Fatigued? Low drive? It could be low testosterone!
Welcome back, so far in this series we’ve discussed the consequence of estrogen and cortisol imbalance and how these imbalances can be overcome in Part I. In this final installment, we will talk about what many men dread or are dealing with right now – low testosterone!
Low Testosterone a Worry?
Briefly, some of the most common symptoms of low testosterone that occur as we age are:
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
- Decreased metabolism
- Muscle decrease
- Decrease in strength
- Sleep issues
- Lower libido
- Emotional issues
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past 5 years, you have grown accustomed to the dozens of male testosterone boosting pills/creams/gels seen on TV – that make you shredded, build 20 pounds of muscle, and make you like a ruttin’ buck – yeah…
They get friggin’ annoying but it’s clear that this is a billion-dollar problem many men experience. We stuck with one of the experts from Part I to help discuss low testosterone issues and how he overcame them! Here were the basic questions we asked him:
- What are some natural ways to fix hormone imbalances like low testosterone?
- Are there foods you can eat? Exercises to perform? Cleanses?
Overcoming Testosterone Issues Naturally
By: Michael Spitzer – Author of Fitness At 40, 50, 60 and Beyond
“There is no question that Testosterone begins to decline in males after the age of 35-40. It might seem obvious that the only way to correct a lowered Testosterone level is to administer an external supplemental supply of the hormone to restore the proper levels in the body. Seems logical, right? Well, not so fast.
The modern pharmaceutical mindset is to immediately begin prescribing Testosterone gel for males with lowered values.
The fact is, not all patients with lowered Testosterone levels actually need this medical treatment to restore normal levels of the hormone.
I will relate to another personal experience.
The natural range for Testosterone in adult males is approximately 250 – 1000 ng/dl. In my earlier years, my own Testosterone value averaged 800 ng/dl. When I was in my late 40s, I began to notice it became harder to maintain muscle size and strength.
At the same time, it became easier to gain a few pounds of fat if I became a bit sloppy with my eating. Additionally, I noticed that occasionally I would feel a small wave of anxiety or nervousness for no apparent reason.
Although nothing major, these small incidents of unexplained nervousness really grabbed my attention as I had always been fearless and worry-free until then. At age 48, I requested my doctor to perform a full blood work profile.
When the results came back, I was unpleasantly surprised to learn my Testosterone value was 418 ng/dl. While this concentration was still well inside the normal range, it was a sizeable decline from the levels I possessed 20 years earlier.
My doctor explained that normally men do not experience any serious symptoms until their hormone level drops below 250 ng/dl. He lightheartedly told me … “You are experiencing the first early signs of aging”.
Between ages 48-49, I repeated the same type of testing and ended up with Testosterone values that ranged from 391-410 ng/dl. I did not experience any other new symptoms during this time, but it still concerned me that my levels had dropped nearly 50% compared to years earlier.
My doctor suggested I consider Testosterone cream if I wanted to raise my levels.
I was reluctant – I was not yet 50 years old.
I also knew that once you begin taking a hormone externally, you essentially shut down what remains of your body’s own production capability.
You become totally reliant on the externally administered product to maintain your hormone levels. I decided to consult an Endocrinologist for a second opinion.
This second doctor who specialized specifically in endocrine function suggested I try a few supplements and clothing changes before giving up on my own body’s hormone-producing capabilities. These suggestions included the following…
- Eat several servings of Broccoli or Cauliflower daily
- Supplemental Zinc via ZMA tablets at bedtime
- Resveratrol supplementation
- Deer Velvet Antler (IGF-1) supplementation
- Tribulus terrestris supplementation
- d-Aspartic acid supplementation
- Saw Palmetto supplementation
- Avoid eating Grapefruit
- Wear boxer shorts instead of tight-fitting brief-style underwear
- Lose as much excess body fat as possible around the middle
- Use moderately heavy weights when performing large compound exercises like Bench Press, Leg Press, and Seated Rowing motions.
Admittedly I was skeptical that these simple, natural lifestyle changes would have any effect on my Testosterone levels. However, I learned many years ago that unless something is totally insane or risky, it is worth giving it a try before passing judgment.
We agreed I would immediately make these changes. I would then get blood tests at 6, 9, and 12 weeks afterward to see if there was any change from the hormone levels I had been exhibiting over the previous two (2) years.
I was in for a surprise. The results for my next three blood tests were 674, 775, and 703 ng/dl total Testosterone. The bio-available free Testosterone was also much improved. How could these few supplements, diet, and clothing changes increase my Testosterone by 300 units?
Once I learned there are two commonly recognized endocrine disorders that cause men to have lowered levels of testosterone, I was better able to understand why this natural option helped my 49-year-old body.
Two Major Reasons Men Lose Testosterone
The Factory is Worn Out
The male hormone system can be viewed as being similar to a factory. In one case, one could say the factory is simply worn out. No matter how much they are stimulated, the testes simply can not produce testosterone as they did years earlier. From a clinical sense, blood tests can reveal this condition.
If a patient has very high levels of LH and FSH [signals to produce more testosterone], but low testosterone, it usually indicates a classic case of testicular failure. The body is trying to increase production, but it is unable to do so.
For individuals who fit the above description, supplemental testosterone in the form of creams, gels, or injections is typically the only way to restore normal male hormone levels.
It should be mentioned that this cause of testosterone deficiency is primarily seen in men over the age of 55.
As a general rule, most men under the age of 55 still have the potential ability to generate sufficient testosterone naturally. The “factory” is usually still alive and kicking, but there is another problem in the process. In this second case, the testes receive little or no message from the pituitary.
The Leydig cells still have the ability to produce testosterone if urged to do so, but they are not receiving the LH and FSH signals that tell them to start working.
From a clinical sense, blood tests can also reveal this condition. If a patient has low levels of LH and FSH along with low testosterone, it usually indicates the body is not even making an effort to stimulate increased production. The positive thing about secondary hypogonadism is that it is usually treatable.
Knowing how and why testosterone levels decline with age, it is now easier to understand how the tips suggested by the endocrinologist were beneficial.
The levels of female hormone estrogen increase with added body fat. In men, this battle between estrogen and testosterone can create a hormonal balance problem. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower have anti-estrogen properties that help stimulate the burning off of extra estrogen in men.
Since I personally find it tiring to eat broccoli all the time, I also relied on dried vegetable capsules that are available from health food stores. This supplement makes it much easier to get 3-4 servings of cruciferous vegetables each day.
Grapefruit, on the other hand, tends to inhibit the liver’s breakdown of estrogen. Supplements like ZMA, Tribulus, and d-aspartic acid are all purported to increase testosterone levels.
To be fair, research studies on these supplements have shown mixed results. While some results have shown no positive effects, others have shown 10-30% increases of testosterone in test subjects.
Saw Palmetto has a good reputation for inhibiting the 5-alpha-reductase conversion of testosterone to DHT and is believed by many to be beneficial in warding off prostate problems. Interestingly enough, there also appears to be truth behind the old adage that “boxers are better than briefs” in terms of male virility.
Scientists still debate this issue, but an increasing number of studies and patient feedback supports the idea that something about tight-fitting underwear tends to inhibit both testosterone and sperm production in some males.
Using heavier weights when performing compound lifting motions involving large body parts has also been shown to raise testosterone levels as the body attempts to trigger its muscle growth adaption mechanism.
As I said earlier, I was totally taken by surprise when this little regimen helped me. I suspect none of these things alone would make a big difference, but in combination, the results were considerable.
It has now been over a year since I first met with the endocrinologist. I just recently had blood work performed again while writing this book. My testosterone level is still close to 700 ng/dl.
The point of relating my personal story is this … If you find yourself facing a similar situation where your testosterone level has declined with age, it may be worth investigating your options. Most family physicians will immediately suggest testosterone gels or creams as an answer.
Depending on your personal situation, there may be a more natural alternative to try first before committing yourself to external hormone replacement therapy.
That was seriously insightful – this kind of knowledge is invaluable because it can help you overcome your obstacles naturally.
Low testosterone is a concern almost every guy will have as they age, but instead of quickly running off and getting a prescription there are some natural ways to increase your testosterone.
Give them a try and get back to feeling like your old self again!
For the ladies, if you are having estrogen or cortisol concerns visit Part I of this series for more!