Ultimate Guide To Understanding Testosterone
The Tell-All On Testosterone
The joke conjures a chuckle, but rings true in today’s world of Botox, vitamin cocktails, and the search for the medical Fountain of Youth. Usually, we are bombarded by commercials and ads for women; however, the hottest new anti-aging buzz is targeted towards men. That latest in treatment? Testosterone therapy.
Many men reaching the ages of 30 and up are finding themselves more sluggish, unable to concentrate as much and experiencing an extreme drop in sexual desire. Some researchers are saying it may be due to low testosterone levels.
The Basics – What is testosterone?
To understand the need for testosterone therapy, you must first understand testosterone.
Produced mainly in the testes, testosterone is the hormone responsible for sperm production, sex drive, muscle building and male development during puberty. That sudden drop in a young man’s voice, the sprinkle of hair on his chest, and those new bumps of muscle on his arms are all sponsored by testosterone.
You may not know this, but women also create testosterone. Produced in their ovaries, the hormone doesn’t have as strong as an effect as it does in males.
A man’s testosterone levels spike when he hits puberty and then gradually decrease after the age of 30 or so, leaving a changed man, both physically and mentally in its’ wake. When there are low levels of the hormone, men can begin to feel depressed, fatigued and as mentioned earlier, a loss of sex drive.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
There are a few controversies following the “Low T” wave of thought for men and many doctors say that a low testosterone level alone doesn’t mean treatment is necessary. There are men who have low testosterone levels but don’t experience any symptoms in which case no treatment is recommended.
However, for those who are recommended for treatment, there is always a flip side, and testosterone treatment is no different. In many cases, men have experienced rashes or itchiness in the spot of treatment. However, some men have had more serious reactions including sexual dysfunction, having the opposite effect of what testosterone therapy seeks to improve, mood swings or (if in contact with a pregnant woman) birth defects.
Below are some available testosterone treatments:
- Injections and implants – possibly the most well-known treatment for low testosterone, injections and implants are placed directly into the muscles or implanted in soft tissues as pellets. From there, the body slowly absorbs the injection or implant into the bloodstream.
- Topical testosterone – A cream or gel applied and absorbed by the skin.
- Side effects – Along with the usual side effects of the others like rash, itching, soreness or swelling, men may also experience urinary trouble. Some men find themselves having to use the bathroom more often, especially at night. A more serious side effect causes blood in the urine. If this happens, visit your doctor immediately.
- Another side effect is unwanted changes in the breasts. Although rare, there have been cases of men experiencing tenderness, soreness and pain in their breasts.
- Yes, one more side effect. If a testosterone cream or gel is used, the applicant must take precaution to physical contact with others around him. Women and children are affected the most by testosterone and could lead to aggressive behavior in children, hair growth and acne in women and birth defects for pregnant women.
- Skin Patch (transdermal testosterone) – Worn on the upper arm and applied once a day.
- Side effects – many of the skin patch side effects mirror those of the testosterone creams and gels, however, there are other more serious ones to be aware of. Yes, these are rare, but there have been some reports of them. Call your doctor immediately if you experience: nausea, vomiting (that looks like coffee grounds), black tarry stools, and rashes.
- Mouth Patch – Applied to the top of the mouth, right in between the two incisors and slowly releases testosterone into the bloodstream.
- Side effects – besides the similar rashes and itchiness, this patch seems to be slightly tamer on side effects. Some of the more serious ones are, ankle or leg swelling, weight pain, yellowing of the eyes or skin and gingivitis.
As with everything, you must weight your pros and cons. The severity of the testosterone level will of course dictate the treatment and with anything you do take should be under the guidance of a doctor.
Natural Ways to Boost Testosterone
If you aren’t feeling as inclined as you were before to try medical options, there are many life choices you can make to change your testosterone levels. Simple solutions that require a bit of effort can make all the difference.
Try naturally boosting your testosterone levels.
- Sleep – As silly as it sounds, sleep is a great way to naturally boost your testosterone. Getting regular, steady sleep can help levels maintain a normal range and has been proven by studies. Generally, adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep, but everyone is different and there are many factors that can change the number. Check out the National Sleep Foundation to find out how much sleep your body needs.
- Lose Weight – Another easy way, well maybe not that easy, to help boost testosterone levels is to lose weight. According to Healthline.com “A 2012 study revealed that weight loss among men with prediabetes improved their testosterone levels by almost 50 percent.”
Don’t go nuts with dieting; lose weight the right way, through proper diet and exercise.
- Reduce the Sugar – Speaking of losing weight, many studies have shown that a reduction in sugar helps boost testosterone levels as well. In a study done by The Endocrine Society, sugar decreased testosterone levels by as much as 25 percent.
- Exercise – Boosting energy, stimulating brain chemicals and creating those endorphins are all wonderful side effects of exercise. Add boosting testosterone levels to that list and we’ll see you at the gym!
We know these bullet points sound easy on paper, but it is a big commitment to change your life like that overnight. It’s understandable to feel a little overwhelmed. However, you can do this. If you take these suggestions and change one thing each day that you think could be improved, you’ll be a healthier person in no time and it will only help improve your testosterone levels, as well as everything else.
- Diet – There are so many things out of our control, even some food choices, but the majority of the time, we are in charge of the way we eat. Choosing the correct foods to make your body function properly is by far one of the most important ways to improve your health, your stamina and your testosterone. Stay away from as much processed food as you can. Stay far far away from hydrogenated oils and even further away from sugars like, fructose corn syrup, and the original sugar. Eat foods naturally rich in nutrients like leafy greens, beans, fruits and meats high in iron. You can also feed your body foods high in cholesterol, the right kind. Eggs, avocado (which helps raise good cholesterol and lower the bad), olive oil, butter, shrimp and even bacon. Your entire body will thank you.
- Eat Often – Sounds pretty good right? And it is. Ditch the old theory of three meals a day and switch to 5 or 6 smaller meals throughout the day, while munching on healthy snacks in between like nuts and fruits. People who starve between meals or go on diets that starve are really damaging their testosterone levels.
- Sex – So, eat more, eat bacon AND have more sex? Raising testosterone doesn’t sound like a chore anymore, does it? Having regular sex helps to keep the endocrine system functioning smoothly and in turn, raises your testosterone. With these boosted levels, you will naturally crave more sex, the very thing that will help you. There is no losing in this situation.
- Keep Stress at a Low – Learn how to relax. These tips just keep getting better and better. Stress can affect everything in your body, including testosterone levels. Regular stress wreaks havoc on your body like no other. According to menprovement.com, “Being over stressed causes your cortisol levels to surge, suppressing your natural ability to produce testosterone…exercise is great for stress levels, so if you are already doing that to boost your testosterone levels in the first place, then one will build on the other.” Take time for yourself to unwind. Leave work at work and focus on what is most important to you.
Natural Ways to Boost Testosterone, Part II: Supplements
If you still aren’t interested in testosterone replacement therapy, there are more options. In addition to changes in diet, exercise and sleeping patterns, you can also find ways to boost your testosterone in natural supplements. Many doctors recommend supplements for older men, above the age of 30. Usually, men under the age of 30 do not need them yet and could be harmful if taken in the wrong dosage or abused at all.
Should you choose to consume testosterone supplements, you need to understand first that the FDA does not approve products containing compounds that get converted into testosterone (doctoroz.com, 2013). This doesn’t mean you can get them at regular stores or that they are harmful, necessarily. It means you should only take the correct amount and under the supervision of your doctor.
There are more than a few supplements to chose from out there to help boost your testosterone. Shakes, pills and vitamins are available at places all over the internet and drug stores like Vitamin World and CVS.
To find which supplement is right for you, visit your doctor and do your research! The more information you have to give them, the better they can help you.
- Zinc – Research has shown that adding zinc to your diet for as little as 6 weeks has been shown to improve testosterone levels. Some great places to find zinc is multi-vitamins, oysters, pumpkin seeds, spinach and mushrooms as well as meat such as lamb and beef, pork and chicken.
- Vitamin D – Just like zinc, studies have found that men with higher Vitamin D levels also had higher testosterone levels. You can find Vitamin D by soaking in some good old fashioned sunlight. Take a 20 minute walk (and, as mentioned above, exercise is a great way to improve testosterone! Kill two birds with one stone…) You can also find it in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna (that includes canned tuna as well), and trout, and portabella mushrooms. Supplements are also available and in most multi-vitamins.
- Vitamin B–12 – this vitamin is the most complex we know of and can be consumed in large doses because excess is excreted by the body or stores in the liver for use when supplies are scarce (healthacliciousness.com, 2008-2014). Some great ways to find it is eating shellfish such as oysters, crab and mussels, liver (beef), low fat dairy, eggs and cheese (especially Swiss).
No matter what testosterone therapy you choose, whether it is medical or natural, or even a combination of the two (there’s no rule against that!), there are so many choices available to you. The best thing you can do for yourself is learn about the different options you have, gather the information and your own opinions, and take them to a doctor. The joy in your life does not have to be determined by the levels of testosterone you have. It’s up to you.
About the Author
Jack of all trades... master of none! Father of 3 awesome boys, husband to 1 amazing wife! Obstacle racer, procrastinator, computer nerd, trying not to follow the herd!