Testosterone: Your best friendTestosterone is a key player in sex drive and the body’s ability to initiate an erection. So, much of the time, a testosterone boost is all you need overcome ED. Maybe you’ve seen the television ads explaining that “low T,” or low testosterone levels, can be a health risk. Although the ads are by a pharmaceutical giant selling a prescription product, low testosterone is not a fake health concern created by drug companies to increase sales. In fact, low testosterone does indeed cause significant health complications that extend far beyond concerns over sex life. Healthy levels of testosterone go hand in hand with overall good health and stamina, including a leaner body, greater strength, better cholesterol management, less chance of heart disease or diabetes, better sex, and a more positive outlook on life. In a sense, this hormone is a man’s fountain of youth. In the past, testosterone levels primarily declined as men aged, earning the condition the nickname “male menopause.” More recently, I’m seeing very low testosterone among young men, too. This is most likely caused by environmental toxins and substances in plastic packaging, but it may result from eating foods that increase estrogen levels. As my patient Sean learned, simple changes in these areas can make a big difference. Regardless of the cause, low testosterone and overall hormonal imbalances are issues that can, and should, be corrected. Surprisingly, both of these conditions also affect women, but to a lesser degree. Look at these symptoms and judge for yourself how important hormonal balance is to your health and well-being.
- Less drive or ambition
- Exhaustion first thing in the morning
- Tiredness by mid-afternoon
- Sleepiness after dinner
- Less sex drive and decreased sexual performance
- Muscle loss
- Weight gain without a change in daily habits
- Irritability or grumpiness
- Lack of energy
- Decreased strength or endurance
- Sadness or depression
- Deteriorated sports ability
- Decreased work performance
- Sleep disturbances
- Lost height
- Bone loss
- Hot flashes, in some cases
Testosterone Alone is not EnoughWith the graying of the Baby Boomers, testosterone levels are clearly becoming a more widespread issue. As you would expect, pharmaceutical companies saw an opportunity to gain millions of new customers, so they have targeted low T with assorted testosterone gels, patches, injections, and other options. While these solutions may work at first, they are not sustainable in the long run. In fact, this is the kind of remedy that often backfires, leaving a patient worse off than they were before starting the medication. In this case, for example, taking testosterone without other related hormones sends a signal to the testes that they no longer need to make testosterone. The result: shrunken testes – exactly what most men do not want! This is not a joke – I have seen lots of patients who have made this mistake before they came to see me. How did Big Pharma get it so wrong? Once again, they’re seeing dollar signs and ignoring the fact that using a “one size fits all” approach to hormone care does not work.
Natural Remedies for Better Hormonal BalanceYou can boost your production of testosterone and related hormones with the following steps:
Avoid or Eliminate Toxins.Foods grown with all-too-common pesticides lower testosterone production and sperm counts, even in younger men. Pesticides and other toxins are hormone disruptors, and numerous animal studies show that they reduce testosterone production. Clearly, eating more organically grown food can help reduce your exposure to these testosterone thieves. To further reduce your toxic load, I highly recommend using nontoxic cleaners in your home. Don’t forget that a water filter for both the faucet and shower can dramatically reduce your exposure to chemicals, toxins, and even pharmaceuticals. By filtering your drinking water, you can help eliminate exposure to chemicals in plastic water bottles. A shower filter provides even more protection. Although your skin is a protective barrier, it can absorb substances in water. I also recommend using fragrance-free personal-care products for the same reasons, something I’ll be writing about more in the near future.
Skip Sugar and Starch.The right combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrates helps your body produce more optimal levels of all hormones. Yet often in my practice, I find that patients eat far too much sugar and starch. Why is sugar so bad? Here’s an example: One recent study found that testosterone levels fell and blood sugar levels soared after a group of men consumed just one sugar-sweetened beverage — and testosterone remained depressed for at least two hours afterward. This means that if a man consumes sugary soda or food throughout the day, his testosterone levels will be continually suppressed. Snacking on starchy foods — chips, pretzels, or crackers, for example — can have a similar effect. Cutting back on sugar and starch can also help with weight management, which, in turn, increases testosterone by reducing excess body fat. If weight is a problem, I urge you to look into weight-reduction strategies, since excess fat increases levels of the feminizing hormone estrogen.
Eat More of the Good Fats.Good fats—especially the omega-3 fats found in certain types of fatty fish—are building blocks for healthy cell membranes. Unfortunately, roughly four out of five adults are woefully lacking in omega-3 fats. This sets the stage for hormonal dysfunction because a starved cell membrane can easily fail. Damaged cell membranes are an underlying reason for hormonal problems and many diseases, including prediabetes, diabetes, and weight problems. So you’re doing more than improving your hormonal profile when you provide your body with healthy fats. In fact, according to research led by the Harvard School of Public Health, nearly 100,000 Americans die each year from too few omega-3 fats in their diets. At the same time, it’s smart to reduce your intake of bad fats known as trans fats. The same Harvard study I mentioned above also found that up to 97,000 people die annually from eating too many trans fats. How much is too much? Any amount. Trans fats are vegetable oils transformed from their natural liquid state into a solid one to increase shelf life and improve the texture of processed foods. On labels, look for “partially hydrogenated” oils. These could be soy, palm, or another oil — the type doesn’t matter. It’s the partial hydrogenation that makes it deadly. Trans fats are found in just about all frozen, packaged, and fast food, including pre-prepared baked goods, such as breads, buns, cakes, cookies, crackers, and snack foods. But they also turn up in salad dressings, cereals, nutrition bars, sauces, soups, ready-to-eat popcorn, and any type of boxed or frozen entrée or side dish. Although it may take a little extra effort, try to replace bad fats with good ones through the following steps:
- Eat cold-water fish, such as wild salmon, once per week.
- Take an omega-3 supplement
- Look for salad dressings with extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, or other oils that are not particularly hydrogenated; or just use olive or grapeseed oil and vinegar or lemon juice on salads.
- Read the ingredients label on packaged foods, and avoid all those containing any partially hydrogenated oils.
- If you regularly eat out at certain restaurants, check the ingredients of your favorite dishes on the company’s website, or ask at the restaurant to find options that don’t contain trans fats.
Get In the Exercise Habit.I recommend exercise of one type or another to just about all my patients, whether they have a hormonal imbalances or not. That’s how important it is. Moderate exercise has many benefits:
- burns calories and helps maintain a healthy weight
- thins the blood and encourages healthy circulation
- disposes of waste material and toxic substances in the body
- improves sleep and mood
- strengthens the heart and immune system
- reduces the risk of cancer and other serious illnesses
- relieves stress
- fortifies muscles, joints, and bones
Get Sufficient Shut-Eye.Lack of deep, restorative sleep slows down natural production of both testosterone and growth hormone, which also helps to build up and maintain muscle mass and keep you lean. I recommend 7 to 8 hours nightly, preferably without prescription sleep aids that can have serious side effects. I encourage my patients who are dealing with sleep issues to look into another hormone—melatonin—which also works as an antioxidant. You’ll not only sleep better but you’ll improve your overall health at the same time.
Watch Your WaistGaining weight doesn’t just make your pants too tight; it also robs you of testosterone. There are a lot of ways to lose weight. Remember, focusing on nutritious whole foods – vegetables, fruits, lean protein, good fats, beans, legumes, and herbs – is the way to go. That means avoiding processed or fast foods, with high levels of sugar, fat, and salt. As my patient, Rick, found, even confirmed “burger-holics” can change – and get their lives back at the same time.
Stress LessMost male patients are surprised when I tell them that chronic stress is one of the biggest testosterone thieves around. Here’s another surprising fact—a poor, low-nutrition diet can be as stressful for your body as emotional ups and downs, financial problems, job insecurity, and other situations that we usually consider to be responsible for stress. Fortunately, there are remedies for both poor diet and situational stress. For the first point, I suggest reviewing
What supplements will boost my testosterone?Many men with ED have been able to regain their sexual vigor thanks to erectile dysfunction medications such as sildenafil (Viagra). These popular drugs definitely work, but not without risk. The most serious side effects include erections that do not go away (trust me, this is not as fun as it may sound) and sudden changes in vision or hearing. More commonly, though, users are often troubled by headaches, flushing, stuffy or runny nose, nausea, or dizziness. Even so, I think most men would suffer through that headache or congestion as a small price to pay for the end result. Maybe the risk of cancer will change their minds… New research has revealed a link between sildenafil and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In 2000, researchers questioned 25,848 men about their use of the drug. Ten years later, they established that those who took sildenafil at the start of the study—and any time, really—had much higher risk of melanoma. Sildenafil, which works by relaxing the muscles in the penis (leading to increased blood flow and erections), also mimics the effects of a mutant form of BRAF, a protein found in 50 percent of melanoma cases. Therein lies the problem. I can appreciate wanting to have a healthy, active sex life. But I don’t think Viagra is worth the temporary or long-term risks—especially when I can show you plenty of natural remedies for erectile dysfunction, and safer, equally effective options that are readily available. While supplements can’t replace a healthy lifestyle, they can significantly improve testosterone functions and overall health when combined with a whole-foods diet and my other recommendations above. Some prescription meds and the supplements I recommend to my patients share a common ingredient: the amino acid l-arginine. It serves as a vasodilator that becomes the gas nitric oxide (NO)—which gently, naturally relaxes all of your blood vessels, including those in the penis, where you want a strong flow of oxygen-rich blood. Below are listed several supplements that can not only boost testosterone, and increase your sexual drive and performance, but also improve your health in several other ways:
Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs):As I mentioned earlier, omega-3s are essential for building strong cell membranes, decreasing inflammation, and fighting heart disease. I recommend taking 1 to 3 grams daily, and taking a stable, purified product, like Calamarine, which is free of toxins and chemicals.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10):This substance is produced in the body and plays a role in energy production in the cells. Unfortunately, production slows as we age, so I recommend supplements to anyone over the age of 40. Take 100 mg daily or up to 300 mg if you suffer from high blood pressure or cholesterol, any type of heart disease or diabetes, or if you’re overweight.
Curcumin:A well-documented inflammation fighter, curcumin reduces chronic inflammation that underlies diabetes, heart disease, and aging. It also reduces body aches and pains stemming from inflammation. Take 500 mg one to three times daily.
Melatonin:This hormone is a superstar when it comes to easing insomnia and related sleep problems. Adequate sleep is essential for healthy testosterone production as well as cell repair. 3 mg of a single-dose pill 20 minutes before bed, or 3 mg of a time-released version 30–60 minutes before bed. In both cases, take it with a full glass of water, and don’t take both forms on the same day.
Pycnogenol:Our bountiful planet comes through once again with a plant extract called pycnogenol. It works with l-arginine to lift that success rate from 12 to as high as 80 percent. And unlike the one-time meds you take when you’re planning to have sex, and which wear off in time, the longer a man takes a daily supplement with both pycnogenol and l-arginine, the more the benefits add up. An Italian study clearly showed that overall satisfaction was significantly higher after three months, and higher still after six months. As an added bonus, pycnogenol is also a powerful antioxidant. What’s not to like? You can take 150 milligrams daily, and safely boost that up as far as 450 milligrams.
L-citrulline:L-citrulline is an amino acid that supports healthy circulation for sexual/erectile function by helping in the creation of that nitric oxide you read about earlier. Now throw in the welcome systemic benefits—a healthy arterial and cardiovascular system overall, and antioxidant powers to reduce bad LDL cholesterol. This is good medicine—natural, safe, and proven effective and side-effects free. Try 1.5 grams a day.
Vitamin D:Vitamin D is the beloved “sunshine vitamin” that our bodies produce with the help of the sun. It’s also one of the essential health-makers that almost every patient I see is deficient in. If you’re a D-deficient man, you’re prone to low testosterone and reduced sex drive. If you’re a D-deficient woman, it can cause low estrogen, which can mean low sex drive. So, if you’re looking to get “busier”, be sure you both have adequate levels of D. There’s a simple test to find out. If you’re moderately deficient, I recommend 1,500 IUs per day, man, woman, and child. Very deficient? Up to 4,000 IUs of vitamin D daily, and up to 30 minutes of direct sunlight.
DHEA:DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone our bodies make that contributes to creation of sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Our levels of these hormones begin to decline at age 30 or so. DHEA supplements, with the same vasodilator effect as Big Pharma and other herbal offerings, can help ensure testosterone levels are high enough for great sex. Try 25–50 mg daily, depending on your size, and aim for a lab test result of 250 mg present in your system.
Ashwagandha:Ashwagandha is a plant-based healer that’s been around forever. So it’s had plenty of time to be studied extensively for its broad-spectrum benefits, including as an aphrodisiac and male performance enhancer. Research has found that ashwagandha can help boost healthy testosterone levels, essential for sexual health, energy, endurance and overall well-being, especially as we age. Aim for 675 mg daily.
Horny Goat Weed:A 2008 lab study found that a compound in the herb horny goat weed neutralizes an enzyme that slows the healthy blood flow you need for satisfying sex—an effect similar to some Big Pharma drugs. Indeed, there was evidence that horny goat weed works better than those drugs, and with fewer side effects. I recommend 900 mg daily per 150 pounds of body weight.
Yohimbe:The bark of a tree grown in western Africa, yohimbe, gives us an extract long considered a natural male enhancement ingredient. It increases blood flow, as do Big Pharma’s offerings, so effectively that higher doses are available by prescription, as well as over the counter. I recommend 2.5–5 mg daily to start, a little more at a time if you see no improvement.
Tongkat Ali:A 2012 study of Tongkat Ali, a traditional Malaysian remedy for men experiencing flagging sexual performance, gave the herb to a group of men, only 35 percent of whom had normal testosterone levels. After one month, the percentage of men with normal levels jumped to more than 90 percent. A different study found that men who consumed Tongkat Ali daily experienced improvements in erectile function, libido, and volume of ejaculate. Try 200–450 mg daily. These supplements should give you plenty of options. Be sure to discuss your situation with your doctor before trying or changing any supplement(s). And please, be acutely aware of two things:
- The market is flooded with cheap, dangerous frauds. Many include what are called analogues of the same potent ingredients as in Big Pharma’s offerings, created by ingenious but diabolically unscrupulous chemists. These analogues often appear in potentially deadly overdose levels, and are often accompanied by useless or dangerous other drugs, such as those for treating diabetes. If there’s an upside to these frauds, it’s that they almost always have ridiculous names, like Mojo Rising or Night Boom. Do not go there. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to ensure the manufacturer and the formulations of any options are legitimate.
- As with any supplement, there can be dangerous, unwanted interactions between even the most reputable supplements and any other prescription or OTC meds you’re taking.