Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is all the rage when it comes to testosterone—the all-important male hormone. When a man discovers he has low testosterone, his first reaction is often to want a prescription for treating this condition.
The symptoms of low testosterone are enough to make any man take his chances on any possible side effects TRT may have. The symptoms of low testosterone include:
- Increase in belly fat
- Weight gain
- Low to no sex drive
- Risk of depression
- Mood swings
- Low energy
- Reduced bone density
- Reduced muscle mass
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Gynecomastia or breast enlargement
- Decrease in motivation or self-confidence
Before a man is prescribed testosterone, he needs to have his testosterone levels checked by his doctor to have a confirmed diagnosis. Even though a man may believe the perfect solution is to get started on TRT, it’s not always the best thing to try first. Testosterone replacement therapy itself needs to be monitored as it can also have side effects, including:
- Oily skin
- Sleep apnea
- Gynecomastia or breast enlargement
- May increase risk of blood clot forming in a deep vein (deep vein thrombosis)
- Possible increased risk of heart disease
Before being prescribed TRT, a man should look into natural ways to increase testosterone. Here are a few natural approaches that could bring about significant benefits:
- If necessary, lose weight—particularly belly fat. Being obese or overweight plays a huge role in low testosterone. The more extra weight a man gains, the lower his testosterone levels. The fat that accumulates in the abdomen—belly fat—can secrete hormones related to heart disease and low testosterone. Excess body fat causes an enzyme called aromatase to convert testosterone into estrogen in the stomach, which can result in enlargement of a man’s breasts, also known as gynecomastia.
- Reduce intake of unhealthy carbohydrates that can contribute to weight gain. Examples of simple carbs include white bread, pizza, pasta, cookies and cake. Also eliminate added sugar and sugary beverages. The American Heart Association recommends that a man should consume no more than 36 grams or nine teaspoons of sugar a day.
- Become more physically active. It’s recommended to get in at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous exercise such as jogging, brisk walking, playing tennis or taking the stairs—anything that gets you up and moving.
- Limit alcohol. If a man is going to use alcohol, he needs to drink in moderation, which is defined as no more than two drinks per day—equivalent to a 12-ounce beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
- Reduce stress. Stress is inevitable, but it’s important to handle it properly. Have a plan on how to handle stress because the stress hormone cortisol suppresses the body’s ability to produce testosterone.
- Get enough sleep. Testosterone is produced during the deeper phases or sleep or REM sleep. Therefore, men who are sleep-deprived are also testosterone-deprived as well. Most adults require between 6-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Avoid opioids. One known side effect of this medication is disruption of normal hormone functioning including lowering testosterone production.
- Increase intake of zinc, vitamin D and healthy fats. Zinc is very important for testosterone production. Include foods rich in this mineral such as meats, nuts and fish. Vitamin D can naturally help keep testosterone levels where they should be. The sun is our main natural source of the vitamin, but foods sources that contain it include salmon, egg yolks, milk and tuna. A vitamin D supplement of 1,000-2,000 International Units (IU) a day is also advisable. Healthy fats are necessary for making testosterone. These all-important fats are found in foods such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, grass-fed beef and avocados.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, SamadiMD.com and Facebook