By Rob Neilson, ND, LAc
Testosterone, man’s sacred hormone, what gives us pep in our step, a roar to our yell, and well, motivation in the bedroom. Testosterone is not just for men, women also absolutely need testosterone for bones, muscles, energy, and so much more.
Symptoms of low testosterone
Symptoms of having low testosterone include fatigue, muscle loss, increased belly fat, low motivation, low libido, depression, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Why the low testosterone
I am disheartened to say that more and more men and women are presenting to the clinic with low testosterone levels. With the onslaught of hormone disrupting chemicals in the environment, it is hard to believe that we have any testosterone at all! Plastics, fertilizers, pesticides, and heavy metals all interfere with testosterone!
Avoid hormone disruptors
The best thing to do is to minimize your exposure, and be educated on what your exposure is like. I recommend avoiding plastics with food, including storing, eating, or drinking. Use protective gear if you are around pesticides. Get your heavy metal levels checked if you think you have had heavy metal exposures. Limit other chemicals like BPA, and MSG. Talk with your Naturopathic doctor about other places where you are exposed to hormone disruptors.
Now let’s talk about how to improve testosterone levels.
The old adage, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, has many shortcomings including reducing testosterone levels. 8 hours of sleep, that’s right, I’ll say it again, 8 hours of sleep, this is what’s needed for your body to adequately make testosterone. Don’t skimp on sleep, no supplement can replace your beauty rest.
Exercise for your testosterone
There are two forms of exercise that greatly boost testosterone levels. Can you guess them?
- Strength training
- High intensity – short duration exercises
Strength training and high intensity – short duration exercises are the best forms of exercise for testosterone. These types of exercise stimulate your growth hormones and boost testosterone levels. Personally, I like the more natural setting for my exercise, like rock climbing, which is a type of both strength training and high intensity – short duration exercise. If you are going for a run, try alternating between sprinting and walking to maximize your efforts.
With exercise, it’s important to find something you enjoy, and have fun with it.
Yep, stress management is back again. When stress is high, cortisol levels rise, which inhibits testosterone production. When stress is well managed, cortisol levels are normal, and testosterone production is healthy.
Optimize your weight
Excess body fat also inhibits testosterone production. A combination of diet and exercise can make a huge difference in weight, and testosterone levels.
What you eat and how you eat plays a critical role in your testosterone levels.
Try fasting between meals, and having a longer fast between dinner and breakfast. This stimulates growth hormone, and has a positive effect on testosterone. Speak with your doctor about the appropriateness of intermittent fasting, since it can be unsafe with certain health conditions.
The testosterone diet
The basis of the testosterone diet is a diet high in fat, a robust variety of vegetables, and low in simple sugars and grains. Combine this diet with some intermittent fasting, and you are well on your way to healthy testosterone levels. Now, there are a number of specific nutrients that are important for testosterone production.
Healthy fats are the precursors to making hormones like testosterone. Saturated fats like coconut oil, egg yolks, and grass fed beef and butter are ideal. Avoid polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), as these can actually lower testosterone. PUFAs are found in canola oil, cottonseed oil, margarine, peanut oil, and many other vegetable oils. Olive oil is in a league of it’s own, and is safe to include when considering testosterone.
Specific vegetables contain a certain molecule called Indole-3 carbinole (I3C), which has an excellent effect on testosterone levels. Specific vegetables to improve I3C include brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale.
Careful with grains and sugar
I say careful because the grain and sugar conundrum is a slippery slope. First off, if you really want to improve testosterone levels, ditch the gluten, which is found in wheat, spelt, beer, and rye. Gluten causes the hormone prolactin levels to rise, which in turn impacts testosterone production. Limiting sugar consumption is important because it stabilizes blood sugar over a long period of time. Sugar, especially simple sugar like soda or juice, causes your blood sugar to sharply spike, causing insulin levels to also spike, and causes a devastating effect on testosterone production. The goal with diet is to keep blood sugar levels relatively stable so insulin doesn’t spike, and other hormones also maintain homeostasis. The diet high in healthy fats and vegetables, and low in processed foods and carbohydrates is ideal for testosterone.
Zinc is like gold for testosterone. Oysters, grass fed beef, nuts, and seeds are all excellent sources of zinc.
More ways to improve testosterone
I could go on for days on this one. How about we start with a few suggestions. Posture is important, and just by sitting up straight testosterone starts to improve. Regular sexual intercourse improves levels. Having a social network, and socializing regularly also improves testosterone.
Have your levels checked
If you are wondering if you are low in testosterone or other hormones, come in and get checked! At Hawthorn Healing Arts we perform blood work to check your levels, and can educate you on how to best improve your testosterone levels.