Testosterone is more than just a manly hormone. It is crucial for energy pathways, heart health, mood, blood sugar management, bone density and using protein to make muscle. Like estrogen is in women, testosterone helps men achieve peak performance and delay the major factors associated with degenerative diseases.
While men have about ten times the amount of testosterone as women, it has potent anti-aging effects for both men and women. In a symbiotic liaison, it works with estrogen to influence skin and cell integrity, increase bone mineral density, and helps us manage moods and to handle stress.
Decreased levels of testosterone are a normal feature of aging, but in the past few decades, more men are experiencing harsh declines in testosterone levels. Symptoms of dipping levels include loss of muscle mass and difficulty building muscle, low sperm count, depression and impaired memory and mental clarity, lack of motivation along with low energy.
While testosterone levels may decline at varying rates as men age, lifestyle and diet can affect a process called aromatization. This increased enzyme reaction often is the reason for weight gain, hair loss, gynecomastia or man boobs, a tendency to gain weight on thighs, a pot belly, prostate problems, atherosclerosis, and impotency. Aromatase activity does increase with aging, but lifestyle changes over the past forty years have caused an increased effect.
The natural way to reinforce the body is to boost liver enzyme activity, consume a diet which manages blood glucose levels to reduce glucose spikes and inflammation, help the body detox and keep lean to avoid upsetting the hormone balance.
Overweight and obesity are a major disruptor of hormones for both men and women.
There are many great anti-estrogenic foods such as cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and kale – acting as powerful detoxes due to their chemical nature to bind up estrogen in the liver and eliminate it. The rich sulfur containing amino acids found in onions, garlic and scallions also help in the detoxification process and are powerful antioxidants for cell protection.
Anti-inflammatory foods are those rich in omega-3 fatty acids and include grass fed beef, lamb ; poultry, salmon and plant based fats such as avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, raw nuts, chia seeds, flax and hemp seeds.
Let’s not forget some great herbs to naturally enliven our cooking. Oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and turmeric contain volatile oils that promote liver detoxification. Use fresh and root varieties that have maximum oil retention. Start to the day with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a dash of cider vinegar to boost liver activity, improve stomach acid for better digestion and enhance the body’s ability to remove unwanted estrogenic molecules.
The first step is to identify why hormones are dipping as it may be an insufficiency or it can be that they are being diverted due to aromatization. A routine hormone panel will identify this. If you strongly suspect that diet and lifestyle influences are the cause, it is worth considering your protein needs, stomach acid levels, zinc and magnesium levels, requirement for vit B6 for cellular health, and levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).
Factors that Influence Testosterone
- Lack of sleep has consistently shown to reduce testosterone in men as growth hormone kicks in when you are at rest.
- Natural aging, although lifestyle, diet and stress can have a greater influence.
- A diet based on processed foods.
- Insulin resistance, and poorly managed blood sugar levels
- Inflammation from over-weight, too much or too little exercise, re-occurring infections, and toxic overload.
- Chronic stress, adrenal fatigue, elevated cortisol levels which breakdown muscle and contribute to belly fat deposition.
- Lack of stomach acid which may now be presenting as gastric reflux, poor digestion, and malabsorption of nutrients to affect sleep and mood.
- Nutrient deficiencies of zinc critically lower testosterone while research has shown that 2000IU /d of vitamin D raises testosterone by reducing estrogen.
- Excess body fat and obesity
Diet is the best medicine to start with. Managing insulin to stabilize blood sugar which is about reducing foods that cause spikes followed by troughs. Inflammatory foods are simply refined, processed and industrialized foods made to please and mostly don’t resemble their original ingredients.
- Read labels
- Vegetables and fruit are the key to good health. Protein should be a component of every meal. Fats should be pure and not processed or refined at all.
- Refined grains and cereal have been the driver of the obesogenic diet of the last forty years.
- Avoid dieting in favor of balance according to activity level.
- Choose soy very carefully.
- Include plenty of foods rich in ‘zinc’ – shellfish, oysters, whole eggs, grass-fed red meat, cherries, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and ‘magnesium’ – pumpkin seeds and green leafy vegetables such as baby spinach.
- Strength training, circuits and intervals – burst style exercise such as sprints stimulate testosterone and natural growth hormone. Long distance and endurance sports are catabolic in nature and demanding on testosterone.
- Respect rest, recovery and sleep, as well as managing the inevitable stressors.
Everyone’s nutrient requirements are very individual and sometimes call for a closer look at functional levels via urine and blood testing.
Take some time to assess the changes you have experienced over the past two years and decide if there are change’s you can make to reset the clock and allow your body to heal. Diet is nature’s medicine.