Low testosterone (“low T”) levels in men’s health has a myriad of researched effects on longevity and quality of life. Men in their early 40’s begin to have a decline in their testosterone levels just as women do with estrogen and progesterone. Testosterone deficiency is caused by inadequate production of serum testosterone and typically results in decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, decreased stamina, depressed mood, and decreased muscle and bone mass. Most men may not realize that they are feeling poorly due to a slow decrease in their testosterone levels. In my practice we often see the “grumpy old man” syndrome in younger and younger men: men who no longer enjoy their jobs & hobbies, are more irritable, prone to depression and have essentially lost pleasure and joy in their lives.
The metabolic effects of having low T are also very significant. In a 2015 journal article from American Family Physician it stated “hypogonadism may be involved in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases”. In other words, low testosterone levels are linked to heart disease and can also be related to other conditions like diabetes. Low T levels have been linked to an increase in obesity and an increase risk of type II diabetes. Low testosterone is usually visually seen as central abdominal obesity, the “pot belly” of many middle aged men. Fat deposition increases around the midline and men may also begin to experience gynecomastia, the development of enlarged breast tissue. Low testosterone levels allow other sex hormones to become more dominant and estrogen levels rise in these men.
Nutrition should play a big role in helping men to optimize their testosterone levels. Aim for foods high in zinc, as those men with low T tend to be deficient in zinc. Foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, beef, kidney beans and shrimp are great sources to include in a T building diet. Essential fatty acids also have an impact on supporting testosterone levels. Fatty fish and flaxseeds can help decrease the activity of aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. Men with higher body weight produce more aromatase and the combination of this enzyme and a falling T level produces a very challenged hormone profile.
Phytonutrients that are found in plant based foods have also been found to lower aromatase and improve a man’s testosterone levels naturally. Hormone balancing foods to include in the diet would be curcumin, resveratrol and epigallocatechin. Having tumeric, red grapes and green tea in the diet would supply these nutrients.
While testosterone status is just one piece of the puzzle in men’s health, it provides a useful indicator of wellbeing in preventive medicine. Talk to your naturopathic physician to find out more about testing testosterone levels and an individualized way to improve your hormonal status with food, supplements and natural hormone replacements.
Dr. Shelby Entner is a sought-after naturopathic physician, speaker and expert from Vero Health Naturopathic Care.