Testosterone is a hormone that does much more than fuel your libido. Testosterone is critical for energy, mental clarity, a strong functioning heart, insulin sensitivity, protein synthesis, building strong bones and muscles, and keeping your brain operating at peak performance. Men produce approximately 10 times more testosterone than women. Testosterone provides powerful anti-aging effects for both men and women. It works with estrogen to keep skin supple, increase bone mineral density, boost mood and ability to handle stress.
Decreased testosterone levels are increasingly common. In my practice, I am seeing it more often than not, and in younger men. Although testosterone production may drop as a normal aspect of aging, many men in their 20s, 30s and 40s are experiencing drastic declines in testosterone.
Testosterone disruption may be related to a multitude of causes, including chronic stress, lack of sleep, nutrient deficiencies, poor diet and lifestyle choices, excess body fat, “diabesity,” chemicals in food and the environment and electromagnetic stressors.
Symptoms of testosterone deficiency include lack of motivation and low energy, low libido and a nonexistent desire for sex, depression, reduced muscle and bone mass, accelerated aging, increased belly fat, decreased mental clarity, blood sugar imbalances, impaired memory and erectile dysfunction (although ED is more a symptom of cardiovascular problems or vascular disease). Low testosterone levels increase risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, depression and many other health problems.
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), lowered libido, reduced sperm counts and impotency. Aromatase activity increases as a result of aging, liver enzyme activity, consuming the standard American diet (SAD), excess alcohol consumption, marijuana use, poor detoxification of estrogens, excess body fat, diabesity and other factors. Beer belly, wheat belly, gluten belly, and man boobs can all be signs of estrogen dominance in a male, particularly the man boobs.
Excess estrogens in men and women can also cause estrogen-dominant health issues such as PMS, endometriosis, fibroids, and estrogen dominant cancers (i.e. prostate, breast cancer). Excess body fat and man boobs are a definitive indication of high estrogen in relation to testosterone, however the real issue is insulin resistance and inflammation.
Why is testosterone low?
The first step of action is determining why testosterone levels are low in the first place. Testosterone is either not being produced; it’s wasting away (aromatization); the individual doesn’t have the basic building blocks to even make it (protein deficient, zinc deficiency, HCL deficiency); or it’s not free to be used by the body because it’s bound to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG); or it’s 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. The two hormones to balance first: insulin and cortisol. I am not saying one should never opt for hormones, however, I look at why an individual is low in the first place, identify the root cause and then bring the body into balance through a real food diet, nutritional supplementation based on their nutrient deficiencies, lifestyle modifications, and the appropriate type and amount of exercise first. If that fails to bring hormones back into balance, then one may consider bio-identical hormones.
Factors that influence testosterone:
• Sleep deficiency. Just one night of short sleep (five hours) produces a 10-15 percent drop in testosterone. Men who sleep less than four hours per night have approximately 60 percent less total testosterone and 55 percent less bioavailable testosterone than men who sleep seven to nine hours.
• The Standard American diet (SAD), a nutritionally void packaged, processed, fake food, inflammatory diet. Conventionally raised animal protein and dairy loaded with xenoestrogens, xenobiotics, soy, corn, genetically modified organisms and wheat.
• The aging process, although behavioral, lifestyle, diet and health changes affect testosterone levels more.
• Insulin resistance, poorly managed blood sugar and diabetes.
• Inflammation: Underlying infections, excessive exercising, inflammatory foods, toxic overload.
• Prior use of steroids.
• Prescription medications.
• Excess alcohol and marijuana, which are estrogenic, increase cortisol and suppress both growth hormone and testosterone.
• Chronic stress, adrenal dysfunction.
• Lack of stomach acid (hypochlorhydria).
• Nutrient deficiencies. (i.e. zinc, magnesium).
• Excess body fat, obesity.
• Electromagnetic stressors: smartphones, iPads, computers, microwave ovens and television. The more television one watches, the lower their testosterone. Men who wear their cell phones on their hips can show up to 30 percent testosterone decline.
• Environmental endocrine disruptors, aka obesogens, that mimic or alter the effects of hormones in the body and often target the estrogen receptors.
Testosterone is a vital hormone for health, vitality, longevity and fat loss in men and women alike. With attention to the four powers: diet, lifestyle modifications, smart exercise and the appropriate supplementation, you can boost testosterone naturally.
• Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of “The Power of 4” and “Fat Loss Revolution.” An Ahwatukee resident for 22 years, she is a leading expert in nutrition, functional health, fitness and fat loss with more than 20 years of experience. For more information, visit www.PaulaOwens.com.