combined with weight lifting.
Implementing these 6 strategies should increase testosterone levels in most cases. If these tools are not doing the trick, consider exploring detox programs. High toxin levels and excess estrogens in the environment from chemicals, pesticides, and plastics can store in fat cells causing complications including low testosterone.
If you want to have a healthy libido, increased muscle mass and a positive sense of well being then follow these steps to naturally increase your testosterone levels. Claim back your manhood.
Dr. Meghan Schoening is a Chiropractor who follows her love for functional nutrition and health to provide practical and relevant advice. Still a practicing chiropractor Dr. Meghan combines her passion for healing with teaching patients how to live a “balanced” lifestyle with her health and wellness company, B.Well.