Low testosterone, also referred to as low T, is a topic of growing interest. The condition occurs when the body produces less of the sex hormone, which plays an important role in maintaining healthy muscle and bone density, regulates fat metabolism and cognitive functioning. Although low T is common in older men (the average 80-year-old has 50% less testosterone than he did in his youth), an increasing number of younger men are beginning to seek help for the condition. Once seen as a natural consequence of ageing, we now understand that lifestyle factors and associated illnesses are partly responsible for low T in young men.
Among the chronic conditions that affect testosterone levels are obesity, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and blood pressure. At the same time, lifestyle choices such as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, taking illegal drugs or anabolic steroids are contributing to the rise of low T in men under the age of 30.
It can be difficult to diagnose low T because the symptoms aren’t easily distinguishable from other conditions. Men with low T commonly complain that they lack energy and experience mood changes. They may notice a loss of muscle mass, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, insomnia, depression, and weight gain. Hair loss, an increase in abdominal fat and enlarged breasts could also occur in some patients.
If you think you may be experiencing any of these symptoms, you should visit a doctor. During your visit, your physician is likely to take a blood test to measure testosterone levels followed by a physical examination to check for signs of associated conditions such as obesity. It’s important to correct abnormal levels of the hormone because too much or too little testosterone can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
In the case of critically low T, you may be prescribed testosterone replacement therapy. This could be in the form of regular injections of the hormone or a hormone gel that you can apply at home. But long-term application of testosterone is not advisable as it’s been shown to elevate the risk of heart attacks and prostate cancer. So, before you rush off to the pharmacy, let’s consider the natural alternatives to boost testosterone levels.
Eating the right foods is an excellent way to boost hormone levels naturally. But which foods should you eat? Cholesterol is an important building block of testosterone. Therefore, a diet rich in healthy cholesterol helps to increase levels of the hormone.
Healthy sources of cholesterol include avocados, egg yolks, and fatty fish. Avoid processed foods and alcohol as they have been linked to low T. There are also a few supplements that have been shown to successfully regulate testosterone levels. For example, vitamin D raised testosterone in study participants who took 3,333 IU daily. But you can get your vitamin D for free. Spending just 10 minutes in the sun is enough to safely boost vitamin D levels. Ginger may be another safe option. It was found to elevate testosterone levels by as much as 17% after three months of supplementation.
Another great way to raise low T naturally is exercise. It is now recognized that high-intensity interval training, for example, boosts testosterone in older men. Even moderate levels of exercise have a positive effect on hormonal levels. But certain exercises are to be avoided. Endurance cardio such as running for long periods of time can have the opposite effect and lower T. Meanwhile, weight training has been shown to raise testosterone levels.
Stress is rarely a pleasant experience, but research shows that it can also diminish testosterone levels and degrade sperm. This may be due to the release of another class of hormones called glucocorticoids when we’re stressed. Stress hormones have a negative effect on testosterone. Consider finding a good work-life balance and addressing any high-stress areas in your life as part of your natural hormone therapy. If you’re looking for a more permanent solution to balance stress levels, try meditation or yoga.
Sleep loss has been shown to dramatically lower T in healthy men. In a one-week trial, young men were restricted to just five hours of sleep per night. Their testosterone levels fell by 10-15% during the day. Bearing in mind that ageing men lose around 1% of testosterone each year, the findings highlight just how vital sleep can be to keep our hormones in check. Make sure you get around seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you have insomnia, you could try relaxation techniques, meditation and supplements to promote healthy sleep.
In combination, these four strategies are safe and natural alternatives to boosting your testosterone levels. It may take a while to notice the effect, but if after three months your symptoms haven’t improved it’s worth seeing your doctor again
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