Managing our hormones is so essential that mismanagement through nutrition and lifestyle will automatically cause inflammation and obesity. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, and prostate cancer all have been directly linked to estrogenic disorder. Don’t let fat and estrogen dominate, become the master of your hormones through diet and exercise. Testosterone, I’ll refer to it simply as “T” from this point forward, should be the dominant hormone. This essay is not just for the guys. Women need T too, just not as much. The recommendations I am going to be making are just as important for the women that are reading. It is not just low T, but higher than normal levels of estrogen that create this cascade of progressive diseases.
Some background on T
T is a derivative of cholesterol. The body naturally produces most of its cholesterol and gets some from the diet as well. In men it (T) is produced in the testes and adrenal cortex and in women it is produced in the ovaries and adrenal cortex. Women typically have about one third the amount of T than men. Both sexes have a decline of T of about 1-2% per year after reaching their peak at 25-30 years old. T has lessor known advantages besides the obvious such as bone health and emotional well being. This makes it extremely important to nurture and maintain this system as much as possible.
Can T be improved naturally, without drugs or any unnatural means?
Absolutely! One needs the raw materials to manufacture all hormones. And although the natural physiological replacement therapies (Progesterone, testosterone) are very effective, it can do no harm to lose weight and eat healthier as well as eat the foods that are the most supportive of the hormones.
It seems that a great number of people have developed a low T condition. I frequently hear of hormone replacement therapy. Often times it is from those that could stand to lose a few pounds and are obviously malnourished. I believe it is prudent to get a hormone panel test if you are overweight or suspect you may be low on T. If testing low, then natural replacement therapy may be the only effective way to get the levels up to healthy standards. In the meantime, you can’t go wrong by losing body fat, eliminating the wrong foods, eating the right foods. Losing bodyfat is especially important because fat cells convert T into estrogen. The higher the level of bodyfat the lower the T and the higher the E.
Common symptoms of low T:
Lack of focus and concentration
Free the T
Free T makes up only about 2% of total T on average. Free T is the most bioavailable and is the only active T, meaning the T that can be used by the body to obtain its benefits. The rest of the T is bound up by a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). We want to free up as much T as we can through natural means.
Tips to do now to help improve your T:
Reduce stress- At the top of the list and arguably the most important one. At the biochemical level, the body does not distinguish between between being chased by a bear or being late for an important meeting. This means that the hormones produced in stressful situations are the same regardless of situation. This system is critical in saving our lives if it becomes necessary. One of the limitations of this very efficient system is that it is only designed to work for short bursts and then return to normal. When the stress hormones are turned on, other systems are temporarily turned off, and that includes digestion and sexual function. When the stress system is turned on frequently or left on for long duration, things start to wear out and lose their effectiveness. This is actually a serious health concern and is very common in modern society. Reducing stress does not mean always being comfortable either. Read on.
Eliminate grains and milk. No downside to eliminating grains other than psychological. The benefits are far reaching positive health consequences. Milk, even raw milk contains sugar(lactose) and that will not help accomplish the mission.
Eliminate sugar and reduce carbs and alcohol. There is no place in a healthy diet for sugar, period. It only aggravates a seriously vicious cycle of fat storage, aromatase and estrogen increases. Aromatase is the enzyme that converts T to E. A “carby” diet, especially processed carbs, can force the body into estrogen dominance. The same goes for excessive alcohol consumption. Some foods for blocking aromatase: Spinach, turmeric, moringa. Although there are good compounds in some alcoholic drinks, alcohol is a toxin and decreases T. If you must drink, give low alcohol wine a try. By the way, beer is estrogenic. Just sayin.
Get enough healthy fat, both saturated and unsaturated
Don’t be low fat/no fat. See my post on healthy fats to get the details on this macronutrient.
Eat high quality protein and high quality protein supplements. All meat should be pastured and humanely raised. All fish should be wild caught.
Train for Strength and intensity the good old fashioned way. Strength/resistance training is a must, be it weights or body weight. The muscles need to be stimulated and challenged to be maintained. If they are not used they will surely atrophy and contribute to the cascade effect mentioned earlier. Muscle is precious fiber that needs to be nourished and nurtured. Avoid the “constant cardio” syndrome and not over exercising. Exercise is medicine just like food and should not be overdone.
Work at being micronutrient sufficient
This means take your vitamins and eat your greens (see specific micros later in this paragraph).
You need to have the raw materials in order for the body to do its thing and produce the necessary hormones. Radically increase your vegetable intake and get more magnesium in your diet with leafy greens like kale, chard, collards, spinach.
Get more zinc in your diet with oysters. I prefer the smoked oysters in olive oil. Brazil nuts, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are good T foods.
Avoid xeno-estrogens and estrogenic products (plastics, soy and soy protein, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics). Not only do they add to the estrogenic load, they increase an enzyme called aromatase. This creates a vicious cycle of weight gain, loss of T, prostate enlargement, and estrogen dominance which further leads to disease.
Get some sun, make some D- Yes, a little unexposed sun is powerful medicine for so many body functions. It only takes about 15-20 minutes for lighter skin and longer depending on the skin tone. Safe amounts of unprotected sunlight is the best way for our bodies to produce vitamin D and ultimately T.
Get some- Yes, get some sex. Not only does it improve your cranky mood, it stimulates T production, gets the lymphatic system pumping, burns calories and it’s also a great way to work those underused pelvic muscles.
Supplements, I believe are a necessity and especially as we get north of 40. At the foundation of my supplement regime is a good multivitamin. I also take milk thistle for liver support. You gotta give your liver plenty of love because it is what helps to remove excess estrogen from the body. My number one T-bolstering herbal supp is nettle root. Nettle root is inexpensive and works very well. Remember the bad guy SHBG that hijacks free T, mentioned earlier? You can start taking advantage of nettle root extract and its binding to SHBG properties. By taking nettle root on a regular basis, you can increase free T by unbinding it so it can do its job making you more manly or womanly.
Zinc is critical in T Production but stick to the recommended common dosage listed on the container since this is one micro you don’t want to megadose. I take a low dose of zinc on occasion since my multi also contains zinc. I also give myself a regular zinc test to make sure I’m getting enough.
Vitamin D drops are the most bioavailable and the one I use provides 2,000 IU per drop. I get another 1,ooo IU’s from my multi, then some more thousands probably from the 20-30 mins. of daily sunlight I try to get.
Temperature extremes. Learn to suffer and embrace some suck. Cold exposure from ice baths (extreme) to cold showers and or ice packs. I normally take my showers on hot for the first half, then switch to full cold for the remainder. This can be very refreshing and will definitely wake you up. I have spent much time weight training and working out in the heat of the day where the extreme heat has acclimated my body to where I look forward to these workouts.
Practice intermittent fasting (IF) regularly or at least once per week. There are many benefits to IF such as blood sugar stabilization, production of Human growth hormone, fat loss (which helps with T production), healing of the digestive system. Up to 24 hours is the most beneficial but shorter periods are beneficial as well. More details here.
Benefits of regulating your hormones with good nutrition
It can be done. Take care of your hormones and you take care of the rest of your body. Sticking to this holistic strategy can promote longevity and wellbeing.
Since I practice what I preach for the most part, my T levels have historically tested very satisfactory, including my most recent test. I believe the hardest for me and probably for many others is reducing stress and increasing sleep. The nutrition and exercise part is easy since that is what I do. But since I am aware of what needs to be done I am constantly working on it. Staying healthy is not always easy but the rewards of good practice are far reaching. If you would like more details via individual holistic health and wellness coaching, send me an email: Steven@earthtoforknutrition.com and sign up here for my newsletter.
Good source of nettle root:
I recommend specific products at a reasonable cost here: https://www.healthwavehq.com/welcome/nutritionasrx
I also use the Standard Process nettle root supplement in liquid form.
Blood testing service that is easy to use and reliable. This is the one that I use most frequently. http://www.lifeextension.com/Vitamins-Supplements/itemLC140103/Testosterone-Free-with-Total-Blood-Test
If you don’t see what you are looking for, send me an email with the details.
References for this article
Chrubasik J, Roufogalis B, Wagner H, Chrubasik S. A comprehensive review on the stinging nettle effect and efficacy profiles. Part II: urticae radix. Phytomedicine. 2007;14(7-8):568-579. [PubMed]
Morris P.D. & Channer K.S., (2012, May 14). Testosterone and cardiovascular disease in men. Asian Journal Andrology, (3):428-35.
Williams GP (2006). Unlock your hormones. Melbourne: Griffin Press.
World Health Organization Global Infobase: 2004–2006.
The role of oestrogen in the pathogenesis of obesity, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and prostate disease Graeme P. Williams
anabolicmen.com (well referenced articles)
http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/01/16/normal-testosterone-levels/ (Brett does a little self experimentation) A fun read.
https://www.rawforestfoods.com/blog/nettle-root-and-hormonal-health/ (This is some good content and explanation but he lists no references)