Vitality is one of the top health concerns for men over the age of 30 and rightfully so. Biological testosterone production decreases by 1% every year after the age of 30. Combined with chronic stress, poor sleep, processed foods, and sedentary lifestyles, research shows the decline is accelerated. The effects of low testosterone have been well studied and go beyond low libido and sexual dysfunction.
Here are the top 8 symptoms of low testosterone:
- Weight gain, particularly around the mid-section, difficult to lose weight
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Erectile dysfunction – Difficulty getting or maintaining an erection
- Low sex drive
- Hair loss
- Fatigue throughout the day
- Mood changes – Irritability and/or lack of interest or indifference to otherwise enjoyed activities
- Poor memory and concentration
How Chronic Stress Lowers Testosterone:
Stress as we know it today is quite different from how we would have described it centuries ago. However, the way our nervous system responds to both real and perceived threats has not evolved as quickly as our modern world. When we experience a stressful event, we produce a hormone called cortisol which is meant to provide short intervals of survival adaptations during an “adrenaline rush” so we can escape from a bear. The problem is, there is no bear in your workspace, but the stress triggers from modern living are perceived to be just as threatening but with a less visible escape route which leads to an increased demand for cortisol. Because cortisol shares the same production pre-cursor as testosterone, the two hormones compete under conditions of stress. The odds, however, are stacked against testosterone as the body will prioritize survival over sexual reproduction and produce cortisol instead of testosterone. This is a physiological phenomenon known as “pregnenolone steal” that has a profound effect on lowering testosterone levels, and it can happen in males of any age, even men under age 30. Chronic cortisol elevation also suppresses and weakens the immune system which is why we are more likely to get sick following a stressful event. Supporting the nervous system and adrenal glands is essential for restoring the balance between testosterone and cortisol production.
Sleep is essential for optimal testosterone production. It sounds basic, but many men struggle to get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. Shift work, including night shifts, can make it even more difficult to establish a healthy sleeping pattern. Research shows that men who sleep 5 hours or less a night experience a 10-15% decrease in testosterone production. Optimizing a regular sleep schedule that provides at least 7-8 hours of restorative sleep each night can help improve testosterone levels. There are several effective natural medicine solutions to help promote better quality sleep as well as sleep hygiene practices to create the conditions for better sleep. Correcting mineral deficiencies with a magnesium supplement and avoiding caffeine drinks after 1 p.m. are effective dietary tactics to improve sleep. There are many reasons why you are having trouble sleeping. It is important to discuss this with your doctor to determine and treat the root cause rather than “take something” to make you sleep.
The top 5 evidence-informed natural solutions to improve testosterone production:
- Digestive optimization – whole foods rich in zinc like pumpkin seeds, healthy fats like olive oil and ghee, fiber from dark green leafy vegetables, lean meats, egg yolks, and cold-water fish like salmon and halibut. Limit alcohol and avoid dairy as these can increase the production of estrogen in men and lead to additional weight gain, this includes whey and casein protein powders, choose a plant-based protein powder instead. Improve digestion and absorption of fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins with digestive enzymes to provide dietary building blocks for optimal testosterone production.
- Movement – Squats, lunges, deadlifts, and other weight bearing exercises for 30 minutes 2-3x/week can help increase testosterone and lean muscle production. These can be done using only your body weight or with added weights if tolerable. Studies show that weight bearing exercise burns more fat calories than cardio exercise so be sure to incorporate weight bearing exercises into your routines. Be mindful to take rest days, over-training can have a negative effect on testosterone levels. Incorporate low-impact exercise such as yoga at least once a week to improve mobility and stress reduction. A chiropractic evaluation can determine the best movement routine, recovery plan, and prevent exercise-related injuries.
- Botanical medicine – Rhodiola rosea is a plant-based medicine that may increase physical and mental endurance, improve libido, and help the nervous system adapt to stress which balances testosterone and cortisol levels. Rhodiola is often recommended as a “pre-workout” prior to exercise and works as an effective substitute to caffeine drinks for improved alertness and reaction time. There are several other botanicals such as Tribulus that increase testosterone production through increased signaling activity of luteinizing hormone in testosterone producing cells in the testes.
- Blood sugar control – Low levels of testosterone are correlated with elevated blood sugar found in obesity and metabolic conditions such as insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, a form of poor metabolic activity that often leads to type 2 diabetes. Lab tests can determine blood sugar and testosterone levels and appropriate natural blood sugar management protocols can be recommended including chromium picolinate and botanicals such as bitter melon and cinnamon. Regulating blood sugar is also shown in research to improve symptoms of prostate enlargement.
- Health Mindset – It is important to remember that even if a symptom is common, such as gas and bloating or back pain, it is NOT normal. This is how your body lets you know something is wrong. Deciding to “deal with it” only makes the problem worse, because as you will find out, it is not a problem, until it is a problem that limits your daily life in some way. Your health is your responsibility and we excel in those duties for which we take ownership. It is time to take ownership of your health, vitality, and longevity.
Dr. Kiselka is a naturopathic and chiropractic physician and an expert in men’s health. He can work with you to make high-impact and lasting improvements with the latest research in natural medicine. Want to learn more? Call to schedule your LaGrange or Chicago location appointment today! (312) 243-3338