If you ever turn on your TV, no doubt you have seen the commercials for treatment of “Low T” or low testosterone in men. Is this another disease created by the drug companies or is this something men need to worry about?
Low testosterone is more common today than in decades past, especially in younger men. The reasons for this trend are many and include:
- The Standard American Diet (S.A.D.): If you eat a typical American diet, you may not be getting the nutrients you need for your body to produce optimal amounts of testosterone. Vitamins A,D and Zinc are needed for normal testosterone production. Foods high in these nutrients include orange vegetables and fruits such as sweet potatoes, apricots, carrots (Vit A); oily fish like herring, salmon, and sardines (Vit D); and oysters, nuts/seeds and wheat term (Zinc).
- Obesity – men with obesity have a much higher incidence of low testosterone levels. The relationship between these conditions is not yet understood but as our country gets fatter, the incidence of low testosterone goes up. Low testosterone is also associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome which are also associated with obesity.
- Stress – Our high stress lifestyle leads the body to produce higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol and testosterone are both steroid hormones that are produced within the same pathway. It is thought that because those common building blocks are being used up to produce more cortisol, the testosterone production declines. Relaxation and stress reduction are very important to allow the body to produce more testosterone.
- Lack of exercise – Exercise boosts testosterone production. Need I say more?
- Lack of sleep: Testosterone levels increase during sleep, peaking in the early morning hours. Lack of sleep is associated with low testosterone. Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
- Lack of sunshine – our primary source of vitamin D is sunshine. I would recommend having your vitamin D level checked with a blood test to determine how much vitamin D you need to take (you can overdose on vitamin D). If you don’t have your level checked, I would recommend taking no more than 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day.
- Eat a healthy diet – whole foods, lots of veggies and fruits, healthy fats like fatty fish and shellfish, nuts and seeds and lean proteins.
- Exercise at least 5 days per week.
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
- Do relaxation activities such as controlled breathing, prayer, yoga, listening to music, etc…
- Get out in the sun for at least 15 minutes each day, have your vitamin D level checked and take a supplement if necessary.
- Get your weight down if you are overweight.
If your testosterone continues to be low despite appropriate lifestyle changes, you might want to consider a testosterone supplement. The most natural way to accomplish this is using daily testosterone cream in the morning which mimics the body’s own testosterone production. I do not recommend testosterone injections which expose the body to a large amount of testosterone at one time which does not mimic the body’s normal production. Testosterone injections have more side effects and often lose its effectiveness over time.
When it comes to testosterone supplementation, the key is to start low and increase slow. When testosterone is given at a higher dose than the body is accustomed, the body’s reaction is to decrease the number of testosterone receptors, resulting in decreasing effectiveness over time, usually after 9-12 months of use.
So the answer is yes, Low T is common and increasing in frequency. Low testosterone levels can cause fatigue, depression, and low sex drive. If you have these symptoms, make sure to get your testosterone checked with a simple blood test. Just remember though, testosterone supplementation isn’t always the answer. You can increase your levels by getting back to the basics of health with good nutrition, sleep, exercise and sunshine.