Testosterone Supplements for Men May Produce Dangerous Side Effects
The hormone testosterone is present in both women and men, though women only have around seven percent as much testosterone as men. Maintaining normal testosterone levels is very important for a man to stay healthy. Produced mostly in the testicles, testosterone is responsible for many bodily processes including sperm production, libido, muscle mass, red blood cell production, growth of facial and body hair, fat distribution and bone density.
Signs of Low Testosterone Levels
If a man doesn't have enough testosterone, it is likely that this will manifest as a noticeable symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of low testosterone include:
- Sexual problems, including infertility, reduced libido and difficulty getting or maintaining an erection.
- Mental and emotional changes, such as loss of self-confidence, loss of motivation, depression, poor memory and difficulty concentrating.
- Physical changes, including less energy, increased body fat, reduced muscle mass or strength and body hair loss.
- Insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
Given that these symptoms are noticeable and unpleasant, it should come as no surprise that many men with low testosterone attempt to replace their missing hormones with testosterone therapy. But, is testosterone therapy the best option in all cases?
Is Testosterone Therapy Right for You?
In America alone, millions of men are currently taking the hormone testosterone in the form of pills, injections or gels. The testosterone therapy industry has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Annual sales of prescription testosterone doubled from 2008 to 2012, to $1.6 billion, and analysts predict that this will rise to a startling $5 billion by 2017. However, this trend is not ideal. Many men think that taking testosterone is the solution to their problems, but experts believe that it is not necessary for most of the men who take it. Testosterone supplements are easily abused, especially by bodybuilders and other athletes.
Testosterone therapy is best suited to men who have actually been diagnosed with hypogonadism, a disease that prevents the body from producing normal amounts of sex hormones. Hypogonadism can be due to a problem with the pituitary gland, which controls the testicles, or due to a problem with the testicles themselves. The effects of hypogonadism are more severe than the effects of normal age-related testosterone loss.
It is not advisable to take hormones in an attempt to combat the testosterone decline caused by normal aging. After age 30 or 40, testosterone levels drop by about one percent each year. Some men experience more of a decline than others. However, experts are not convinced of the benefits of testosterone therapy for men who are generally healthy. If your testosterone levels have declined simply due to age, you can boost your hormone levels naturally and avoid the severe side effects that testosterone therapy can bring about.
Negative Side Effects of Testosterone Supplements
The FDA reports that taking supplements that contain testosterone can have a variety of negative health effects, especially if you take a higher dose than your body needs. Taking a higher dose than you need is very likely to occur if you use testosterone therapy and have not actually been diagnosed with hypogonadism by your doctor.
Known side effects and health risks of testosterone supplements include:
- personality changes, such as aggression or hostility
- liver toxicity
- worsening of sleep apnea
- benign prostatic hyperplasia
- increased risk of heart attack
- increased risk of heart failure
- increased risk of stroke
- increased risk of blood clot-related conditions
- withdrawal symptoms after stopping hormone therapy
How to Boost Testosterone Naturally
If your testosterone levels have declined due to age, you should avoid taking extra hormones. Instead, there are steps you can take to naturally stimulate your body's production of its own hormones. First, you can boost testosterone with healthy lifestyle measures. Having excess fat will decrease your testosterone levels and increase estrogen levels, so it's important to manage your weight through diet and exercise. Eating a healthy diet and getting all the nutrients you need is also important for hormone balance. Exercise not only lowers your weight, but it increases testosterone, especially weightlifting or another activity that builds muscle mass. Lastly, studies have shown that sleep deprivation contributes to low testosterone, so prioritize getting plenty of sleep.
Combine these lifestyle measures with natural supplements that can help support healthy testosterone levels and combat the symptoms of low testosterone. Some examples of effective supplements include:
- Zinc, a nutrient that your body needs to make testosterone.
- L-arginine, which can support healthy blood flow, promoting increased energy and healthy erections.
- Maca, which supports healthy hormone levels for both men and women and can boost libido independent of testosterone levels.
- Panax ginseng and gingko biloba, both of which help boost energy and sex drive.