Testosterone is a hormone that does much more than fuel your libido. Many people know that low testosterone levels can affect libido, but many fail to realize that testosterone is also vital for for energy, mental clarity, a strong and healthy functioning heart, insulin sensitivity, protein synthesis, strong bones and muscles, healthy aging, and keeping your brain operating at peak performance.
Men in their early 60s with the highest level of free testosterone have the lowest risk of developing Alzheimer’s in the next 15-20 years.
Men produce approximately ten times the amount of testosterone compared to women. Optimal testosterone levels are crucial for both men and women. Testosterone works with estrogen to keep skin supple, increase bone mineral density, boost mood, and increase the ability to handle stress.
A man without testosterone is like a car without gasoline.
Low testosterone is increasingly common nowadays. In my practice, I see it more and more often, even in younger generation. Although testosterone production may drop as a normal aspect of aging, many men in their 20s, 30s and 40s are suffering from low testosterone.
Whats to blame for the epidemic of low T?
• Nutrient deficiencies, especially the basics such as zinc, magnesium, omega-3s, vitamin D, protein
• Studies have found a link between low T and exposure to T-zapping chemicals (xenoestrogens). Pesticides, glyphosate, plastics, phthalates, parabens, PCBs, BPA, heavy metals and other toxic chemicals found in food, water and water bottles, the air, household cleaners, fabric softeners, and personal care products poison and block the androgen receptor sites.
• Heavy metals are one of the most overlooked causes of low testosterone. Mercury has been shown to decrease luteinizing hormone. Lead and other heavy metals have also been shown to decrease testosterone. [Environmental International, May 2017]
• WiFi, electropollution, and EMFs from cell phones have a negative impact on testosterone production. And, where do most men carry their phones? In their pockets close to the groin area. No bueno.
• Oral contraceptives decrease circulating levels of total T and free T and increase SHBG concentrations. Due to the SHBG increase, free T levels decrease twice as much as total T. [Hum Reprod. 2014]
• Excess body fat
• Insulin resistance and blood sugar instability
• Chronic ibuprofen, Tylenol, NSAIDs, alcohol, antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, hypertension medications, marijuana and opioid use
• Disrupted circadian rhythms, lack of sleep and poor sleep
• Sunlight deficiency, artificial light and blue light exposure after sunset, EMF exposure, electropollution, WiFi
• Underlying infections
• Overdoing cardio-aerobic style exercise, instead of emphasizing strength training and high-intensity interval style workouts like those found in The Power of 4 and Fat Loss Revolution
• Consumption of soy, canola oil, grains, factory-farmed frankenmeat and processed junk food, which increases cortisol and estrogen, and lowers testosterone. Low T combined with elevated cortisol and estrogen leads to a condition known as feminization phenomenon.
Warning Signs of Low Testosterone
- Lack of motivation, low energy, fatigue
- Accelerated aging
- Impaired memory
- Increased belly fat
- Muscle loss, reduced strength, sarcopenia, dynapenia
- Moodiness, irritability
- Weak bones, decreased bone density, osteopenia, osteoporosis
- Estrogen dominance
Low testosterone is strongly associated with metabolic syndrome independent of age. 70% of those with low testosterone have metabolic disease: obesity, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Low testosterone increases risk of of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, heart attack, stroke, CVD, depression and many other health problems.
Aromatization. As men approach their late 30s and 40s, testosterone levels slowly decline and often much of their remaining testosterone converts to estrogen, a process known as aromatization. Men may experience prostate problems, weight gain, hair loss, atherosclerosis, gynecomastia (male breast development aka man boobs), lowered libido, reduced sperm counts and impotency.
Aromatase activity increases as a result of aging, liver enzyme activity, consuming the standard American diet, excess alcohol consumption, marijuana use, pesticide & chemical exposure, poor detoxification of estrogens, excess body fat, insulin resistance and other factors.
Beer belly, wheat belly, gluten belly, and gynectomastia (man boobs) can all be signs of estrogen dominance in a male, particularly gynectomastia. Fat cells synthesize the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone into estradiol.
Excess body fat and gynectomastia are definite indicators of high estrogen in relation to testosterone, however the real issue is insulin resistance and inflammation.
Estrogen dominance in men and women increases the risk of estrogen-dominant health issues such as PMS, endometriosis, fibroids, gynectomastia, and estrogen dominant cancers (prostate and breast cancer).
Why Is Testosterone Low?
The first step of action is to determine why testosterone levels are low in the first place.
Testosterone is not being produced
Testosterone is wasting away (aromatization)
The individual doesn’t have the basic building blocks to make testosterone (protein deficient, zinc deficient, HCL deficiency, poor digestion, omega-3 and fatty acid deficiencies, vitamin D deficiency, sleep deficiency, disrupted circadian rhythm)
Testosterone is not free to be used by the body because it’s bound to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG)
- Testosterone receptor sites are blocked from heavy metals, a high toxic load and harmful chemical exposure
- The vast majority of men with low testosterone do not have what is called “primary hypogonadism,” meaning an inability of the testes to produce testosterone. Most men actually have “secondary hypogonadism,” which is the inability of the pituitary gland to produce the right signaling hormones (mainly luteinizing hormone) that tell the testes to make testosterone.
- Testosterone is low because of one of the factors listed below
You can’t just throw a hormone into the system because levels are low…there’s the potential to disrupt the entire balance. Remember, hormones do not work independently. I am not saying one should never opt for hormones, however I look at why levels are low the first place, identify the root cause, and then bring the body into balance through a real food diet, bio-individualized nutrition, lifestyle modifications, address toxic load, reduce exposure to chemicals, pesticides and obesogens, and the appropriate type and amount of exercise first. If that fails to bring hormones back into balance, then one might consider bio-identical hormones.
Factors that Influence Testosterone Levels
- Sleep. Just one night of short sleep (five hours) produces a 10-15% drop in testosterone. According to one study, men who sleep <4 hours in a 24-hour period had about 60% less total testosterone and 55% less bioavailable testosterone than men who slept longer than 8 hours. Just one hour of extra sleep raises testosterone level 12-15 percent!
- The aging process. Keep in mind that behavioral, lifestyle, food choice, environment, toxic load and chemical exposure affect testosterone levels more than aging.
- The Standard American Diet (SAD) consisting of conventionally-raised, factory-farmed animal protein and dairy loaded with xenoestrogens, xenobiotics, and processed, nutritionally-void frankenfoods containing soy, corn, artificial sweeteners, sugar, fructose, GMOs, glyphosate, pesticides, chemicals and more toxic garbage
- Insulin resistance, poorly managed blood sugar and diabetes
- Inflammation: Underlying infections, eating inflammatory foods, toxic overload, electosmog
- Prior use of anabolic steroids
OTC medication and pharmaceutical drugs: Statin drugs
lower testosterone 50-70 points plus numerous other negative side effects, blood pressure medication, SSRIs and antidepressants, oral contraceptives, synthetic hormones, benzodiazepines (Xanax, valium, Ativan), opioid drugs and narcotics (heroin, morphine, oxycodone, oxycontin, vicodin and other psychotropic drugs), plus several other Rx and OTC medications
- Excess alcohol and marijuana use, which are estrogenic, increase cortisol, and suppress both growth hormone and testosterone.
- Chronic stress, adrenal insufficiency, elevated cortisol levels
- Lack of stomach acid and poor HCL status (hypochlorhydria)
- Nutrient deficiencies. Zinc deficiency lowers testosterone
- Excess body fat and obesity
- Autoimmune disorders
- Liver health
- Ingesting items that tend to lower testosterone (i.e. spearmint tea, soy, canola oil, soybean oil and licorice, overdoing the alcohol, factory-farmed animal protein, unfiltered water)
- Chronic blue light exposure at night and electromagnetic pollution aka dirty electricity such as smartphones, wireless devices, computers, microwave ovens and television. The more television one watches , the less testosterone they usually have. Exposure to artificial blue light after sunset stops melatonin production at the very time when it is needed. There is no question that the increased use of smartphones, tablets, and computers in the last decade is directly linked to the decreased testosterone levels in younger generations.
Men who wear their cell phones on their hips or carry a smartphone in their pants pocket can show up to a 30% decrease in testosterone!
- Toxic chemicals and environmental endocrine disruptors. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are known as obesogens. Obesogens mimic or alter the effects of hormones in the body and often target the estrogen receptors and include pesticides, herbicides, insectisides, fungicides, plastics, industrial chemicals, dioxins, PCBs, BPA, pollution, thermal cash register receipts, PVC, phthalates, parabens, soaps, emulsifiers, and artificial fragrances found in skin care products, lotions, cosmetics and household cleaning products.
Feminization of Males: “At lower non-toxic concentrations of glyphosate and RoundUp (at 1ppm) the main endocrine disruption is a testosterone decrease by 35%!” –Toxicology in Vitro, March 2012, 269–279
How to Boost Testosterone Naturally
Food as Medicine to Boost Testosterone Naturally
- Eat organic! Stop eating chemicals. Glyphosate and pesticides reduce testosterone by 35%!
- Remove all grains, gluten, pasta, cereals, bagels and breads from your diet and you’ll see an increase in testosterone. All grains are sprayed with Round up ready glyphosate. Grains have elevated levels of mycotoxins, which are endocrine disruptors.
- Manage insulin and stabilize blood sugar. Remove the insulin-spiking, inflammatory foods from your diet (sugar, wheat, grains, fructose, soda, and processed, packaged fake frankenfoods)
- Become a label detective. Read the entire list of ingredients on all food items and personal care products. You’ll be surprised at the number of products containing sugar, wheat, soy, soybean and canola oil, trans fats, vegetable oil, chemicals, colorings and artificial ingredients, which negatively influence hormones.
- Increase intake of nutrient-dense, fiber-rich veggies and leafy greens. Load up on cruciferous veggies that support estrogen clearance. Opt for organic due to the exorbitant amount of pesticides, herbicides and glyphosate, which is linked to declining testosterone levels by 35 percent!
- Consume an adequate amount of protein every day. Opt for grass-fed, free-range pastured animal protein as much as possible versus conventionally-raised animal protein and dairy due to the abundance of xenohormones injected into the animals. Remember, you eat what the animal eats. If the animal is fed corn, soy, GMOs and grains, and injected with antibiotics and synthetic hormones, that is what you’re going to be eating.
- Increase consumption of fat, which is required to produce testosterone: coconut oil, pastured grass-fed butter, avocado, egg yolks, grass-fed meats, omega-3s, wild fish and seafood. Avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils and trans fats
- Avoid low calorie diets, extended periods without food, and low-fat, non-fat, fake frankenfoods
- Absolutely no soy…zero! Soy is genetically engineered, deficient in amino acids and contains estrogenic isoflavones that negatively impact testosterone levels.
- Include more foods rich in zinc: wild shellfish, oysters, organic whole eggs, grass-fed red meat, cherries, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
- If you choose to drink alcohol, go easy on the booze. Too much alcohol has a direct impact on healthy hormone balance, including testosterone!
Exercise to Boost Testosterone Naturally
- Strength training with heavy resistance stimulates testosterone and growth hormone
- Minimize frequency of long, slow distance (LSD) aerobic-style exercise
- Shorter, more intense workouts. Interval burst-style exercise such as sprints
- Respect rest and recovery; deep breathing exercises, yoga, walking
Lifestyle Tips to Boost Testosterone Naturally
- Avoid as many toxic chemicals as you possibly can. Studies have identified an association between chemical exposure (e.g., to phthalates, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and nonpersistent pesticides) and lower levels of testosterone. Phthalates, pesticides and other toxic chemicals block the androgen receptor sites.
- Get a daily dose of early morning sunlight, rest more, practice relaxation techniques, meditate, spend time in nature, restore your body, mind and spirit. Studies have shown that ultraviolet light exposure to the chest increased testosterone levels by 120%, and exposure to the genitals increased levels by 200%. [Oncotarget, Dec 2017]
- Reduce your inflammatory load, which rises due to various sources.
- Be aware of hormone disruptors, chemical toxins and obesogens (see above) that disturb your natural production of testosterone.
- Avoid plastic water bottles and containers, canned foods and beverages, and thermal cash receipts! Most plastic bottles (even the BPA-free ones) release toxic estrogen-like compounds and block testosterone production.
- Parabens affect your body much like estrogen, which can lead to decreased muscle mass, extra body fat, estrogen dominance, moobs, and decreased testosterone. If you use topical bio-identical testosterone cream, opt for paraben-free cream.
- Use only natural organic personal care and household products or make your own with a few simple ingredients.
- Prioritize sleep! Never underestimate the power of sleep for optimal hormone function. Instead of testosterone injections, get to bed by 10:30p.m. at the latest and sleep 7-9 hours every night. Trouble sleeping? Check out these drug-free Sleep Tips to cure insomnia
- Managing inevitable stressors is crucial for optimizing testosterone levels.
- Rule out heavy metal body burdens, exhausted adrenals, and underlying infections such as Candida, yeast, fungal, H. pylori, SIBO, parasitic, bacterial, Lyme and viral infections (which are extremely common)
- Lose body fat. Toxins (xenoestrogens) accumulate in fat tissue.
- Improve your mood naturally and address the root cause of anxiety and depression. Antidepressants raise aromatase. If you’re taking an anti-depressant, consult with the prescribing physician for natural alternatives.
- Optimize liver function. A happy, healthy liver is essential for correcting estrogen dominance and healthy hormonal balance.
- Detox periodically. Practice these smart and simple detox tips that are safe enough to do every day!
- Unplug. Avoid wearing cell phone on your body or carrying in your pocket. Keep the cell phone, television and all electronic and wireless devices out of the bedroom during sleep. No bright, artificial lights after sunset and no blue light at night.
Nutrients to Boost Testosterone Naturally
- Identify your personal nutrient deficiencies through a functional blood chemistry analysis and balance your body chemistry.
- Consider the basic nutrients to boost testosterone: Zinc, magnesium, digestive enzymes with HCL, vitamin D, probiotics, omega-3s and essential fatty acids
- Ensure optimal levels of HCL and supplement accordingly
- Protein and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) before, during and after training
- Other nutrients and herbs to consider (very individual): DHEA, tribulus, maca root, Siberian ginseng, b-Vital, Muira puama, fenugreek
- Consider aromatase inhibitors such as DIM, Calcium d glucarate, sulforaphane, chrysin, astaxanthin, saw palmetto, grape seed extract, resveratrol
Taking any hormone, including testosterone injections just because your lab values are out of range before exploring the root cause can create further hormonal chaos, metabolic disaster and a potential to disrupt the entire balance. I’m not implying that one should never opt for exogenous hormone therapy, however it’s important to address first things first, and bring your body into balance with real food, optimizing digestion, healing your gut, correcting simple nutrient deficiencies, eradicating infections, reducing toxic load and chemical exposure, exercise, daily sunlight exposure, minimizing exposure to electropollution and artificial blue light at night, good sleep and other lifestyle modifications first.
What if low serum T levels persist after addressing the root of the problem? Treating low ‘T’ with exogenous hormones is popular these days as many men seek to “remain young” as they advance in age. Testosterone replacement clinics are popping up like Starbucks these days and it can be tempting to go straight to replacement. Testosterone therapy can be helpful when necessary and if done properly, but it is not a long-term solution. You must maximize everything else first… and, remember that a strong foundation and basic building blocks, which I refer to as the ‘Paula Principles’? must be in place to even make hormones.