Natural Treatments for Low Testosterone
The hormone testosterone helps men maintain their muscle mass and strength, sex drive, even their bone density and fat distribution.
But as men age, their natural levels begin to dip. According to the Urology Care Foundation, about 20% of men over age 60 and 30% over age 70 have low levels of testosterone, or hypogonadism. Men with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, or diabetes are even more likely to experience low T. Classic signs include low libido, decreased energy levels, fatigue, and depression.
Many men opt for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to give them their mojo back. But the treatment has risks as well as benefits, and the American Urological Association only recommends TRT for men who have been diagnosed with low testosterone levels by their physician.
Give yourself a good shot at keeping up your testosterone levels with these lifestyle strategies:
Getting good quality sleep—and enough of it—benefits your testosterone levels and your overall health. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Easier said than done? Develop good sleep habits, such as avoiding large meals or spicy foods close to bedtime, ridding your bedroom of distracting electronic devices—yes, that includes your smartphone—and keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also recommends skipping naps that might keep you awake at night.
Time to hit the gym. Regular exercise keeps your brain and body healthy, including your testosterone levels. It also helps keep your weight down, which is important because obesity is often linked with low T. Strength training that works on all your major muscle groups is one key component, but don't forget to include cardio and flexibility-building exercises to make your exercise routine a well-rounded one.
Eat a healthy diet.
Eating a healthy diet also helps you keep your weight in check. Load up your plate with fruits and veggies—the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends two-and-a-half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day. Other diet must-haves include low-fat dairy products, lean meat, and whole grains—aim for at least 30 grams of fiber daily. You might also want to watch your sugar intake. Recent research from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, found that testosterone levels tend to dip after consuming sugar. Cookies and candy are tempting, but they should be occasional indulgences, not part of your regular diet.
Reduce your stress level.
Your body produces higher levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol in response to stress. When you're chronically stressed, your cortisol levels remain elevated, which dampens your testosterone levels. Cue those feelings of irritability, anxiety, fatigue, and decreased libido. Determine the major stressors in your life and develop some strategies to address them. For quick stress relief, listen to a few minutes of soothing music. Another short-term strategy: Practice deep breathing to clear your mind and calm your body. Slowly inhale for five or six counts, hold your breath for a few counts, and then slowly exhale.
Boost your zinc levels.
Are you getting enough zinc in your diet? If you don't know, it might be time to monitor your intake of this essential mineral, which promotes cell growth and maintenance. Zinc deficiency is associated with hypogonadism, and while severe zinc deficiency is pretty rare in the United States, lower levels of zinc deficiency aren't uncommon. Aim for the recommended daily allowance for men over 19 years, which is 11 mg, by eating foods containing zinc, such as oysters, poultry, certain types of seafood such as crab, beans, whole grains, dairy products, and fortified breakfast cereal. Or you can take multivitamin containing zinc. Talk to your doctor if you think you may need a supplement.
Check the label on your plastic food containers to make sure they don't contain phthalates. If they do, pitch them and buy a phthalate-free version. Research shows this chemical found in many products made of flexible plastic can lower testosterone levels. Watch for phrases like "synthetic fragrance" on labels of personal care products like moisturizer because phthalates often lurk in many personal care products, too.
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- Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men. JAMA. 2011;305(21):2173-4. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1029127
- Vigen R, O’Donnell CI, Barónet AE, et al. Association of Testosterone Therapy With Mortality, Myocardial Infarction, and Stroke in Men With Low Testosterone Levels. JAMA. 2013;310(17):1829-36. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1764051
- Zinc: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
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