Testosterone – The Fountain of Youth for Men: Hormone Boosting Herbs & StrategiesMarina Silverio, RHN January 15, 2021
How many of us know that every man goes through a male version of menopause somewhere around midlife? It is more subtle and gradual than the changes that women experience, but it exists nonetheless.
In basic terms, male menopause (also referred to as andropause) is the gradual reduction in the amount of circulating testosterone in a man’s bloodstream, or a reduced bioavailability of testosterone due to hypogonadism (diminished function of the testes).
Testosterone is the male sex hormone, primarily produced in the testes, which is responsible for much more than just sexual vitality. Testosterone for men is like the fountain of youth, and without the right balance a man can experience low energy, failing memory, emotional changes, stress, moodiness, sarcopenia (loss of muscles), loss of strength, depression, lack of motivation, and some men develop gynecomastia (enlargement of breast tissue).
As men age, they also have an increase in SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin), a protein that binds to testosterone and carries it around the bloodstream. The above mentioned issues arise due to ‘reduced free testosterone’, so a blood test may show adequate amounts of testosterone, but most of it may not be available because it’s bound to SHBG. If you are a man with these symptoms, don’t despair, there are things you can do to help alleviate symptoms and regain health and vitality.
As testosterone dwindles with age, some men start to experience weight gain around their abdomen. This is referred to as a ‘beer belly’, but in reality it has little to do with drinking beer and more to do with changes in metabolism; testosterone helps with protein synthesis and when there is not enough of it, then some of the protein in the diet turns into fat instead of muscle.
Moreover, muscles help to burn fat, so reduced muscle mass can often translate into more fat. An increase in belly fat can then contribute to estrogen dominance because some of the testosterone is converted to estrogen in the fat cells through the action of an enzyme called aromatase; this explains the development of female characteristics like gynecomastia.
Testosterone contributes to red blood cell production by stimulating a protein called erythropoietin which regulates red blood cells; in turn, red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. When red blood cells are too low, it can lead to a condition called anemia which manifests symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, head-aches, dizziness, increased heart rate, loss of appetite and nausea.
Low testosterone has also been linked to cognitive and memory deficit and can increase susceptibility to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also found a correlation between low testosterone in men and increased risk of Type 2 diabetes because testosterone is proven to enhance insulin sensitivity.
One more condition worth mentioning is ED (erectile dysfunction); many men suffer with this in silence and shame. There is a proven link between diminished testosterone levels and ED. Optimal blood flow is necessary for men to achieve an erection, and nitric oxide is needed to achieve optimal blood flow. Testosterone mediates nitric oxide; therefore, less testosterone can lead to ED.
Diet and Exercise Can Boost Testosterone
Here are some self-help strategies for increasing testosterone levels and and regaining one’s health and vitality:
• Include healthy fats in your diet, especially organically sourced fats found in foods such as avocado, cold pressed olive oil, coconut oil, free-range eggs, butter, walnut oil, nuts, and seeds. Cholesterol is needed in the production of sex hormones like testosterone. There are a lot of misconceptions about fats and cholesterol; it’s important to understand that it’s oxidized cholesterol that can lead to plaque in the arteries – this comes from trans fats, processed foods, hydrogenated fats (such as margarine), and fats that have been damaged with heat like those in fried foods.
• Protein breaks down into amino acids which are the building blocks for muscle, tissues, and fibres. Include moderate amounts of good protein in your diet: pasture-fed, free-range animals, eggs, and dairy products free of hormones, antibiotics, and steroids. Alternatively, organic vegetarian sources of protein include legumes (lentils and beans), grains, nuts, and seeds.
• Include lots of organic vegetables in your diet, especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, arugula, kale, and cauliflower – they contain indole 3 carbinol which helps to protect against harmful xenoestrogens.
• Include zinc-rich foods in your diet: fish sources – safe seafood like arctic char, Alaska halibut, wild Alaska salmon (for a list of safe seafood visit www.SeaChoice.org), vegetarian sources – mushrooms, spinach, squash, pumpkin seeds, cashews, cocoa, and mung beans. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for the health of men’s reproductive organs; since most men are low in zinc, it would be beneficial to include a zinc supplement in your daily regimen.
• Exercise: include high intensity and weight bearing exercise to help build muscles. The added muscle burns fat. Short, high-intensity exercise is also shown to improve hormone production and increase serum testosterone.
Recommended Nutritional Supplements
• B COMPLEX – Taken daily, B vitamins can help to reduce stress (linked to abdominal fat). Chronic stress works to elevate levels of the stress hormone cortisol, along with blood sugar, to help one deal with the crisis/stressor. However, chronically elevated cortisol levels can also lead to insulin resistance, which has been implicated in the production of belly fat. B5 is responsible for the production of sex hormones including testosterone.
• MACA – This is a root crop from the cruciferous family of vegetables and is grown in Peru. Maca root powder, taken daily, can help to balance hormones. It can be taken in supplement form, or as a loose powder that you can put in your smoothie or protein shake.
• STINGING NETTLE – This herb can help increase free testosterone by preventing it from binding to SHBG. It can be taken as a supplement or as a tea.
• SAW PALMETTO – This is a plant indigenous to southern California; the plant has purple berries from which an extract is derived. This extra is used as a remedy that has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of enlarged prostate and improve urine flow; it has also been shown to help enhance sex drive.
• AVOID ALCOHOL – because it’s taxing on the liver and the liver is responsible for the production of the cholesterol needed to produce testosterone. Alcohol also causes chemical reaction that reduces your ability to burn fat.
(Editor’s note: Apart from the above supplements, Hormone Replacement Therapy is also a recommended treatment for men with unnaturally low testosterone levels. However, it doesn’t come without risks; that’s why taking a free online hormone assessment at websites like www.maleexcelhrt.com is a quick and safe way to see if the treatment is right for you.)
Becoming informed and mindful of healthier options can allow you to enjoy optimal health throughout your life.
Marina Silverio earned her Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) designation at Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She is also a Reiki/energy practitioner, and a member in good standing with CAHN-Pro (Canadian Association of Holistic Nutrition Professionals). She is also a writer, speaker, and teacher. Marina has a private practice in Toronto. She is a nutritional consultant focusing not solely, but primarily, on cancer clients. She uses an individualized approach that looks at the body, mind, and spirit and how they interconnect, she assesses body systems and how they impact each other to find a nutritional plan that suits the client’s lifestyle, to help reverse, repair health conditions, and optimize health. Contact Marina Silverio Tel: (647) 960-2853; Email: <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>; Web: <a href="http://marinarhn.ca/">marinarhn.ca/</a>