Drops in testosterone in men can contribute to loss of libido, sexual dysfunction, muscle weakness, loss of stamina, depression and sleep interruption, to name just a few. Declining testosterone levels occur naturally with age, and can also be a byproduct of chronic illness. Adrenal fatigue is another potential contributor to low testosterone levels, given that the adrenals produce at least a third of all reproductive hormones, including testosterone. There are 3 priorities for supporting testosterone levels in men:-
- Adrenal health
Given that the adrenal glands produce 35-50% of reproductive hormones, it is imperative to make sure that they are functioning optimally to get the best testosterone output. Many different types of stressors can lead to adrenal fatigue and adrenal exhaustion, including poor nutrition, too much or too little exercise, chronic infections, toxicity, chronic pain, other hormone imbalances (such as thyroid disorders). Lifestyle factors such as a stressful job, long hours, relationship challenges, not enough down time or leisure activities, can also tax the adrenals.
So step one in healthy testosterone, is getting the adrenals healthy so that the pregnenolone and DHEA created is available to be converted into testosterone, not just gobbled up by higher cortisol needs. Adrenal balancing herbs, and adrenal hormone precursors like pregnenolone and DHEA can be great.
2. Herbs and nutrients to support testosterone production directly
There are a variety of ways to support testosterone levels more directly. These include herbs such as tribulus, damiana, maca and yohimbe. Nutrients needed for the body to produce testosterone include zinc and vitamin D.
One can also consider direct supplementation with testosterone itself. I prefer the bio-identical testosterone as it mimics human hormone directly and is easier to assimilate. Bio-identical testosterone is usually either given as a transdermal cream or gel, or an injection. I find the gels provide more of a steady-state dosing, with consistent doses every day; some people feel they get more of an energy good with shots given weekly or every other week, but there are more ebbs and flows with that. Another consideration with the creams/gels is other family members – if one member of the family puts testosterone cream on their skin, they want to ensure that they’re not going and giving their spouse or child a hug, and spreading it on them.
3. Reducing conversion of testosterone to estrogen
One of the possible mechanisms of declining testosterone is that more of it is getting converted to estrogen. To some extent this occurs naturally and is normal, but if the conversion rates increase, it can significantly impact the amount of testosterone that is actually able to be used by the body. More estrogen-related symptoms can also occur such as more breast tissue, more emotional lability, loss in muscle mass etc.
This occurs through aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme in the body which facilitates the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. With utilization of an aromatase inhibitor, we can decrease the quantity of this conversion, increasing levels of testosterone.
Flavonoids are one of the most potent natural forms of aromatase inhibitors – the main sources of dietary flavonoids include certain teas, citrus fruits, berries, red wine, apples, and legumes. A more concentrated form of a flavonoid based aromatase inhibitor includes chrysin. Chrysin is also has potent anti-oxidant and anti-anxiety effects in addition to its role in increasing testosterone production. Some compounding pharmacies will compound chrysin in with bio-identical testosterone cream/gel, another reason that I like that mode of administration.
When looking at declining testosterone, it’s important to look at all these factors, not just the testosterone levels themselves. Testing for adrenal health through salivary cortisol testing is a good idea; as well as getting levels of DHEA, testosterone (free and total), estradiol and sex hormone binding globulin.
Healthy hormone levels are within reach – we just need to take a comprehensive approach to see the best results.