Test Your Testosterone Knowledge

010213-testosterone

Maybe you’ve seen the television ads explaining that “low T,” or low testosterone levels, can be a health risk. Although the ads are by a pharmaceutical giant selling a prescription product, low testosterone is not a fake health concern created by drug companies to increase sales. In fact, low testosterone does indeed cause significant health complications that extend far beyond concerns over sex life.

Healthy levels of testosterone go hand in hand with overall good health and stamina, including a leaner body, greater strength, better cholesterol management, less chance of heart disease or diabetes, better sex, and a more positive outlook on life. In a sense, this hormone is a man’s fountain of youth.

In the past, testosterone levels declined as men aged, earning the condition the nickname “male menopause.” More recently, I’m seeing very low testosterone among young men, too. This is most likely caused by environmental toxins and substances in plastic packaging, but it may result from eating foods that increase estrogen levels. As my patient Sean learned, simple changes in these areas can make a big difference.

Regardless of the cause, low testosterone and overall hormonal imbalances are issues that can, and should, be corrected. Surprisingly, both of these conditions also affect women, but to a lesser degree. Look at these symptoms and judge for yourself how important hormonal balance is to your health and well-being.

  • Less drive or ambition
  • Exhaustion first thing in the morning
  • Tiredness by mid-afternoon
  • Sleepiness after dinner
  • Less sex drive and decreased sexual performance
  • Muscle loss
  • Weight gain without a change in daily habits
  • Irritability or grumpiness
  • Lack of energy
  • Decreased strength or endurance
  • Sadness or depression
  • Deteriorated sports ability
  • Decreased work performance
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lost height
  • Bone loss
  • Hot flashes, in some cases

A Better Way to Solve the Problem

Widely advertised prescriptions for testosterone gels can bring short-term improvement, but they may also mask other hormonal imbalances and cause new problems. Using testosterone alone stops a man’s own production of the hormone, resulting in shrunken testes, exactly what you don’t want!

Furthermore, testosterone alone can be converted to estrogen, which reduces male characteristics and can lead to “man boobs,” or to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a form of testosterone linked to male pattern baldness. Clearly, testosterone replacement has some serious downsides.

Now for the good news: There is plenty you can do to enhance your internal production of testosterone and other hormones. One solution is to search out a physician who practices integrative medicine. The doctor can test your hormone levels and prescribe a cream consisting of the exact ingredients to correct any specific shortfalls. As I’ve said before, cookie-cutter solutions are not your friend, and that’s especially true with something as personal as hormone levels.

In addition to visiting a doctor, you can boost natural hormone production by avoiding the following hormone disruptors:

  • Exposure to toxins in the environment and in food
  • A diet high in sugar and starch
  • A diet high in the wrong fats
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of exercise or the wrong type of workouts
  • Too few nutrients essential to testosterone production

6 Steps to Better Hormonal Balance

You can boost your production of testosterone and related hormones with the following six steps:
1. Avoid and/or Eliminate Toxins. Foods grown with all-too-common pesticides lower testosterone production and sperm counts, even in younger men. Pesticides and other toxins are hormone disruptors, and numerous animal studies show that they reduce testosterone production. Clearly, eating more organically grown food can help reduce your exposure to these testosterone thieves.To further reduce your toxic load, I highly recommend using nontoxic cleaners in your home. Don’t forget that a water filter for both the faucet and shower can dramatically reduce your exposure to chemicals, toxins, and even pharmaceuticals. By filtering your drinking water, you can help eliminate exposure to chemicals in plastic water bottles. A shower filter provides even more protection. Although your skin is a protective barrier, it can absorb substances in water. I also recommend using fragrance-free personal-care products for the same reasons, something I’ll be writing about more in the near future.
2. Skip Sugar and Starch. The right combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrates helps your body produce more optimal levels of all hormones. Yet often in my practice, I find that patients eat far too much sugar and starch.Why is sugar so bad? Here’s an example: One recent study found that testosterone levels fell and blood sugar levels soared after a group of men consumed just one sugar-sweetened beverage — and testosterone remained depressed for at least two hours afterward. This means that if a man consumes sugary soda or food throughout the day, his testosterone levels will be continually suppressed. Snacking on starchy foods — chips, pretzels, or crackers, for example — can have a similar effect.Cutting back on sugar and starch can also help with weight management, which, in turn, increases testosterone by reducing excess body fat. If weight is a problem, I urge you to look into weight-reduction strategies, since excess fat increases levels of the feminizing hormone estrogen.
3. Eat More of the Good Fats. Good fats – especially the omega-3 fats found in certain types of fatty fish — are building blocks for healthy cell membranes. Unfortunately, roughly four out of five adults are woefully lacking in omega-3 fats. This sets the stage for hormonal dysfunction because a starved cell membrane can easily fail. Damaged cell membranes are an underlying reason for hormonal problems and many diseases, including prediabetes, diabetes, and weight problems. So you’re doing more than improving your hormonal profile when you provide your body with healthy fats. In fact, according to research led by the Harvard School of Public Health, nearly 100,000 Americans die each year from too few omega-3 fats in their diets.At the same time, it’s smart to reduce your intake of bad fats known as trans fats. The same Harvard study I mentioned above also found that up to 97,000 people die annually from eating too many trans fats. How much is too much? Any amount.Trans fats are vegetable oils transformed from their natural liquid state into a solid one to increase shelf life and improve the texture of processed foods. On labels, look for “partially hydrogenated” oils. These could be soy, palm, or another oil — the type doesn’t matter. It’s the partial hydrogenation that makes it deadly.Trans fats are found in just about all frozen, packaged, and fast food, including preprepared baked goods, such as breads, buns, cakes, cookies, crackers, and snack foods. But they also turn up in salad dressings, cereals, nutrition bars, sauces, soups, ready-to-eat popcorn, and any type of boxed or frozen entre or side dish.Although it may take a little extra effort, try to replace bad fats with good ones through the following steps:

Eat cold-water fish, such as wild salmon, two or three times per week.
Consider taking an omega-3 supplement.
Look for salad dressings with extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, or other oils that are not partially hydrogenated; or just use olive or grapeseed oil and vinegar or lemon juice on salads.
Read the ingredients label on packaged foods, and avoid all those containing any partially hydrogenated oils.
If you regularly eat out at certain restaurants, check the ingredients of your favorite dishes on the company’s website, or ask at the restaurant to find options that don’t contain trans fats.
4. Get In the Exercise Habit. I recommend exercise of one type or another to just about all my patients, whether they have a hormonal imbalances or not. That’s how important it is. To recap, here are some of the benefits of regular, moderate exercise:

Burns calories and helps maintain a healthy weight
Thins the blood and encourages healthy circulation
Disposes of waste material and toxic substances in the body
Improves sleep and mood
Strengthens the heart and immune system
Reduces the risk of cancer and other serious illnesses
Relieves stress
Fortifies muscles, joints and bones, reducing the risk of falling

With a list of benefits like that, it’s surprising that people are reluctant to get moving. If you’re telling yourself you’ll start working out tomorrow — which, as we all know, never comes — I urge you to rethink that decision and start today, particularly if you have a testosterone deficiency. While exercise is beneficial for nearly everyone, it’s an especially good way to elevate testosterone levels.

How Exercise Affects Testosterone
It enhances testosterone. Multiple studies show that the right type of weight training, or a combination of weight and aerobic training, enhances testosterone in men of all ages.
It prevents and reverses erectile dysfunction. Both aerobic and strength training help to prevent and reverse erectile dysfunction. Improving the function of blood vessels and circulation — a key benefit of aerobic exercise — is one of the ways that exercise plays a key role in sexual health.
It counteracts stress. Stress is known to lower testosterone, but exercise counteracts this by reducing both current and future stress.
It improves insulin sensitivity. In men with type 2 diabetes (a major testosterone robber) as well as in healthy men, weight training improves insulin sensitivity.

Of course, if you have existing medical issues, it’s wise to get your doctor’s okay before beginning to work out. But just about everyone can go for a 20- to 30-minute walk each day. If that’s too taxing, start small. Walk around the block or down the street, and work on increasing the distance you travel each day. You may be surprised by how much being active can improve your health.

5. Get Sufficient Shut-Eye. Lack of deep, restorative sleep slows down natural production of both testosterone and growth hormone, which also helps to build up and maintain muscle mass and keep you lean. I recommend 7 to 8 hours nightly, preferably without prescription sleep aids that can have serious side effects. I encourage my patients who are dealing with sleep issues to look into another hormone – melatonin – which also works as an antioxidant. You’ll not only sleep better but you’ll improve your overall health at the same time.
6. Check Out Testosterone-Boosting Supplements. While supplements can’t replace a healthy lifestyle, they can significantly improve testosterone functions and overall health when combined with a whole-foods diet and my other recommendations above. Because space is limited, the list below includes links to earlier newsletters on these supplements.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs): As I mentioned earlier, omega-3s are essential for building strong cell membranes, decreasing inflammation, and fighting heart disease

ο Dosage: 1 to 3 grams daily. I recommend a stable, purified product, like Calamarine, which is free of toxins and chemicals.
Vitamin D: This vitamin is essential for overall good health and testosterone production as well as for a healthy prostate.

ο Dosage: 1,000 – 2,000 IU daily in supplements of vitamin D3 (the most effective form).
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): This substance is produced in the body and plays a role in energy production in the cells. Unfortunately, production slows as we age, so I recommend supplements to anyone over the age of 40.

ο Dosage: 100 mg daily or up to 300 mg if you suffer from high blood pressure or cholesterol, any type of heart disease or diabetes, or if you’re overweight.
Curcumin: A well-documented inflammation fighter, curcumin reduces chronic inflammation that underlies diabetes, heart disease, and aging. It also reduces body aches and pains stemming from inflammation.

ο Dosage: Take 500 mg one to three times daily.
Magnesium: A potent stress fighter, magnesium calms muscles and promotes sleep.

ο Dosage: 400 mg once or twice daily, in pills or a powder that dissolves in water.
Melatonin: This hormone is a superstar when it comes to easing insomnia and related sleep problems. Adequate sleep is essential for healthy testosterone production as well as cell repair.

ο Dosage: 3 mg of a single-dose pill 20 minutes before bed, or 3 mg of a time-released version 30 – 60 minutes before bed. In both cases, take it with a full glass of water, and don’t take both forms on the same day.
Hormonal balance is a huge topic that we’ll be covering again in future issues. For now, you have the basic guidelines for healthy testosterone production as well as overall good health. Putting those into practice can make a real difference, as I hope you’ll soon discover.
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