Men, Young or Old, Do You Need a T Boost?
“Looking after one’s health is done with two intentions. Man may take good care of his body for the purpose of satisfying his personal wishes. Or, he may look after his health with the good intention of serving humanity and of living long enough to perform his duty toward mankind. The latter is most commendable.” – Abdu’l-Baha
Low testosterone, also known as low T, used to be an older man’s condition, often affecting men over 50. With our modern day stressors, the Standard American Diet and lower physical activity, now younger men under the age of 50, as young as 35, often suffer with symptoms of low T. When testosterone levels drop in men, not only a general sense of well-being is lost but an interference with relationships occurs often leading to family disunity and divorce. Furthermore, low T levels increase risk of osteoporosis in men, and early death from cardiovascular disease. Identifying men with low T and correcting their levels plays a vital role in a man’s wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of the family, workplace, and the community.
What are the Symptoms of Low T?
Lowered libido, sleeping concerns, chronically fatigue, decline in stamina, depression, difficulty in decision making, sexual dysfunction, difficulty maintaining muscle mass, brain fog and memory issues amongst several other symptoms plaque men when testosterone levels decline. Low T levels, more importantly, increase risks of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and insulin resistance, osteoporosis and early death. Optimum levels of testosterone, on the other hand, reduce risks of early death from cardiovascular, metabolic disease, and perhaps prostate cancer and improve bone density and muscle mass and strength. Testosterone optimization improves a man’s general sense of wellbeing, including his physical, mental, emotional, and sexual function.
Why Does Low T Occur?
Stress, central obesity and aging lead to a decline in testosterone production by the gonads. Stress can be induced by physical factors and lifestyle practices, such as long hours of work, skipping meals, sedentary lifestyle, late night bedtime, high fat diets, and/or excess alcohol, sugar, and drug use. Emotional stress and mental stress also play a major contributory role in lowering testosterone production.
Central obesity, meaning enlarged abdominal circumference greater than 40 inches in men, is strongly associated with lower testosterone levels and an increase in metabolic syndrome. In other words, central obesity reduces testosterone levels while low testosterone levels increase central obesity. Central obesity is often caused by high insulin levels (often undiagnosed insulin resistance), undiagnosed subclinical thyroid dysfunction, excess estrogen, and high cortisol levels, the stress hormone. Correcting insulin, blood sugar, thyroid, estrogens, and stress hormones is a pivotal therapeutic goal if testosterone levels are to be optimized properly.
Stress hormones, low thyroid function, high insulin levels and/or high blood sugar levels significantly contribute to diminished testosterone status, senescence, and aging. When testosterone levels drop, senescence, the process by which cells lose their ability to divide, multiple and grow, occurs, leading to aging. And aging leads to a further drop in testosterone and senescence. It’s a vicious cycle that if not broken leads to further aging, decline in health and increase in metabolic and cardiovascular disease. By optimizing testosterone, and correcting estrogen metabolism, insulin, stress hormones (cortisol, DHEA), thyroid and blood sugar levels in men, cellular repair occurs and aging slows down, reducing risks of metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease, and early death.
What Happens When Testosterone Levels Drop?
As testosterone levels drop, an increase in inflammation and oxidative stress occurs. Low T actually impairs the mitochondria (cell engine) and its function. Higher levels of insulin levels, estrogens, and blood sugar levels are observed with lower levels of testosterone. Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance therefore become a major risk factor when testosterone levels are low. Lower levels of T activate the endothelial-leukocyte interaction to increase formation of plaque build up in the in the walls of the arteries, leading to a significant risk of a cardiovascular event such as heart attack and stroke. Over 100 studies verify an increase risk of cardiovascular disease in the presence of low T in men.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) may be one of the preliminary signs of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome induced by low testosterone. Not all men with low T experience ED but if they do, then testosterone levels, blood sugar and insulin levels as well as cardiovascular inflammatory markers and oxidative stress must be evaluated and treated appropriately.
What Supplements Support Testosterone Production in men under 45?
In men under 45, especially those who want to maintain their fertility, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is not always indicated. To promote testosterone production, herbal, nutritional and lifestyle therapies may be the appropriate options. These therapies may also be used as an effective adjunct to TRT in older men. Three herbal medicine shown clinically and in the scientific literature to be effective in supporting testosterone production and associated imbalances are listed below:
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), known as the king of Ayurvedic herbal medicine, has been shown to raise testosterone and DHEA-S (precursor to testosterone) by at least 18% in multiple studies. Muscle strength and muscle mass are enhanced with Ashwagandha supplementation when used in conjunction with resistance training.
- Fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum), in several studies, have shown to increase total testosterone levels significantly as well as support healthy sexual function, blood sugar status, insulin levels, and cholesterol levels.
- Tribulus terrestris, with its powerful phytochemicals, is proving to be an effective therapy for boosting testosterone function, fertility, as well as improving sperm motility, health and count. The phytochemicals found in Tribulus t. furthermore act to reduce oxidative damage caused by free radicals, lower blood sugar levels, and decrease inflammation.
What Lifestyle Factors Impact Testosterone levels in men under 45?
Majority of men under 45 have lower testosterone levels because of their lifestyle practices and dietary factors. Sedentary lifestyles, high fat and high carb diets, malnutrition, high stress and obesity play a crucial role in reducing testosterone levels and worsening associated health risks in both young men and aging men.
High fat diets, whether healthy fats or processed fats, reduce testosterone levels and increase estrogens, as do high sugar diets and high sugar drinks, even in men between ages of 20 and 39. Studies evaluating the use of artificial sweeteners including aspartame show not only a decline in testosterone levels and sperm health but also damage to the male reproductive system.
Egg whites, on the other hand, provide a positive improvement in testosterone levels even five hours after consumption. Intermittent fasting or low calorie diets appear to have a positive effect on testosterone levels as well.
Exercise therapy including three days of resistance training per week along with stress management and appropriate nutrition are integral to any testosterone correction therapy. Resistance training for just 15 minutes 3x per week has been shown to increase testosterone levels.
Low testosterone therapy is associated with an increase risk in heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, insulin resistance, and early death. In men, who use TRT or younger men who do not qualify for TRT, an integrated testosterone protocol therapy provides an opportunity to correct testosterone levels and estrogen metabolism, balance thyroid function, improve insulin, blood sugar, and lipid values and reduce inflammation while improving body composition (augmenting muscle mass and lowering body fat). Herbal supplements, diet and exercise therapy along with lifestyle modifications and stress management techniques continue to prove to be effective therapies to raise testosterone levels and improve body composition and wellbeing while reducing testosterone-related health risks, inflammation, mitochondrial damage and aging.
Dr. Nooshin K. Darvish is a Washington board-licensed Naturopathic Doctor, certified in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine with a Fellowship in Integrative Cancer Therapies. She is the founder and Chief Medical Officer of Holistique Naturopathic Medical Center and Holistique IV Lounge. A 1995 graduate, former Chief Resident, and an Affiliate Faculty of Bastyr University, with more than 25 years of clinical practice, Dr. Darvish practices Regenerative, Naturopathic, and Integrative medicine with a passion to assist patients in their transformation towards physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. As a physician, writer, educator, lecturer, and speaker, her mission is to inspire others to become 'agents of transformation'.