I’m sure most of you out there have noticed the “is it low-T” commercial ads. The “T” is for Testosterone and defined as the male hormone that develops during puberty and maintains masculine characteristics throughout a man’s life. As men age testosterone levels tend to decline (hence “low”). We’ll first cover testosterone therapy and then the herbs that are known to increase, or influence testosterone production.
The questions most men ask, is one type of treatment better than the other, how safe is it and is it right for me?
I recall about a year ago seeing a commercial on one of the big 3 networks stations that promoted, “is it low-T” asking questions like, “feel like something’s missing, don’t have enough energy, or want more romance in your life?” “Seems harmless enough right? Could fixing a low-T condition be that simple? And is it for everyone?
Don’t be deceived by a great advertising spot that promotes a therapy and/or herb that offers a quick “safe” fix for your male symptomatic problems. Androgen (steroid hormone) therapy has been around for a long time. Whether or not this type of treatment is right for you can only be answered by a physician. And the doctors that your primary care physician should refer you to that specialize in hormone replacement therapy are known as an endocrine physician. An endocrinologist is a specially trained doctor that specialize in diagnosing glandular disease.
I’ve often cited though my writings, “there is no way man could ever make a chemical product that “wouldn’t” have a health risk associated with it. And just like weight loss diet formulas that promote fast results… when repeated too often will eventually ruin the body’s ability to lose weight naturally. Raising testosterone levels “when not needed” presents similar types of metabolic challenges and other health risks associated with its use if not supervised and applied correctly.
Let’s first understand why testosterone in a man’s body is important and what happens to its production during the aging process. Testosterone is produced by the testes and important for balanced metabolic body function, to build muscle, bone, lowering the voice and activates the sex drive and sperm production during puberty.
Science has confirmed that as a man age’s testosterone levels continue to drop after the age of 40, about 1-2% a year thereafter. These numbers appear to vary slightly depending on the study. As you age you should expect that your body will provide a proportionate amount of testosterone to maintain “healthy” male characteristics relative to age and throughout your life. This is part of the “healthy” aging process, or aging gracefully. There is no scientific evidence that shows by increasing testosterone levels for those that are “not low-T” or does not have an androgen deficiency that there will be a significant benefit.
There are a very “low” percentage of men that have lower than average low-T relative to age. For those that do have unusual low levels of testosterone, this is the demographic that often receive a “quality of life” benefit from hormone therapy treatment says Karen Herbst, PhD., M.D., (an endocrinologist with the University of CA).
Little is known about the long-term effects of low testosterone and increasing those levels to normal range. Science clearly understands that this hormone has an important connection to body weight and possibly cardiovascular health. In other words, increasing testosterone levels may or may not be of health benefit for those that suffer with the following medical conditions: osteoporosis – “thinning of bone,” diabetes, obesity, depression, heart health. Andre Araujo, PhD, epidemiologist and researcher says illness that causes high blood pressure and diabetes for example “could” be the cause of low testosterone. So for those that are diagnosed with low testosterone, some other illness, or disease may need to be treated first before the body can naturally elevate hormone levels.
Normal levels relative to age is important because a man’s overall health is dependent on these levels. If testosterone levels fall below 300 nanograms per deciliter of blood than the general recommendation is to regulate toward mid-normal range. This treatment can be accomplished through skin absorption patches, tablets, or injections. This therapy provides those with below average testosterone production a quality of life benefit, as opposed to those that didn’t receive treatment.
If you are diagnosed with androgen deficiency (no other illness, or disease is the cause of your low-T condition), you “may need” testosterone therapy for life to correct the condition. But if you start hormone therapy your testes will stop producing its own hormone. This occurs once you influence hormone production with an enhancer because your body self regulates to maintain normal hormone balances. Your body will gradually begin producing its own testosterone once you stop therapy to its previous levels.
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that testosterone therapy will be of benefit when not androgen deficient. As a matter of fact, medical science indicates many types of health problems may occur if one participates in hormone therapy without a screening and not under a doctor’s supervision. Also, you need to know that not all scientific data is in on the safety results of testosterone therapy.
However, Herbst states, “about 10% of men don’t get much of a response from therapy, while 90% see some sort of symptom improvement and 1 in 10 are ecstatic. It is also stated that most of the men in clinical studies state improvement to erectile dysfunction and sex drive. Primarily what these low-T marketers are selling is a quick fix for erectile dysfunction and sex drive.
Men diagnosed with the following conditions should absolutely not self administer, or participate “without supervision” in any type of testosterone enhancer program/product: men with metastatic prostate, or breast cancer. This is because too much testosterone can cause these cancers to grow. Other conditions that can be made worse when participating in testosterone therapy: if you suffer from sleep apnea, severe congestive heart failure, severe benign prostatic hypertrophy, or high red blood cell count (erythrocytosis).
Outside of clinical testosterone therapy there are many herbs marketed as treatment to improve libido and muscle strength as advertised by marketers. Beware, science tells us there are no known herbals that can be used to treat androgen deficiency. Only that the herbals mentioned below and many more like them can “influence” higher levels of testosterone production. These levels vary for each individual and relative to age. And even if you use these products there is no guarantee that you’ll receive a benefit and in fact may be predisposing yourself to illness and disease with similar findings related to androgen therapy health risks.
If you’re thinking about a low-T product, it is recommended you discuss suspected low-T symptoms with a doctor who specializes in anti-aging and hormone therapy to address your concerns. In this way you’ll ensure you’re not just trying various products that promise to: improve sexual performance, improve mood or memory, increase energy, lower cholesterol, build muscle, lose body fat, and/or reduce high blood pressure (and anything else these marketers promise you). If you know nothing about balancing hormones and you become sold on a product for which you now feel you are receiving a benefit; be suspicious and concerned and inquire about long-term use and health risks. Herbs seem harmless enough to many consumers, but it’s what you don’t know that can cause internal metabolic harm.
The most popular herbs sold in the market boast claims that their products influence testosterone production naturally and perceived to be safe. Four popular herbal enhancer products mixed into blends, or sold individually in high dose concentrations: Horny Goat Weed, Mucuna Pruriens, Tongkat Ali and Ginseng. If you want to know more about these herbal products, simply type the word into your Internet browser.
If you do not have a testosterone deficiency problem, it is not recommended you engage in influencing testosterone production without medical advisement and supervision. Simply put, it is wise to consult with your physician before you engage in any hormone therapy/enhancer program regardless of whether it’s chemically synthesized or a marketed herbal product.
Just from the shear fact each one of the herbs listed, including those that are not, stimulate the release of testosterone by influencing the pituitary gland and testes should raise concern. These hormonal metabolic functionalities within the body also have a huge influence on many other regulatory metabolic mechanisms. For example, to increase testosterone production without understanding the risks, especially if you have an undiagnosed medical condition could manifest itself into a chronic medical condition. However, as stated, it is also true that men need to be within a specific “safe” testosterone range to stay healthy. Being too low or too high appears to create unhealthy medical conditions and then disease risk for men.
The most common types of illness and disease may occur if testosterone levels are too high, or too low: rapid heartbeat and rhythm disturbances, anxiety, fatigue, overstimulation, irritability, restlessness, impatience, easily angered, increased blood pressure and body temperature. Additionally, some herbs can have adverse effects on those suffering from breast and prostate cancer; heart, kidney, diabetes mellitus, sleep apnea and liver disease and also weaken the immune system. Other side effects: nausea, diarrhea, nose bleeds, low blood pressure, breast pain, depressive mania when mixing product with antidepressants. Gross overdose: Seizures, convulsions and delirium.
Another question you should ask yourself; if you self administer how do you know you’re not too high in blood testosterone? Or low when you stop dosing, because the natural production of testosterone shuts down between starting and stopping doses? Manipulating the start and stop of self administering and producing natural body testosterone is hard on the metabolic mechanisms and overall health if not supervised correctly.
I stand by the statement I made at the beginning of this article. There is no way man could ever manipulate nature and create a quick results product that would not have some adverse health risk. To manipulate the physiology through “quick results” products is to potentially break the metabolism, thereby causing other ill-health conditions.
There is only one caveat to low-T therapy treatment for the sake of good health. That unless supervised by a medical doctor, I don’t believe the benefit of self treating would out weigh the potential health risks that may occur if not monitored. This is an important observation in caution since a “very low” percentage of men are actually diagnosed with androgen deficiency. Also, science simply doesn’t understand what damage will occur through long-term dosing especially “if not” androgen deficient because long-term statistics don’t yet exist.
Here is a simple example and something to think about if you’re administering low-T supplementation to enhance your sexual performance. If you acquire and use low-T enhancing products to fix a sexual dysfunction through a local distributor, or mail order, are you sure that some other ill-health problem is not the cause of your dysfunction and you’re not masking a circulatory/organ disease, or the dysfunction is not caused by another possible chemical reaction from diet, bad food, drug, etc., habit or prescription?
By administering an overriding circulatory enhancer to correct erectile dysfunction for example… How do you know you’re not masking a serious prostate, urethra, testicular disease? Unless you’re a specialist in hormone replacement therapy (endocrist), or an urologist (one who specializes in male/female urinary tracts), how can you be sure? The answer is you can’t. Millions of men will continue to put their health at risk because the market manipulators will not error on the side of caution. Instead, they’ll promote the benefits and down play the risks. Why’s that? Because it is a lucrative business model and is not illegal! Read “41 drugs to die for” and then you’ll be able to see the marketer “method-to-the-madness” for the sake of a buck.
If you do choose to self administer low-T products to resolve a problem, at a minimum pay attention to the side effects listed and get monitored by a doctor. If you or your loved ones note aggressive personality changes, or any of the listed side effects, immediately consult your doctor.
Woodard, M.T. 41 Drugs to Die for. Mirror Athlete Fitness Secrets. Oct 24, 2010. http://www.mirrorathlete.com/2010/10/24/41-drugs-to-die-for/
Woodard, M.T. Aging Gracefully is it Possible? Mirror Athlete Fitness Secrets. Oct 25, 2008. http://www.mirrorathlete.com/2008/10/25/mirror-athlete-enterprises-health-blog-aging-gracefully/
Ezinearticles. Low Testosterone Levels – A Combination of 4 Herbs to Increase Levels Naturally and Quickly. http://ezinearticles.com/?Low-Testosterone-Levels—A-Combination-of-4-Herbs-to-Increase-Levels-Naturally-and-Quickly&id=1509055
Andrology Australia. Australian Centre of Excellence in Male Reproductive Health. http://www.andrologyaustralia.org/pageContent.asp?pageCode=LOWTESTREPLACE
Hoffman, M., MD. Low Testosterone Explained: How Do You Know When Levels are Too Low? WebMD. http://men.webmd.com/features/low-testosterone-explained-how-do-you-know-when-levels-are-too-low
Mayo Clinic. Testosterone therapy: Key to Male Vitality. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/testosterone-therapy/MC00030
Blackman MR, Sorkin JD, Munzer T, et al. Growth hormone and sex steroid administration in healthy aged women and men: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2002; 288:2282-2292
HormoneTherapyNetwork. A Nationwide Network. http://www.hormonetherapynetwork.com/?k=testosterone
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2012 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.