Testosterone is a steroid hormone produced in the testes and ovaries of men and women, respectively. It is among the hormones responsible for puberty, fertility and sexual desire. Testosterone levels are typically higher in men, and science has proven that it significantly influences the development of male traits during puberty, e.g., a deeper voice, facial hair and more lean muscle mass compared to women.
While the testosterone levels in men’s bodies fluctuate in response to their needs, testosterone levels peak during early adulthood and drop as they age. Research suggests that testosterone levels decline by 1%-2% from the age of 40. This steady decline gets worse past age 50, leading to undesirable symptoms such as weight gain, low sexual desire, reduced muscle mass, depression or anxiety and less energy overall.
While it is normal for testosterone levels to decrease as men age, certain risk factors can accelerate the decline. Some of the most common include:
- Chronic illness
- Cancer radiation treatment or chemotherapy
- Certain medications, particularly corticosteroid drugs and hormones for treating prostate cancer
Diagnosing Low Testosterone
Millions of men suffering from low testosterone levels use various treatment options to boost their sexual drive, feel more energetic, enhance their physical well-being and, most importantly, restore their testosterone levels. However, administering testosterone to treat low levels is not that simple since doctors have to diagnose the issue via physical exams, review any symptoms present and conduct multiple blood tests to offset misdiagnosis due to normal fluctuations.
Following a low testosterone diagnosis, doctors may consider conducting other tests before therapy. For instance, since low testosterone accelerates bone loss, doctors may recommend bone density tests to determine whether their patients also require osteoporosis treatment.
Prostate cancer is also a huge concern since medical professionals believe that testosterone fuels its growth. In fact, the Endocrine Society is against supplementing testosterone in men with certain conditions such as:
- Elevated levels of prostate-specific antigens in their blood
- Breast or prostate cancer
- Prostate nodules large enough to be felt by hand during rectal examinations
Other circumstances that make testosterone supplementation less recommendable include:
- Thrombophilia, i.e., a condition that increases the frequency of blood clot formation
- Stroke or heart attack in the past six months
- Plans of having a child in the near future
- Severe sleep apnea
- High red blood cell count
- Heart failure
- Acute lower urinary tract infections
In most instances, men require both multiple signs of low testosterone and blood tests confirming low testosterone levels before seeking testosterone supplementation options. If you have sufficient reasons to believe that testosterone supplementation is necessary after consulting a doctor, it is worth considering all the treatment options available to make an informed decision. Here are five treatment options you may consider, from the unconventional methods to the more traditional remedies.
Ways to Boost T Naturally
Usually in the form of over-the-counter supplements, natural testosterone boosters contain precursors, herbal extracts, essential nutrients and many more ingredients with the potential to boost testosterone levels naturally. While many men use these products for the enhanced athletic performance and masculinity promised in commercials, scientific studies only support a few natural boosters.
Ashwagandha is the herb that has been the subject of most research, with one study seeking to determine its effects on infertile men discovering a 167% rise in sperm count and a 17% rise in testosterone levels. In healthy men, this herb increased testosterone levels by 15%. Another study discovered that ashwagandha lowers cortisol levels by up to 25%, which could aid testosterone production.
Ginger extract is also touted as a testosterone booster in addition to its other health benefits. One study conducted on infertile men discovered a 17% boost in testosterone levels after consuming ginger extract. However, much of the research on ginger extract is animal-based and leaves room for debate.
Other herbs supported by similar studies conducted on both animals and men include Mucuna pruriens and horny goat weed. It is worth mentioning that researchers performed the majority of this positive research on mice and infertile men with below-average testosterone levels. If you have relatively healthy testosterone levels and minimal symptoms, it is not clear whether most of these supplements will benefit you significantly.
Most testosterone supplements use natural ingredients, often extracted from herbs with reputations of boosting manliness dating back to several centuries ago. Using cutting-edge technology, manufacturers can extract higher concentrations of the essential ingredients from these herbs to increase the potency of their supplements. Also, many manufacturers include essential minerals and vitamins like magnesium, vitamin B and zinc for additional health benefits.
Due to their high demand, these supplements are widely available. Forget about the hassle of getting a doctor’s prescription, because these products are available at many drug stores. Also, if physically visiting a retail location is inconvenient, you can order them online.
Since the primary ingredients of these supplements are natural, many users find them relatively safe with minimal chances of developing adverse side effects.
In Sync with the Body
These supplements work in harmony with the body to help it create more testosterone naturally. This aspect makes it more appealing than other methods, e.g., injection for health-conscious individuals.
While some users find these boosters effective, there is insufficient evidence to support the claims made by manufacturers regarding their potency. A 2019 study revealed that testosterone boosters may lack the requisite ingredients to back their claims.
According to Mary K. Samplaski, MD, men considering testosterone-boosting supplements to build body mass or enhance their libido should think twice. Many of these supplements contain minerals and vitamins, but hardly do much to improve testosterone.
Despite over 90% of manufacturers claiming their supplements boost testosterone, researchers found that only 25% of them had sufficient evidence to back their claims. Customers can fall victim to the marketing gimmicks of these manufacturers, hence making purchasing these supplements very murky.
Unknown Dosage Amounts
While these supplements contain essential minerals and vitamins, their blend of ingredients is often proprietary, thus making them susceptible to occasionally having ingredients above the tolerable limit.
Foods That Increase Testosterone Production
A nutrient-dense, well-balanced diet is essential to achieving an overall balance of hormones. Maintaining normal testosterone levels requires mindfulness regarding the intake of foods, especially those that contain hormones or hormone-disrupting elements like phytoestrogens.
Zinc and vitamin D are precursors for testosterone production and an essential part of foods that increase testosterone production. Following your doctor’s recommendations, consider the following testosterone-boosting foods. We have a full list of testosterone foods on this page.
This fish is protein-rich, low in calories and packed with vitamin D that is essential for a healthy heart, longevity and testosterone production.
- Low-Fat Milk Fortified with Vitamin D
Many people view milk as a complete food and a great source of calcium and protein. Vitamin D fortified milk will not only boost your bone health but also keep your testosterone levels balanced.
- Egg Yolk
While egg yolks are high in cholesterol, they are rich in vitamin D and could help alleviate low testosterone. People without pre-existing collateral issues can safely consume one egg daily.
- Fortified Cereals
If you do not like eggs for breakfast and feel conscious about your blood cholesterol, then cereal fortified with vitamin D is a great alternative.
Since most red meat, including beef, contains more unhealthy fat compared to white meat, over-consuming beef could raise other health concerns. To avoid this, only choose lean cuts and opt for beef liver, chuck roast or ground beef, which are all excellent sources of zinc and vitamin D.
Legumes like beans, chickpeas and lentils are great sources of zinc and underrated on matters of male hormone health.
Foods rich in vitamin D and zinc are widely available and affordable. Choosing to include them in your diet is mostly a matter of personal choice.
Multiple studies, including review articles published by Giovanni Corona in the European Journal of Endocrinology, support that maintaining a healthy weight and consuming a healthy diet rich in zinc and vitamin D boosts long-term testosterone levels.
There is a wide variety of testosterone-boosting foods to suit everyone’s tastes, diet preferences and budgets.
Less Short-Term Potency
It is worth mentioning that other testosterone-boosting methods such as TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy) include actual testosterone. In contrast, testosterone-boosting foods do not have the hormone.
Instead, they act on secondary processes that boost testosterone production rather than directly providing exogenous testosterone. This makes foods inferior to other treatment options that can provide an instant testosterone boost.
Pellet therapy involves administering testosterone in the form of small pellets inserted under the skin through small incisions, typically in the lower abdominal wall or the hips. Testosterone pellets measure roughly 3 mm x 9 mm – the size of one rice grain – and contain enough testosterone for the body to metabolize gradually over 3-6 months.
The number of pellets you require and their frequency of implanting depends on your hormone levels and personal symptoms. Doctors perform pellet implantation in the hospital, often using local anesthesia for a painless experience. The number of implanted pellets hardly affects wound size, and they do not require removal since they dissolve in the body.
Ease of Use
Arguably, the most significant benefit of pellet therapy is its “set it and forget it” approach, meaning that patient compliance is entirely hands-off. Unlike other testosterone treatment methods, pellet therapy does not involve taking medication daily or weekly. Instead, patients go for brief outpatient procedures roughly 2-4 times per year, depending on their needs.
Pellet therapy delivers a more physiologic, predictable and steady dose of testosterone over several months. This helps prevent any peaks and valleys in testosterone levels synonymous with other testosterone treatment options. Therefore, you can expect to enjoy normal testosterone levels more consistently.
Pellet therapy is expensive compared to some testosterone treatment options and could be out of reach for some people.
Even though patients can add more pellets after their initial procedures, they cannot have them removed. Therefore, it is imperative that people only choose highly skilled and experienced practitioners to prevent overtreatment and unnecessary costs.
Implanting testosterone pellets involves minor surgery. While this procedure is often brief, painless and has minimal risk of developing complications, there is a small chance of pellet extrusion or infection that could cause discomfort during and after surgery.
Doctors recommend avoiding prolonged water exposure and strenuous physical activity several days after the procedure. During the recovery period, patients may experience mild redness, swelling or bruising on the incision site.
Millions of men in America use prescription testosterone injections to restore their declining testosterone levels. These injections are arguably the oldest and most common form of TRT, hence why people use the terms “TRT” and “testosterone injections” interchangeably.
Many people prefer this treatment option since it is fast-acting, effective and has minimal risk of transference. During appointments, doctors often:
- Assess testosterone levels
- Determine the appropriate dosage
- Administer the shot
- Schedule a follow-up appointment
While some people prefer administering the shots themselves, it is perhaps best if a trained health care professional handles this to ensure accurate dosing and progress monitoring. Doctors inject their patients in either the deltoids or the glutes, alternating sides with each visit.
This method yields the fastest results since injections deliver testosterone into the bloodstream directly, hence minimizing the chances of loss through absorption. Most patients report feeling the injection’s effects quickly.
Injections are a reliable treatment option since doctors can measure testosterone levels accurately and adjust the required dosage accordingly.
Relatively Minimal Lifestyle Changes
Unlike other methods, injections do not require a recovery period hence hardly interfere with a patient’s lifestyle after treatment.
Injections are not for fainthearted people. Besides, the frequency of injections may seem a bit intimidating hence making people reject this treatment option in favor of other methods that do not involve needles.
Inconsistent Testosterone Levels
You may notice an improvement in your symptoms following injection; however, these improvements often wear off gradually over a few days as testosterone levels decline before your next appointment. These hormonal highs and lows are perhaps the greatest drawback of this treatment option.
Depending on your testosterone levels and personal symptoms, you may require injections twice a month, once a week or even biweekly. If you prefer having a doctor administer your shots, injections can be time-consuming and tiring, considering the 7-10 days gap between each appointment.
This treatment option is a sigh of relief for people with needle phobia, not to mention how much doctors praise its testosterone raising ability. Unlike injections, testosterone gel slowly delivers steady amounts of testosterone to the body and does not need follow-up appointments after 7-10 days since people can apply it on themselves.
Doctors recommend applying it in areas with minimal body hair, but plenty of blood flow. Some common sites include the shoulders, inner thighs and behind the knees. For maximum effectiveness, it is best to apply testosterone gel at a similar time every day, preferably in the morning.
Ease of Use
Perhaps the biggest reason behind this method’s popularity is its simplicity. Topically applying gel every morning on the upper arm, behind the knees, scrotum, inner thighs or shoulders is as simple as boosting testosterone production gets. Most gels contain concentrations of 1%, 2%, 5% or 10%.
Applying gel on your skin every day feels more or less similar to using your favorite lotion, only for arguably greater benefits. Gel is a near-perfect alternative for people who fear or do not prefer injections for whatever reasons.
Mimics Natural Testosterone Production
Since this method involves absorption through the skin, testosterone levels tend to fluctuate, hence mimicking the body’s natural production patterns.
The fact that this gel requires daily application implies that there is a risk of skipping a dosage. While missing one dosage will not be very detrimental, achieving the best results possible calls for consistently applying the prescribed gel every day without fail.
Risk of Transference
Other people, especially women and children, may develop adverse side effects if they contact the gel before it dries. The risk of transference is more severe for pregnant women since it could harm their unborn children. Since gel often takes at least one hour to dry, users should be very cautious about contacting other people within this period.
The absorption rate of different brands of gel greatly varies by individual. Since gel application may lead to oily skin because of DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) elevation, the effectiveness of gel differs from one man to another. Also, unlike injections, controlling testosterone dosages using gel is more difficult.