In the first part of this two-part article we talked about how low testosterone levels:
- Affect healthy male aging
- Affect a man’s energy, mood, weight/fat distribution, and sex drive.
- Contributes to conditions like diabetes, prostate problems, heart disease, osteoporosis, and depression.
We also talked briefly about methods of testosterone replacement. So, here I’d like to share with you in more detail how you can naturally optimize your testosterone levels with diet and lifestyle changes, and perhaps get help from herbal supplements.
Eat A Testosterone Boosting Diet
Unsightly rolls of belly fat and “man breasts” have become a concerning trend in many of my male patients. As I explained in Part I, one reason men are gaining these feminizing fat deposits is environmental estrogen which has gotten into our food and water supply. Another reason is the very low-fat diets men are eating these days trying to lose their increased body fat. That’s right. A man makes testosterone through cholesterol. So, if his cholesterol levels are too low from a too low fat diet, he will not make enough testosterone.
I always manage to raise a few eyebrows in my male patients when I tell them that in order to lose this kind of feminizing body fat they need to raise their fat intake! The trick is to include healthy, good fats in the diet, at about 30% of daily food intake. These good fats help manufacture testosterone and should come from:
- Mostly monounsaturated sources, like nuts, olive oil, avocados
- Moderate amounts from polyunsaturated sources like salmon and fish oils
- Smaller amounts from saturated sources like red meat.
You might worry that eating a higher fat diet and possibly higher cholesterol levels will put you at risk for heart disease. According to recent medical research, inflammation, rather than higher cholesterol levels, appears to be the real factor that determines whether you will develop heart disease and/or suffer a heart attack. Polyunsaturated fats help reduce inflammation in your body and protect your heart. So, allowing more of the right kinds of fat into your diet will not only help you build testosterone they will help protect your heart.
Here are some other diet suggestions to help optimize your testosterone levels:
- Monitor fiber intake. 20-25 grams a day is adequate for good bowel health. More, however, and you reduce cholesterol levels too much. Fiber sweeps all fats (even the good) out of the intestines before they are absorbed.
- Adequate protein intake: Studies have shown that higher protein, lower simple sugars diets help create testosterone. Aim for at least 0.5 grams of protein for each lb of body weight. If you weigh 200 lbs, your protein intake would be about 100 grams. Read labels to track your protein intake.
- Balance carbs: Consume lower glycemic carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread, yams, etc. Limit high glycemic, simple sugar carbs, such as cookies, cake, and candy to a balanced portion treat once, maybe twice, a week.
- Limit alcohol: Excessive alcohol intake lowers testosterone levels.
Modify Your Lifestyle
In addition to diet, and simply getting older, how you live your life can also affect your testosterone levels. I often suggest to my male patients that if they do not feel they can handle stressful life challenges on their own, they might seek counseling. Talking to someone about whatever is bothering you can bring about positive changes in your life and your health. Some issues that can affect your testosterone levels are:
- Constant high stress from either your job or relationships
- Lack of physical exercise/too much physical exercise such as sport training
- Chronic illness
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Recreational drug use
Supplemental Testosterone Therapy
If after you’ve made the necessary and positive changes in your diet and lifestyle, you still are experiencing low testosterone and its symptoms, you may want to consider taking supplemental testosterone. These are not the dangerous anabolic steroids of the past which I strongly encourage you to stay away from.
Rather, these are both natural, herbal preparations and prescription only pharmaceuticals. First, make sure your symptoms are truly testosterone related by getting your levels checked by a simple blood test.
Although some controversy exists amongst healthcare professionals as to the pros and cons of augmenting testosterone, you and your doctor can decide if any of these methods would be right for you:
- Herbal testosterone boosters – these are products which can contain Chrysin, a bioflavonoid that reduces estrogen in your system and boosts testosterone; Maca, a root herb used by the Peruvian Indians touted to increase sperm and testosterone levels. These herbal preparations do not have the risks and/or possible side effects associated with prescription testosterone preparations and also cost much less. Important Note: Yohimbe is both an herbal “male performance boosting”supplement and a prescription drug. However, the FDA has reported it can have some very serious side effects with improper, unmonitored use including renal failure, seizures, and death. I suggest you steer clear of yohimbe.
- Topical Testosterone – these are prescription only gels/creams that are applied to the skin. Be aware that you should not allow women (especially pregnant), or children to come in contact with the area of skin where you applied the gel. Doing so can cause birth defects in an unborn fetus, and/or male features in women.
- Testosterone injections – these are prescription-only drugs given 1-2 times a month. They need to be administered by a doctor or nurse practitioner. There can be many side effects and risks associated with injections which your doctor can explain to you.
Though there are many reasons why a man’s testosterone levels may decrease, natural aging is the biggest factor. However, as I’ve shared with you in these articles, you do not have to suffer the symptoms and loss of self-esteem that low testosterone levels can cause.
There are many things that you can do to regain youthful levels of testosterone before you consider supplementation of testosterone, whether natural or prescription. Following a diet containing good fats, avoiding environmental estrogens, getting rid of chronic emotional stressors as best you can, and doing regular physical exercise at least 3 times a week, will all help you boost those low-T levels and regain your confidence as a strong and vital man!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News