Testosterone Boot Camp
How to tell if you are suffering from low testosterone
Testosterone is the male hormone produced primarily in the testes in men. This hormone is often considered the “master hormone” in men as it is responsible for many aspects that make men manly.
Testosterone plays a significant role in male sexuality and reproduction as well as muscle mass, hair growth, bone density, levels of red blood cells, and even mood.
Around the age of 30, a man’s testosterone levels begin to decline and continues as he ages.
Many things impact a man’s level of testosterone adversely throughout his life and this can be detrimental to his overall health and performance in many aspects of life.
HealthDay news reported on new research from New England Research Institute suggesting that 1 in 4 men over the age of 30 has low levels of testosterone, defined as less than 300 ng/dL of total testosterone and less than 5 ng/dL of free testosterone. However, only about 1 in 20 have clinical symptoms linked to such deficiency.
This is a staggering number but not all that surprising when you hear the symptoms that many men describe when they see their doctor.
Signs of low testosterone:
- Low Energy (Fatigue)
- Low Libido (Sex Drive)
- Brain Fog
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Decreased Muscle Mass
- Increased Body Fat (Particularly Belly Fat)
- Gynecomastia (Male Breast Tissue aka “Man Boobs”)
Health Effects of low testosterone
Although low testosterone is becoming more common and many are either unaware of the related symptoms or not currently having symptoms, there is an underlying danger to having below ideal testosterone levels.
A lack of adequate or ideal testosterone can have some serious and long term effects on the body. Low levels of testosterone are reported to be related decrease bone density in males (osteoporosis) making them more prone to injury later in life. It is also linked to higher risk of death by heart disease as well as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and even depression.
What causes low testosterone?
Declining levels of testosterone is a natural occurrence of the aging process. Unfortunately, these drops are happening much earlier and to a greater degree than ever before and this is due to our ever increasing toxic and polluted environment.
Many thing in the environment contribute to our overall toxic burden and many of these substances and compounds interfere with our body’s ability to operate optimally. Today many middle-aged men are prescribed statin drugs to lower their cholesterol. In fact, it is estimated that around 15 million Americans are currently on a statin drug. Besides the many side effects of statin drugs, one issue related to testosterone is that statin drugs reduce the body’s production of cholesterol and cholesterol is the precursor to all steroid hormones including testosterone.
Besides certain prescription drugs, many other environmental chemicals interfere with and up set this process. Many fall in to a category called “Endocrine disruptors”. Pesticides and herbicides such as Atrazine have a profound effect on the balance of hormones in the body. American Biologist Tyrone Hayes, who is a professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered in his lab that Atrazine demasculinizes and feminizes male frogs through activation of an enzyme known as Aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen. This not only reduces the amount of testosterone in the body but has many other adverse health effects.
Besides atrazine, we are also exposed to estrogen-mimicking compounds (called xenoestrogens) in our foods, air, and water. In fact, elevated levels of birth control hormones excreted by women are consistently found in municipal drinking water thus increasing the toxic levels of estrogen found in the body. Even industrial compounds like PCBs, BPA, and other phthalates have estrogenic effects on the body. All of these contribute to decreasing the male hormone.
How to test for low testosterone
Much can be assumed by overt signs and symptoms but the only way to know for sure and how far from ideal you may be is to get tested by your doctor. Most often a blood test is used to determine your levels of testosterone. This is typically tested in the morning when testosterone levels are highest.
How to Naturally increase levels of testosterone
Because there are many things that contribute to low testosterone, it is important to get to the root cause of what may be reducing your body’s ability to make ideal levels.
Here are some ways to naturally increase your levels:
We went over many of the reasons testosterone levels drop. One of the most impactful is a high toxic burden of chemicals and compounds that mimic estrogen and convert your testosterone to estrogen. The most effective ways to correct this is by getting these chemicals out of your body.
- Reduce Stress
Stress is a killer when it comes to making ideal levels of testosterone. This is because our body is only able to really make cortisol or testosterone at one time.
As you can see in the flow chart, both cortisol and testosterone come from the same precursor Pregnenolone. My mentor Dr. Bob Rakowski was notorious for saying “You are either making stress hormones or sex hormones”. When we are under chronic stress we are diverting these building blocks down the cortisol pathway and this leaves less for building testosterone. So, if we want more testosterone, we must reduce the burden of stress.
- Strength Training
Strength Training has long been known to increase testosterone levels. Testosterone is key to recovery so if we work muscles with enough intensity we trigger our body’s production of testosterone as well as other recovery hormones like HGH. The key is to work large muscle groups under heavy load.
- High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T)
Just like strength training, the goal is to shock the body to trigger hormones required for recovery and repair. High intensity workout like Tabata or Circuit training incorporate multiple muscle groups and multiple energy systems which forces the body to learn how to adapt quickly. I personally like using the Tabata method that can be done in 4 minute bursts and takes less than 25 minutes to complete. If this is new to you, do some research online as there is plenty of info and suggestions to getting started
- Supplement with Zinc
The mineral zinc is important for testosterone production, and supplementing your diet for as little as six weeks has been shown to cause a marked improvement in testosterone among men with low levels.
Your diet is the best source of zinc; along with protein-rich foods like meats and fish, other good dietary sources of zinc include raw milk, raw cheese, beans, and yogurt or kefir made from raw milk.
If getting the right foods is difficult, then supplementation may be necessary. There is not a great consensus on the amount to take but I have seen good success with 60-90mg a day when replenishing the body’s levels
- Optimize Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is currently at epidemic proportions in the United States and many other regions around the world, largely because people do not spend enough time in the sun to facilitate this important process of vitamin D production.
Vitamin D, a steroid hormone, is essential for the healthy development of the nucleus of the sperm cell, and helps maintain semen quality and sperm count. Vitamin D also increases levels of testosterone.
For most parts of the North America, people do not get adequate sun exposure to produce optimal levels of vitamin D so supplementation is often necessary. The best way to know your levels is to get a simple blood test. This will help determine how aggressively to supplement to improve levels. Vitamin D is also crucial to a healthy immune system and disease prevention so get out in the sunshine!
- Eat Healthy Fat
Healthy dietary fats are critical as we saw earlier that the precursor for testosterone is in fact cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is typically found in animal products as well as saturated fats. These are essential for building ideal testosterone levels.
Great sources for healthy fats are: Avocados, raw nuts and seeds, grass-fed beef and butter, coconut oil, olive oil, organic pastured eggs, and other animal products. Try to get clean as possible to reduce antibiotic residues and hormones used on industrial raised food as this can negate the benefit and work against you. Try to get 50-70% of your calories from these fats.
- Eliminate Sugar and refined carbohydrates
Testosterone levels decrease after you eat sugar, which is likely because the sugar leads to a high insulin level, another factor leading to low testosterone. Based on USDA estimates, the average American consumes 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, which equates to about TWO TONS of sugar during a lifetime. If raising your testosterone is your goal, you must work to avoid sugary and refined foods like breads and pasta.
- Lose the belly fat
Excess body fat, especially belly fat, wreaks havoc on a good balance of hormones in the body. Not only does the excess fat put stress on the body, but typically excess body fat is a result of poor insulin control, out of control blood sugar, and a high toxic burden. Belly fat is also suspected to turn on that pesky enzyme aromatase that we touched on earlier that converts testosterone to estrogen. If you are doing the other steps to improve your levels, you will likely reduce this as well but losing fat is important to improving your levels.
Low testosterone is becoming an epidemic in today’s world but we don’t have to suffer the consequences if we take some sensible steps. If you think that you may be suffering from low testosterone or want to optimize your levels so that you can feel and perform better in all areas then connect with a natural minded doctor who can help you address these areas of your health and can get the tests you need to find out where you stand. Get control of your master hormone and you will see incredible results. Your testosterone levels may just be the missing link to better energy and performance.