Updated: Feb 10, 2020
By Eva Wisenbeck @Eva Wisenbeck Coaching 09/02/2020
Testosterone plays a pivotal role not just for libido levels, but also for bone density, protein synthesis and muscle building, hair growth, red blood cell production, and more! Both for men and women by the way, although women has only a fraction of the testosterone that men have.
What does low testosterone look like?
Low energy, low libido, breast development (in men), expanding waistlines, infertility, erectile dysfunction, bone weakness, depression, reduced muscle mass.
Of course these could also be caused by poor lifestyle habits!
Make sure you sort that out first!!
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions (or “never” to the third one), your lifestyle is the problem and Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) won’t address the real issue.
1. Are you sleeping 5 hours a night?
2. Do you eat fast food every day?
3. When’s the last time you picked up anything heavy or ran a sprint - or even taken a walk?
4. Do you pamper yourself to the exclusion of ever feeling challenged?
5. Do you blast the heat or air as soon as the temperature starts getting a little uncomfortable?
6. Do you run from discomfort?
After the age of 35 men begin to experience a 1 to 2% drop in testosterone levels per year. This drop can be significant, affecting 20 to 40% of older men. Since we are living longer and 60 is the new 40, men who experience a loss of vigor are looking for answers although loss of vitality is not always due to testosterone.
We have to get to the root cause!
Lack of sleep, limited exercise, no stress relief, too much alcohol, poor food choices, obesity, toxins, diseases like diabetes, and even your genes play a role.
My go to for hormones, look for root causes and lifestyle factors and address them first. Ultimately, this will lead to better overall health and performance.
What can kill Testosterone levels?
Over training, too much cardio, too little recovery
Low fat diets as hormones are formed from fat and cholesterol; without fats, hormone production would suffer. Fats also help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. A nutrient deficiency can certainly cause a hormonal imbalance, and not getting enough fat could be the cause.
Xenoestrogens, synthetic compounds, like plastics, that mimic estrogen in the body and lowers testosterone. For women on the pill the amount of Estrogen can also push down the level of testosterone.
Sugar! Yep, too much sugar triggers blood sugar and insulin issues.
Sex hormones, healthy blood sugar, and insulin balance are more intimately linked than you might think. It is all a bit of a vicious circle…
In men, insulin resistance from excessive amounts of sugar drives down testosterone. Spikes in insulin, and the insulin resistance from eating too much sugar and flour, can lead to men having trouble getting or maintaining erections and can often result in “man boobs.”
Sex drive and sexual function take a big hit too. Decreased muscle mass and more belly fat are also repercussions of low testosterone in men. That excess body fat can increase levels of the hormone estrogen, leading to low sex drive and trouble getting erections.
So what can help with your testosterone levels?
Lifestyle, address stress, sleep issues, relationships
Diet, eat nutrient dense food with healthy fats
Exercise, do burst training, body weight exercises, lift heavy stuff
Supplements such as Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Fish oil, Magnesium and Zinc (yes the urban myths about oysters has truth to them)
Hormone replacement is possible although shouldn’t be your first or even second or third point of call. And if you do go down this route please discuss bioidentical hormones with your medical professional. As Jonny Bowden says “Trying to “fix” a low-T level with a shot of T is as irresponsible as trying to “fix” a complicated electrical motherboard by yanking on one wire.”
The jury is out when it comes to the increased safety of bioidentical testosterone (BTRT) in comparison to prescription synthetic testosterone; we do not yet know if bioidentical testosterone has detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system similar to prescription testosterone.
Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind that there is a difference between providing the body with testosterone from exogenous sources (whether synthetic or bioidentical) and boosting the body’s production of testosterone naturally.
Considering the concerning research regarding testosterone replacement therapy and heart disease risk, it appears that dietary and lifestyle interventions that encourage the body’s own production of testosterone may be the healthier and safer long-term option for restoring testosterone levels. While exogenous testosterone replacement appears to increase cardiovascular disease risk, low endogenous testosterone (testosterone produced naturally within the body) is also positively associated with cardiovascular events.
So focus on lifestyle habits and raise that T naturally!
Worth mentioning, waking up with a morning erection is a good sign of health. It can also help narrow down where to focus if there is Erectile Dysfunction (ED), if you wake up with an erection it’s likely the issues are more around stress and lifestyle rather than physiology such as low Testosterone.
On the flip side if you don’t wake up with an erection and you do suffer from ED go chat with your medical professional as it can point at low T and it can also be a symptom of cardiovascular issues.
Ok pinch of salt of course as you saw with the graph above with T levels against age, the older you are the fewer, and harder, morning erections you might have.
Also don’t forget any prescription medication you are taking as many can impact your erections! Talk to you medical professional if this is an issue as in many cases there might be alternative drugs to the ones you are taking.
So can you test your Testosterone levels?
Yes, however hormones are notoriously difficult to pin point as the “normal” ranges rather depends on your age and lifestyle. Most common for Testosterone is to do a blood test, checking for Total T and Free T.
In men, most testosterone is made by the testes through a complex series of biochemical reactions which convert cholesterol into testosterone. The adrenal glands also produce some testosterone.
Testosterone molecules are then secreted directly into the bloodstream where many of them soon bind to other molecules known as sex hormone binding globulin, or SHBG. Other testosterone molecules bind to albumin – an important type of blood protein.
And the rest of your testosterone, the unbound testosterone? This testosterone is quite appropriately termed Free Testosterone, or free T, because it isn’t attached to other molecules. Your body actively uses free T molecules since they are at liberty to enter the body’s cells, unimpeded by SHBG or albumin, to carry out their function as signalling molecules that regulate metabolism and other cellular functions. Testosterone molecules that are bound to other proteins cannot enter most of your cells.
If that’s free testosterone, then what is total testosterone? Total testosterone is a measure of how much testosterone you have in your blood in total, both free and bound, so you’ll always have a higher level of total T than free T. Generally speaking, you’ll have lower levels of free T if you have more SHBG, with more SHBG molecules in your blood, a greater amount of your testosterone will be bound and not at all free.
Then we have other tests that do not rely on blood. The one currently being recommended by most Functional Medicine doctors for hormones of all kinds is the DUTCH urine 24 hour test. These kinds of tests, which take both urine and saliva samples across the course of a day, can provide a more accurate picture of your hormonal situation, shedding light on hormonal interplays and recognizing that the relationships between testosterone, estrogen, cortisol and certain other hormones matter. If you are curious the best thing you can do is talk to your medical professional. And of course please take a look at all the wonderful resources and links listed below.
Statin drugs are a category worthy of a separate mention. They are used to lower cholesterol however there is much controversy how much benefit they actually bring although that is for another blog. Today I want to talk about statin drugs because too low a level of cholesterol means the body can’t produce all the hormones it needs, including testosterone.
So if you are taking statin drugs have a chat with your medical professional.
First step first, get the right cholesterol tests: rather than total cholesterol or HDL and LDL numbers, a test looking at particle size and particle number is much more informative. You want to see results that show lots of safe, light, fluffy, big cholesterol particles. You do not want to see small, dense, artery-damaging cholesterol particles.
Another helpful couple of test to check for metabolic syndrome or diabesity. The standard test here are glucose level and hemoglobin A1C, which is a measurement of your blood sugar control over the last six weeks. If it’s greater than 5.5 percent, you may have metabolic syndrome.
Then look to ways in which to lower or manage cholesterol using lifestyle.
Eat a low-glycemic load diet. Besides healthy fats, focus on a high-fiber, plenty of plant with lots of phytonutrients and omega 3 fats. That includes lots of non-starchy veggies. Consume plenty of good-quality protein found in beans, seeds, nuts, and high-quality, sustainably raised or grass-fed animal protein.
Exercise regularly, studies show consistent, regular exercise can optimize cholesterol levels.
Focus on quality sleep, optimizing blood sugar is just one of the numerous benefits of eight hours of sleep every night.
Resources and links:
Jonny Bowden “ For Men Only: How do I boost Testosterone?”
Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple “9 Factors That Influence Testosterone Levels”
UltraWellnessCenter “Low T? 5 Steps to Boost Testosterone Naturally”
UltraWellnessCenter “Hormone Magic: Let’s Start With Testosterone”
Mark Hyman “Killing Your Sex Drive One Bite at a Time: 5 Surprising Ways Sugar Lowers Libido”
Chris Kresser “Does Testosterone Therapy Increase The Risk of Heart Disease in Men?”
Chris Kresser “Episode 14 – Andropause (A.K.A. “Manopause”, Male Menopause)”
Hims “No Morning Erection? What Morning Wood Says About Your Health”
Cleveland Clinic “Why Do Men Get Morning Erections? 5 Answers to Your Questions”
Chris Kresser “Estrogen in Men: Why You Need to Balance Your Hormones as You Age”
Mark Hyman “5 Strategies to Optimize Your Sex Drive”
Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple “Testosterone Supplementation: My Primal Take”
Jonny Bowden, Senior Outlook Today “Guys, If You Think You Have Low T, Please Try Something Simple First”
Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple “Dear Mark: Why are Male Fertility and Testosterone Levels so Low?”
Mark Hyman “6 Steps To Healthy Cholesterol, Or Why You Should Stop Your Statins Now!”
Mercola “DUTCH — The Most Informative Hormone Test Out There”
Ben Greenfield Fitness “Why Is My Cortisol High Even Though I’m Doing Everything Right? Hidden Causes Of High Cortisol, The DUTCH Test & More!”
My Canadian Pharmacy “How to treat Erectile Dysfunction”