Testosterone therapy for men has been found to have unexpected health benefits. Nevertheless, there are still safer ways to balance your hormones.
Do You Suffer From Low Testosterone?
Testosterone is the primary sex hormone for men. It is responsible for a healthy reproductive system and sexuality, including aspects like fertility and sex drive. However, it is also responsible for much more than just sexual health in men. Proper testosterone balance is required for normal muscle mass, bone density, red blood cell count, mental health and much more.
There are many reasons why a man’s testosterone levels could dip too low. For example, an unhealthy lifestyle, an injury to the testicles, sleep deprivation or a problem with the endocrine system could lead to low testosterone. If a man’s testosterone levels go low enough, he can be diagnosed with hypogonadism, the medical term for detrimentally low testosterone. This condition has a wide range of negative health effects. Fortunately, low testosterone is easily treated by taking a prescription testosterone medication. New research has found that taking testosterone has other benefits beyond simply raising levels of the hormone.
Newly-Discovered Benefits of Testosterone Therapy
A study looking at the benefits of long-term prescription testosterone treatment has recently been published in the Journal of Urology. Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston University School of Public Health collaborated with urologists from Germany to study over 650 men in their 50s and 60s. All of the participants suffered from testosterone deficiency of various causes.
When the men underwent long-term testosterone treatment to alleviate the deficiency, they experienced benefits that the researchers did not expect. Until now, medical professionals have thought that a risk of testosterone supplementation is increased prostate size. An enlarged prostate can cause unwanted urinary tract symptoms like difficulty urinating and an increased need to urinate. However, though the men in the study did in fact experience enlargement of the prostate following testosterone treatment, they actually experienced fewer urinary tract symptoms.
Another benefit that this study recorded was that men with erectile dysfunction showed improvement in this condition after starting testosterone therapy. However, this effect was to be expected, while the urinary benefits came as a surprise. Additionally, the testosterone-deficient men who received hormone therapy reported an increase in quality of life, demonstrating how important hormone balance is to our overall well-being.
Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?
However, whether supplementing with the hormone itself is the best treatment for low testosterone levels remains a subject of debate. Much evidence says that prescription testosterone, whether in the form of gels, injections, pills or patches, is not right for everyone. Those who have been formally diagnosed with hypogonadism by their doctor are the best candidates for testosterone supplementation. For men who are experiencing normal age-related testosterone loss, and men who have lower-than-average testosterone levels that aren’t quite low enough to qualify as hypogonadism, the benefits of a testosterone prescription are usually outweighed by the risks.
Some commonly reported side effects of prescription testosterone include:
- increased risk of blood clot-related conditions
- increased risk of heart attack
- increased risk of heart failure
- increased risk of stroke
- liver toxicity
- personality changes, such as aggression or hostility
- worsening of sleep apnea
- withdrawal symptoms after stopping hormone therapy
Increasing Testosterone Naturally
For all but the worst cases of low testosterone, increasing testosterone naturally is the safer option. The first step is to live a healthy lifestyle if you aren’t already. Get at least six to eight hours of sleep every night, as sleep deprivation is a known culprit of low testosterone. Maintain a healthy weight, as being overweight or obese nearly always lowers testosterone levels; excess fat tissue also increases the amount of estrogen in the body. Starting a good exercise regimen is often enough to bump your testosterone up a notch. A combination of cardio and weightlifting is probably best, though weightlifting may be the more important of the two, as increased muscle mass will increase your androgen levels.
The second step is to incorporate natural medicines. There are countless plant extracts, nutrients, amino acids and other types of supplements that are marketed as testosterone boosters. However, not all of them have the same amounts of scientific support; some are very effective while others do absolutely nothing. Certain natural ingredients and formulas can even be detrimental to your health, producing unwanted and sometimes dangerous side effects.
Some of the best supplements to take to improve testosterone include:
- coleus forskohlii
- mucuna pruriens
- Panax ginseng
- royal jelly
- vitamin D
Taking a natural formula that provides one or more of these herbs and compounds daily can help improve testosterone levels, as well as relieve the outward symptoms of testosterone deficiency. Another great herb to take alongside the ones mentioned above is maca root. Though this plant does not affect hormone levels directly, it is a perfect complementary supplement because it is very effective for relieving the symptoms of low testosterone such as depression, low libido and impaired overall well-being.
If your goal is to conceive a child, and your low testosterone is interfering, some other supplements can help boost fertility. Along with maca root and some of the testosterone boosters mentioned above, consider taking chromium, copper, folic acid, and vitamins C, E and B12. Or, make an effort to consume more of these nutrients in your diet.