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Testosterone Tweaks for Men & Women

Testosterone Tweaks for Men & Women

In the television commercials, men with salt-and-pepper hair drive speedboats and make bedroom eyes at their ladies while a narrator asks, “Do you have a decreased sex drive? Lack of energy? Moodiness? The problem may be low testosterone.”

These direct-to-consumer ads are a drug-industry triumph. Since 2000, the number of American men using supplemental testosterone products, such as AndroGel, Axiron, and Fortesta, has nearly quadrupled.

Testosterone (“T” for short) is now a $2.4 billion industry. The explosive growth is due, in part, to easier delivery options, such as gels and roll-ons, as well as treatment centers that supply injections.

But there’s more to this story. “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” warns Bradley Anawalt, MD, an endocrinologist and chief of medicine at University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

He heads the Hormone Health Network, the public-education arm of the Endocrine Society, which releases clinical guidelines for testosterone therapy.

“These commercials try to convince men that there is something wrong with them,” Anawalt says. “But men need to remember that drug companies are there to make a profit.”

Recent research into the safety of testosterone therapy has yielded mixed results. One study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, showed no adverse effects. Other studies, however, have shown an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The findings prompted the FDA to start investigating the safety of testosterone products. (The FDA findings are forthcoming.)

Male testosterone levels drop 1 to 2 percent annually after age 30 as part of andropause, or male menopause. But recent studies have found that the decrease is often more the result of lifestyle factors than it is the natural consequence of aging.

A common risk factor for low testosterone is being overweight. And nearly 70 percent of American men are overweight or obese.

For every one-point increase in body mass index, or BMI, it turns out, a man’s testosterone decreases by 2 percent. That’s bad because testosterone calibrates libido, bone density, muscle mass, strength, motivation, memory, and fat burning.

The good news, says fitness expert Adam Bornstein, coauthor of Man 2.0: Engineering the Alpha, is that testosterone is quite sensitive to lifestyle changes, and men rarely need a prescription to boost their T levels. Using lifestyle fixes instead of supplemental T, Bornstein says, is like fixing up a broken engine versus simply putting different fuel in it.

Anawalt, who routinely sees men in his practice lose a few pounds, feel better, and increase their testosterone naturally, agrees.

“More often than not,” he says, “healthy living is the solution.”

Weight loss is a good place to start, but it’s not the only avenue to upping your testosterone. Read on to find out how to harness your body’s power to make more T.



1. Lose the Visceral Fat

The science is clear: Men’s body fat drains testosterone. We’re not talking pinchable back fat or squishable love handles. We’re talking classic belly fat. In medical parlance, it’s called visceral fat. Unlike fat that lies just beneath the surface of the skin, visceral fat nestles deep in the abdomen around the organs. It’s tenacious, dangerous, and hormonally active. The more visceral fat a man has, the higher his risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, insulin resistance, and colon cancer.

Visceral fat, which is often driven by consumption of flour, sugar, and the high-glycemic processed foods that contain them, depletes testosterone. Visceral fat makes aromatase, an enzyme that turns testosterone into estrogen. “Men don’t realize their belly fat can steal their masculinity,” says John La Puma, MD, author of Refuel.

“I talk to men about how they need to lower their cholesterol and reduce their blood pressure,” he says. “But I don’t get their full attention until I tell them that if they don’t let me help them address their belly fat, their testicles will shrink, they’ll lose their erections, and their libido will disappear.”

If you’re wondering if your weight could be affecting your manhood, wrap a tape measure around your abdomen under your shirt, right at your belly button. Check the number. Ideally, your waist size is half your height. If your waist is more than 40 inches, says La Puma, “your belly could be turning you into a girl.”

2. Up Your Vitamin D

Deficient vitamin D levels often go hand in hand with low testosterone. Get 15 minutes of sun three times a week to stabilize your vitamin D. If you can’t get enough sun, many experts suggest taking at least 1,000 to 2,000 international units (IU) of supplemental vitamin D daily. For best results, take vitamin D3, which is more active than D2.

Remember, megadoses of vitamin D can cause toxicity, so don’t get carried away. It’s always a good idea to know your current vitamin D levels, so ask your doctor for a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test.

3. Eat More Zinc

Our bodies need zinc to make testosterone. Zinc also blocks the action of aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. Oysters offer the highest amount of zinc per serving of any food. Just six oysters contain about 500 percent of the mineral’s recommended daily allowance (RDA). Other zinc-rich foods include lean meats and spinach.

4. Crunch on Cruciferous Vegetables

Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, watercress, and cauliflower are rich sources of glucobrassicin, which breaks down into a substance that lowers levels of visceral fat and suppresses estrogen in men.

5. Choose Healthy Fats and Proteins

Cholesterol is the building block of testosterone, and eating healthy fats, including saturated fats, helps your body make “good” cholesterol while also supporting healthy hormone balance. Give your body a dose of healthy fats and proteins by consuming moderate amounts of meats from hormone-free animals, grassfed cattle, and wild-caught fish. Nosh on healthy-fat sources such as olives, nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconut oil.

6. Consume Hot Chilies

Not only do spicy chilies and hot-chili powder help the body burn fat, they also contain high levels of antioxidants, which can cool inflammation.

Inflammation sets the stage for belly fat and insulin resistance, which precedes type 2 diabetes. Other anti-inflammatory spices include turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and oregano.

7. Do High-Intensity Interval Training

Short bursts of timed intense activity — known as high-intensity interval training or HIIT — trigger the body to make more testosterone than less-than-intense aerobic or endurance exercise, says La Puma. Spurts of activity stimulate androgen-sensitive tissue, he explains, which tells the body to make more testosterone. Strength training has also been shown to increase testosterone.

8. Get Better, Longer Sleep

Our bodies make testosterone while we sleep. In one study, men who got five hours of sleep a night had testosterone levels 10 to 15 percent lower than when they got a solid eight hours. The study, conducted by the University of Chicago, found that skimping on sleep reduced the men’s T levels by an amount equivalent to aging 10 or more years. While it can be challenging to change your sleep habits, says Natasha Turner, ND, you can “start going to bed 15 minutes earlier each week until you reach your target time.”

9. Stop Using Screens at Night

Backlit computer screens use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that contain short-wavelength blue light. This light significantly suppresses the pineal gland’s release of melatonin, an essential ingredient for restful sleep, and thus, for testosterone. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops are all offenders, so turn them off as close to dusk as possible.

10. Clean Up Your Personal-Care Products

Most men probably don’t give a lot of thought to the chemicals in their soap, shampoo, and deodorant, but many personal-care products are rife with chemicals that interfere with hormone balance, including testosterone.

Check the Environmental Working Group’s searchable database to find out whether your products are safe. The database rates personal-care products, including those specifically for men, with scores for overall hazard, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and
allergies and immunotoxicity.


While many men experience the negative effects of too little testosterone, women tend to suffer from a surplus of the stuff.


Contrary to popular belief, women do make — and need — testosterone. A part of the androgen family of hormones, testosterone does many of the same things for women that it does for men: builds muscle and bone strength, aids immune function, and stokes the libido.

The difference boils down to quantity. On any average day, a woman makes about 250 micrograms of testosterone, while a man typically makes 10 to 20 times that.

Although they produce far less of it, “women’s bodies are exquisitely sensitive to testosterone, especially when it comes to emotional well-being and assertiveness,” says Sara Gottfried, MD, author of The Hormone Cure. “Androgens are the biochemical underpinnings of dominance and desire.” (For more from Sara Gottfried, see “Stress Buster“.)

Unlike men, who are apt to feel the effects of low testosterone, women tend to suffer from high testosterone (though they, too, can have low testosterone levels). “Excess androgens — including testosterone — is one of the top hormonal imbalances I see in my practice,” says Gottfried.

In women, signs of too much testosterone include acne, excess pubic and facial hair, and a deepening voice. (Too little may manifest itself as a lack of confidence and libido.)

Women in menopause can have high testosterone levels, says Erin Lommen, ND, a naturopath in Portland, Ore. During menopause, especially early in the process, testosterone often remains steady while estrogen and progesterone plunge due to the stopping of ovarian production, she explains.

Young women also struggle with high testosterone. “What we’ve come to understand in the last 10 years is that younger women may be making too much testosterone in response to blood-sugar imbalances,” says Lommen.

It’s easy to forget that insulin is also a member of the hormonal milieu, and if insulin goes awry, so does everything else. During insulin resistance, the body’s cells ignore insulin’s call to mop up sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. This stimulates the ovaries to make more testosterone.

That excess insulin also makes the liver produce less sex-hormone-binding globulin, the key protein that binds testosterone and keeps it from causing trouble, says Gottfried.

Approximately 82 percent of women with excess androgens also have polycystic ovary syndrome, the No. 1 cause of infertility. “The good news is that this type of infertility is easily reversible once we get the hormones balanced,” Gottfried says.

If you struggle with high testosterone, you have more control than you think. Here are a few places to start.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. In this sense, men and women are alike: Losing excess weight is a great way to balance testosterone levels. Even a 5 percent weight reduction can normalize hormone levels for women, says Gottfried.
  • Cut flour, sugar, and all refined carbs. One study showed that women can reduce androgenic hormones (including testosterone) by up to 20 percent by eating a diet low in refined carbs and rich in low-glycemic foods, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and phytoestrogens. Cut sugar, too: “Sugar is a big factor in excess androgens,” Gottfried says.
  • Add fiber. If testosterone hangs around too long in the gut, the body picks it back up and returns it into circulation, which adds to overall levels. The solution? Eat more fiber. Testosterone clings to fiber like cat hair on a sweater: The more fiber you eat, the more testosterone you excrete.
  • Avoid dairy. All dairy is laden with hormones. Even milk from the happiest, most chemical-free cows on the planet is hormone-rich because lactating cows are producing milk for their calves to help them grow. These natural bovine hormones are capable of disrupting our bodies’ natural balance.

Another strike against dairy is that milk and cheese can drive up inflammation, which leads to higher androgens, says Gottfried. She suggests cutting out dairy for six weeks to see if symptoms related to high testosterone improve.

Leesa recommends all your food choices be organic!

By Katharine Guthrie, ExperienceLife.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Experience Life is the best whole-life health and fitness magazine you’ve never heard of — until now!  We aim to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenge the conventions of hype, gimmicks, and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit to explore 10-plus years of archives, to sign up for our newsletters, and to subscribe to our print or digital editions. Promoted Content


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12 Natural Remedies that Boost Hair Growth

12 Natural Remedies that Boost Hair Growth


Hair loss affects both men and women.  While genetics plays a role,  there are other factors, including:  hormonal imbalances, an underactive  thyroid gland, nutrient deficiencies and insufficient scalp circulation.   Here are 12 natural remedies that can help boost hair growth:

Cut back on meat: Hormonal imbalances are a primary culprit  in hair loss.  Japanese researchers also link excessive sebum production in  the scalp to high levels of 5-alpha reductase.  Their research indicated  that animal fat intake may increase sebum production.

Add the herb saw palmetto: A study in the Journal of  Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported that saw palmetto (serenoa  repens) may increase hair growth in men.  Hair growth improved in men  taking 400 mg of a standardized extract of saw palmetto and 100 mg of  beta-sitosterol (from saw palmetto) daily.  Historically, saw palmetto has  been used by herbalists for hair loss in both men and women.

Address a possible underactive thyroid gland  (hypothyroidism) which can cause thinning hair:  Add sea vegetables like  kelp, nori, dulse, kombu and wakame, all of which are rich in iodine may be  helpful to balance this condition.  Avoid drinking tap water since it  typically contains fluorine and chlorine, two chemicals that inhibit iodine  absorption.  You may also want to supplement with 100 mg or 1 mL of the  herb bladderwrack (focus vesiculosus) daily.  Work with a qualified  holistic health care professional if you suspect a sluggish thyroid gland.

Get enough essential fatty acids:  Essential fatty  acids from walnuts, flaxseeds, fish and avocado are also important for healthy  hair.

Boost bioton: Biotin encourages hair and scalp health.   Dietary sources of biotin include: nuts, brown rice and oats.

Boost keratin production with MSM: Methylsulfonylmethane  aids in the production of keratin (a protein in the hair) while doing  double-duty to strengthen hair follicles.  In one study 100 percent of  people who supplemented with MSM showed reduced hair loss and increased growth  in only six weeks.

Rejuvenate hair follicles with B-complex vitamins: 100 mg  daily of a B-complex supplement that includes biotin and vitamin B6 can reduce  hair thinning by increasing scalp circulation and rejuvenating hair  follicles.

Rev up collagen production with vitamin C: Collagen  surrounds the hair strands but as we age collagen breaks down, causing hair to  be more vulnerable to breaking.  The best way to boost collagen is not  through some expensive medical procedure, it’s by getting more vitamin C.   Foods high in vitamin C include: citrus fruits, strawberries and red  peppers.  Supplementing with 250 mg daily can help boost collagen  production which has the added bonus of reducing wrinkling.

Prevent breakage with vitamin E: Vitamin E is required to  nourish damaged hair and to prevent breakage.  It aids the body’s ability  to manufacture keratin within hair strands to reduce breakage.   Supplementing with 400 IU of vitamin E can be helpful to restore locks.

Eat foods rich in iron: Iron is also essential for hair  growth and can be found in blackstrap molasses, green leafy vegetables, leeks,  cashews, dried fruits, figs, and berries.  To help your body absorb iron,  you’ll need enough vitamin C.

Give your hair a mineral boost: The minerals silica and zinc  are also critical for hair growth.  Take 500 mg of silica two times daily  and 30 mg of zinc once daily.

Boost scalp circulation with rosemary essential oil:  Rosemary essential oil has been traditionally used to increase circulation to  the scalp.  Add a few drops per dollop of shampoo or, better yet, add a few  drops of rosemary to coconut oil and massage your scalp regularly.

By Micheelle Schoffro Cook

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international  best-selling and 14-time book author and doctor of traditional natural medicine,  whose works include: 60 Seconds  to Slim, Healing Recipes, The  Vitality Diet, Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body Detox, The  Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan,  and The Phytozyme Cure.  Check out her natural health resources and  subscribe to her free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News at  to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more.


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