Testosterone is an androgenic steroid hormone that is responsible for the physical characteristics seen in men and plays a key role in male fertility. Various factors can cause testosterone levels to decrease, such as poor dietary habits and lifestyle choices. However, the availability of testosterone also declines as a man ages. Low testosterone levels can lead to a variety of problems, including balding, heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction. Fortunately, it is possible to increase testosterone levels by natural means as well as with hormone replacement therapy.
To understand how testosterone loss can cause so many complications, it’s first helpful to explore the biological processes its decline triggers. As testosterone levels drop off, the activity of certain enzymes, such as aromatase and 5-alpha reductase, increase and promote the conversion of testosterone into androgens of a different type—namely, estrogen and dihydrotestosterone. The latter simulates cellular proliferation in the prostate, which may eventually lead to enlargement of the prostate gland. This metabolite is also responsible for signaling hair follicles to enter into a permanent state of rest. The ultimate goal to counteract these conditions is to increase testosterone to help inhibit aromatase and 5-alpha reductase.
There are several simple things a man can do to naturally increase testosterone levels without medical intervention. First, a healthy and balanced diet is key. Fruits, vegetables, and legumes naturally increase testosterone because they are rich in L-Lysine, an amino acid that inhibits 5-alpha-reductase type II.
Other dietary measures include supplementing with dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which also tends to decline along with testosterone as men get older. While DHEA does not exhibit androgenic activity itself, certain enzymes found in the skin, muscles, bone and brain can convert DHEA into testosterone. As an added bonus, there is evidence that adequate DHEA levels offer a protective effect against the development of diabetes type II and arteriosclerosis, as well as helping to lower serum triglycerides.
Say goodbye to beer, or at least stick to a moderate intake. Generally speaking, the more often one imbibes, the harder the body has to work to metabolize and detoxify the alcohol as a waste product, which can lower testosterone levels. However, a glass of red wine now and then may be beneficial. Resveratrol, an antioxidant derived from red grapes, inhibits aromatase. It also provides protection from free radical damage, promotes healthy vascular functioning, and improves insulin utilization.
If none of the above recommendations adequately increase testosterone levels, it may be time to consult with a physician to discuss testosterone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement is made possible by synthesizing testosterone from cholesterol. Various methods of administration of this therapy are available too. In addition to oral pills, it may be given by injection, pellets, patches, or as a topical gel.