Low-Testosterone: What You Can Do

Man and wife
By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

So-called “Low-T” treatments are the latest infomercial minefield on late night TV. According to those infomercials, you can also learn how to stop the aging process, melt pounds away, grow hair back where you want it and cure all your ills, but boosting “stamina,” is all the rage. And fixing your gosh darn Low-T can do all this for you and more! Sound too good to be true? As with most health hyperbole, buyer beware.

Before we jump into our list of sexy foods, let’s take a closer look at the root cause of the issue.

What is “Low-T?”

Low-T is a catchy and more marketable way to say low testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone produced by the sex glands, mainly the testes in men, credited with sex drive, aggression, metabolism, bone density, facial and body hair, muscle strength and muscle mass, red blood cell production and sperm production. It’s essentially an “anti-aging” hormone. Testosterone production in men also involves the pituitary gland in the brain, which directs the testes to make the hormone. Issues with low testosterone can be primary (a problem in the testes) or secondary (signaling issues involving the brain).

By the way: Testosterone isn’t just found in men. Women make some too; very small amounts are released into the bloodstream from adrenal glands and ovaries.

Signs of low testosterone:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Decrease in body or facial hair
  • Reduction in muscle mass
  • Bone loss
  • Fatigue
  • Lower sex drive
  • Hot flashes
  • Trouble concentrating

Causes of Low Testosterone

Reduced levels of testosterone occur naturally with age but is now seen as a disorder in our perfection-focused, youth-driven culture.

These days however, Low-T doesn’t just happen with time in older men. There are legitimate concerns about premature reduction in testosterone in younger men, and our modern lifestyle is likely to blame for the rising prevalence in this age group.

In fact, fluctuations in testosterone are normal, and often part of a temporary condition.

Causes may include:

  • Genetic syndromes
  • Infections
  • Injury
  • Blood disorders like hemochromatosis (too much iron)
  • Inflammatory diseases like sarcoidosis and tuberculosis
  • Medication side effects
  • Cancer treatments
  • Obesity
  • Significant physical or emotional stress
  • Untreated sleep apnea

Low-T can be treatable and reversible in many cases, especially when the underlying cause can be remedied. For example, treating an infection, losing weight or working with a therapist on emotional stress.

To find out if you have “Low-T,” ask your doctor for a blood test (hey now I sound like that infomercial!) But seriously, ask your doctor for blood tests before popping supplements or other commercial products which can carry serious risks.

For example, DHEA and other dietary supplements sold as “natural” male hormones can carry serious risks although they may also offer benefits. Research remains inconclusive. Besides the unregulated supplement market in the US, which leaves the door wide-open for ineffective products, these pills may be risky in certain individuals with specific risk factors they may not be aware of. For example, cases of aggressive prostate cancer have been linked to “natural steroid” hormone use, as supplements purchased without a prescription, over the counter.

What can you do to support a healthy sex drive?

  • Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables and other plant foods. Men who eat a plant-based diet have a greater shot at fertility. Actually, the antioxidants from foods can help support faster swimming sperm. Go, guys, go!
  • Include maca root. Maca is often sold as a superfood in health-food stores, and has immune-supportive, mood-enhancing and natural detoxification nutrients as a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. Maca, sold as a powder, may help boost fertility, sexual desire and overall well-being in men with mild erectile dysfunction. Try maca in your next smoothie.
  • Eat anti-aging superfoods instead of reaching for fountain-of-youth supplements. Try this Anti-Aging Beet Grape Juice.
  • Get moving. Working out is a great way to build and maintain muscle mass and boost mood. Strength training and a balanced, plant-based diet is best, no need to load up on loads of meat and artificial protein powders to build bulk and brawn. And don’t forget there’s plenty of protein in plant foods Hard work, sleep, proper nutrition and clean eating can get you looking and feeling your best.
  • Lose weight. Building a well-balanced weight loss plan, if you are overweight, is crucial for helping you physically and emotionally when it comes to a healthy sex life.
  • Connect with others. Isolation can contribute to depression, a risk factor for Low-T.
  • Have fun with your partner. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. The more time you make for intimacy, the happier you’ll be. You can thank my husband for this one!
  • Don’t forget about self-love, and yes I mean that in more ways than one. Being kind and practicing self-compassion is also important for a healthy sex life.
  • Practice mindfulness and other stress relief activities.
  • Visit your doctor regularly for well visits.

What are your favorite foods and tips for a happy and healthy sex life?

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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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