Testosterone is a male sex hormone responsible for optimal sperm production and plays a central role in overall health and vitality in men.
Low testosterone is associated with decreased fertility, low libido, erectile dysfunction, depression, low energy, inflammation, weight gain, and poor general health. Low levels of testosterone also increase chances of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, as well as some cancers.
Testosterone is measured by calculating total testosterone, then subtracting the amount which is bound (unusable) by SBGH (sex hormone binding globulin) to arrive at how much free (usable) testosterone is present. It is important to note that testosterone levels vary quite drastically from man to man. In other words one man can be healthy and fertile with a certain testosterone level, while another with the same testosterone level can be overweight, depressed, and have low sperm numbers. Therefore, to assess the overall health of a man based solely on testosterone levels would be a mistake. Thyroid, cardiovascular, and metabolic conditions should also be investigated.
Statistically, as a man ages, testosterone levels drop. In fact, approx. 40% of males in their 40’s present with low testosterone levels.
Fortunately there are things men can do to help support and slow the decline of testosterone levels.
It is important for men to do some resistance training each week. Find the sweet spot where the amount you are exercising is increasing your energy levels, not decreasing them. Overtraining can raise stress hormones to a point where they suppress testosterone production. Conversely, too little exercise can lead to fat gain and increased estrogen levels which results in lower testosterone.
To keep things simple, being overweight (storing excess fat) lowers testosterone. Intake of high amounts of sugar (beet/cane/corn sugar, white starchy carbohydrates, and alcohol) cause weight gain. Reducing starchy carbohydrates and eliminating sugar and alcohol will help you lose weight and restore healthy testosterone levels.
Soy is also something men should not over-consume. It is a strong phytoestrogen and can affect testosterone levels.
Poor sleep (not enough quality sleep) negatively impacts testosterone production. It also reduces the energy we have throughout the day which results in poor dietary choices (excess simple sugars/carbs to compensate for lack of energy). People with less energy are also less likely to choose regular exercise (see above).
If any portion of poor sleep is choice (aka Netflix, instagram, etc) then today is the perfect time to start making better choices – your health and fertility depend on it.
Pesticides sprayed on our foods also have estrogenic qualities and have been shown to disrupt hormone levels. BPA & Phthalates (chemicals used in plastics) negatively influence testosterone levels. Ibuprofen use has been shown to reduce testosterone. The mechanism of action of some hair loss products and prostate medications is to block the production of testosterone. Finally, chemicals and fragrances in personal care (beauty & grooming) and cleaning products (laundry, household, body, dish) are potential sources of xenoestrogens and also should be avoided.
Similar to what was mentioned in the ‘over-training’ section above, any excess form of stress can impact the production of testosterone. Finding ways to minimize and manage stress is crucial to maintaining healthy testosterone levels and overall general health.
A quick note about testosterone replacement therapy. This may be a great option for many men, but if you are trying to conceive, taking testosterone medication will actually diminish sperm production. Do not take.
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