It can be difficult to ensure that you’re producing the right level of testosterone, and low testosterone in men is becoming an increasingly more prominent health issue.
Produced primarily by the testicles, testosterone is crucial to maintaining good overall health for men. A normal male testosterone level peaks between the ages 20-30, and then it begins to decline.
In this article, we will cover what testosterone does, the effects of testosterone deficiency and surplus, and both artificial and natural testosterone boosters, including foods which have been shown to help promote a healthy testosterone level.
What is the role of testosterone in the body?
Testosterone is primarily associated with defining secondary male characteristics during puberty such as a deepened voice and increased muscle mass. Through adulthood, it’s linked to sex drive, strength, and social markers such as confidence, authority, and aggressiveness.
Testosterone affects many aspects of the body and the benefits to overall health include, but are not limited to:
- Healthy metabolism
- Proper distribution of fats
- Maintaining bone density
- Fertility and sex drive
- Healthy sperm development
- Regulated mental and physical energy
- A healthy pain response
- Sufficient levels of red blood cells
- Regular sleep patterns
- Hair growth
The effects of testosterone deficiency
A lack of the hormone testosterone can manifest itself as one of many medical diagnoses including Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome (TSA) and Hypogonadism in severe cases.
When the body does not produce enough testosterone people may experience symptoms that include:
- Low sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low mood
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decrease in muscle mass
- Changes in cholesterol levels.
- Decrease in haemoglobin
- Fragile bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
- Reduction in body hair
The effects of testosterone surplus
Having an elevated level of testosterone in your body can have a detrimental affect on your physical health as well as affecting your psychological health.
Testosterone is associated with confidence, aggression, and strength. As mentioned, the more elevated the level of testosterone in your body, the greater the likelihood of these qualities being physically manifested or expressed.
The signs and symptoms associated with raised testosterone levels include:
- Acne (primarily on back and shoulders)
- Minor testicle shrinkage
- Reduced fertility
- Hair Loss
- A greater risk of an enlarged prostate
Likewise, males with higher testosterone levels are more likely to:
- Consume greater quantities of alcohol
- Participate in risk-taking behaviour (sexual promiscuity, adrenaline pursuits such as sky-diving or bungee jumping, and even criminal activity)
Artificially boosting testosterone
There are several synthetic testosterone products on the market that drug companies sell to those defined as having low sex drive, mood changes, and difficulties with mental concentration.
Your body uses DHEA to produce vital hormones including testosterone in men which is one of the more common replacements. It is sold as a natural supplement to increase testosterone production.
Anabolic steroids are used for the treatment of delayed puberty in boys, low testosterone levels, anaemia, and low muscle mass due to AIDs or HIV. Steroid use and abuse has been well documented in the media. Athletes and non-athletes alike use steroids to increase muscle mass, performance, and for cosmetic reasons.
Many artificial supplements only mimic the effects of testosterone and as such can have significant (serious) side effects.
- Increased hair growth
- High Cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
- Heart Disease
- Reduced production of sperm
- Myocardial infarction (raised risk of heart attack)
- Fluid retention
- Sleep apnoea
- Cyst growth in the prostate
- High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- Risk of developing larger breasts (gynecomastia)
- Skin problems
The second challenge of supplementing with synthetic (artificial) testosterone is the potential negative effects it can have on other hormones within the body. It’s estimated that the human body produces in excess of 60 different hormones, and the complex interplay of these hormones within the body makes the study of endocrinology a daunting task. Raising testosterone at the exclusion of other hormones may throw this delicate system out of balance and create widespread health issues. (Refer to the symptom list above)
A more natural approach to boosting testosterone (Think Holistically)
The first step in the process is to always identify why your testosterone levels are low in the first place. What are the causative factors? In the vast majority of cases, clients are violating the ‘foundation principles’ of health and restoring balance in these areas often leads to significant improvements in overall health, including testosterone levels.
Foundation Principles of Health
|Organic Food||Filtered water||Quality sleep patterns|
|Active Lifestyle||Mental Health||Spiritual Health|
|Emotional Health||Optimal Breathing Patterns|
You will see from the list below, that many of these ‘testosterone-enhancing’ techniques focus on restoring balance to the foundation principles of health.
Resistance Exercise and Interval Training
To raise testosterone levels naturally, combine weight training with high-intensity exercise for fitness. Lifting heavy weights with larger muscle groups like your quadriceps, hamstrings, back, shoulders and chest for at least 30 minutes can give a very beneficial boost to low testosterone levels.
Interval Training has a proven positive effect on increasing testosterone levels and preventing testosterone declines. Interval Training involves exercising at 90–100 percent of your maximum effort for a short interval followed by recovery then repeat. The Tabata Protocol is one proven method for benefitting from ‘high-intensity interval training.’
Stress caused by frustration and anger may cause your testosterone levels to drop over time. If you’re under constant stress, your body will create the stress hormone cortisol, making it less able to produce testosterone. This phenomenon is known as ‘pregnenolone steal’ and can have serious consequences if left unaddressed for long periods.
Simple ways for individuals to reduce their stress levels include:
- Making a significant reduction in the number of hours they work per week
- Identify stressors at work and finding strategies to minimize them.
- Learning meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong
- Practicing mindfulness
- Moving your body on a daily basis. This includes during work hours.
- Finding hobbies that you are passionate about
- Having a strong social network of friends and family
Improve your sleep quality
Prolonged sleep deprivation can have a significant (negative) effect on your testosterone levels. In many cases of men with low testosterone, poor sleep is cited as the principal causative factor.
According to Gary Wittert from the University of Adelaide in the journal Current Opinion of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity, research has shown that getting enough sleep is one of the most effective ways to raise testosterone.
A testosterone-conscious diet
Lower sugar intake
To boost your natural testosterone levels a great place to begin is by cutting back significantly on your intake of sugar.
Sugar is linked to depleted testosterone levels in several ways.
- When you eat a diet high in sugar, your blood sugar levels become raised
- To help keep blood sugar levels moderated, your body produces insulin
- Excessive amounts of insulin in your system lead to low testosterone levels
Most people start to see significant improvements in their health by cutting back on or eliminating sugar from their diets.
Increase Vitamin D
An essential nutrient that can help boost testosterone levels is vitamin D; it helps increase levels of testosterone and maintain semen quality and sperm count.
There are many ways to get your daily dose of vitamin D, the simplest of which is to get 20-30 minutes of sun every day.
It’s also possible to supplement your diet, Vitamin D rich foods include:
- Tuna, salmon, or sardines.
- Milk and cheese
- Egg yolks
- Red Meat (e.g. Beef liver is an exceptional source of vitamin D)
- Kidney Beans
It’s recommended that you have your 25-hydroxy vitamin D level checked at the beginning of every winter. For people who have low vitamin D levels, natural supplements such as cod liver oil or vitamin D3 can be taken.
With that said, it is crucial that you have your 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels retested after 4-6 weeks to ensure the amount of vitamin D being taken through supplementation is bringing your levels back into the normal range.
The body requires saturated fats from meats, dairy, and certain oils for optimal functioning. Many men with low testosterone levels consume too much junk food and not enough healthy fat.
There are three categories of healthy fats. The first is saturated fat which can be found in:
- Coconuts, coconut oil, and other coconut products
- Organic dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, or cheese
- Meat sourced from grass-finished animals such as beef, turkey, chicken, etc
- Organ meats (liver, kidney, heart, brain) from organic, grass-finished animals
- Eggs from organic, free-range birds
The second category of healthy fat is omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in:
- Fish oil
- Chia seeds
Lastly, Monounsaturated fats are also natural testosterone boosters which can be found in:
- Olives and Olive oil
Intermittent fasting is not a diet, but rather a specific pattern of dieting. More simply put, it involves making a conscious decision to skip certain meals.
By fasting at specific times and then feasting on purpose, intermittent fasting means eating your daily calories during a specific window of the day, and choosing not to eat food during the remainder of the day.
There are many different ways to take advantage of intermittent fasting:
- Skip breakfast and only eat from noon to 8pm. This allows a 16-hour window during which your digestive system is not receiving any food. Some protocols will even reduce this period for food consumption down to 4-6 hours.
- Skip two meals in one day. So you may choose to skip breakfast and lunch one day and not eat until 6-8pm that evening. This would mean that no food has entered your body for a full 24-hour period.
- Under medical supervision, you may be able to work your way up to longer periods of fasting such as 48-72 hours.
Fasting has been used therapeutically since at least the 5th century BC when the Greek physician Hippocrates recommended abstinence from food or drink for patients who demonstrated specific signs or symptoms of illness.
In Western Christianity, ‘Lent’ is traditionally described as lasting for 40 days, in commemoration of the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. During Lent, many Christians commit to fasting, quoting both spiritual reasons and physical healing. Many other religions around the world participate in intermittent fasting throughout the year.
The proposed health benefits associated with intermittent fasting continue to be supported by the scientific literature. The research suggests that through complex hormonal pathways intermittent fasting may result in raised testosterone levels.
Zinc is essential for testosterone production during puberty and keeps male hormones in check throughout adulthood. Men with low testosterone levels may benefit from taking zinc, as it helps to regulate the endocrine system.
It’s difficult to obtain the necessary daily dose of zinc through food alone because of modern farming methods that rely heavily on chemicals. These chemicals deplete the soil quality and zinc that would normally be obtained from the food we eat is absent or unavailable.
Zinc can be found naturally in foods including:
- Red meats
- Fish and shellfish
- Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese
- Kidney Beans
Before supplementing with zinc, we would highly recommend that you see one of our highly experienced integrative health practitioners to have your levels assessed first. Excess zinc can be equally as detrimental to your health as low zinc levels.