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March 10, 2022 4 min read

You’ve worked hard to get where you’re at. Through your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s you’ve pushed through fitness barriers, learned how to eat clean, prioritized rest and recovery, and moved confidently through work and social spaces. Somewhere along the way, though, did things start to feel different?

Not as much energy or motivation during a workout? Slower to recover? Foggy at work or tired even with adequate sleep? It could be low testosterone (Low-T).

Low-T, also called Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome, hypogonadism, or andropause, is defined as insufficient levels of circulating testosterone (typically measured by blood testing). There are a wide range of symptoms a man might experience that would lead himself or a provider to suspect Low-T? Some of these are fairly well known, others may surprise you:

  • Weight gain, especially abdominal, that can’t be explained by changes in eating or activity levels
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Insomnia (inability to fall or stay asleep) or hypersomnolence (sleeping too much)
  • Brain fog or poor mental clarity and lack of focus
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of enjoyment of activities one used to enjoy
  • Reduced semen production
  • Reduced beard or body hair growth
  • Loss of libido or changes in sexual function
  • Hot flashes or sweating at night
  • Thinning of bones and/or increased bone fracture risk

Does “Natural” Mean Inevitable?

In midlife and beyond, male bodies will begin to experience a natural reduction in testosterone levels (as women do with estrogen). On average, total testosterone begins to drop at a rate of 1-1.5% per year from the mid-30’s until the 80’s. For men in their 60’s, around 20% will meet diagnostic criteria for Low-T. That number will rise to about 50% by their 80’s

Though age-related changes may be natural, you can see from the above statistics that not EVERY man will experience Low-T. Which group do you want to be in? Even if you have no current complaints about your strength, stamina or libido, testosterone’s value extends beyond typical masculinizing effects. Many systems and processes are regulated by testosterone, including:

  • Focus and mental clarity
  • Stress tolerance
  • Emotional regulation
  • Metabolism and healthy fat distribution
  • Healthy muscles and bones
  • Production of red blood cells

Older man doing push ups on rings in a park

Time to See Your Provider?

If you have any of the above fits for you, what should be done next? Visit with a provider about a well-rounded workup for testosterone deficiency. In my practice, as a Naturopathic Doctor, this includes far more than just testing testosterone. Other imbalances in the body can create very similar symptoms or may be the actual cause of testicular underfunctioning, like thyroid dysfunction, insulin resistance or pre-diabetes/diabetes, clinical depression, Vitamin D deficiency, cardiovascular disease or autoimmunity. Certain prescription medications can also cause similar symptoms (side-effects), like blood pressure lowering drugs and some antidepressants. Identifying the cause of your symptoms is a critical step in implementing an appropriate corrective or management strategy.

It is also beneficial to know there are a number of lifestyle factors (things within your own control) that have been shown to impair testosterone production, long before decline might naturally happen:

  • Obesity (especially abdominal)
  • Cigarette use
  • Moderate-to-heavy Cannabis use
  • Unmanaged STRESS
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Lack of adequate nutrition, like zinc, magnesium and vitamin D
  • Heavy exposure to environmental chemicals, like herbicides, heavy metals and soft plastics

Herbs You Need To Know About:

So, can herbs & supplements actually help support testosterone levels and improve a man’s health overall? First things first - identifying the cause is still necessary. Taking herbs without making appropriate lifestyle changes and completing a medical workup can be likened to putting an adhesive bandage on a severed limb. The expectation for herbs/supplements to fix everything without putting the work in otherwise is unrealistic, especially if there is a specific underlying condition that requires attention. When you commit yourself TO YOUR HEALTH then, yes, herbs can help you get there!

Tongkat Ali on a white background

Allow me to introduce Eurycoma longifolia, also known as Tongkat Ali or LJ100R. You may not have heard of this powerhouse herb house before, but based on the findings of a recently published study in Food and Nutrition Research, this impressive herb has demonstrated the ability to increase serum total testosterone, minimize fatigue and improve quality of life in 50 to70-year-old men in just two weeks time!

Many herbs have robust traditional and clinical application, but may lack validation by today’s standard forms of scientific research. Tongkat Ali is an exception to this, having both strong historical usage AND supportive medical literature.

In addition to Tongkat Ali, herbs like Ashwagandha, Tribulus terrestris, Maca, Horny Goat Weed and Fenugreek have grown in popularity in the men’s health world in recent years, and for good reason! When used appropriately, most herbs have excellent safety profiles and often support more than one body system at a time. For something like gradual age-associated testosterone decline, herbs with broad and encompassing supportive effects, like those discussed here, are a good match!

As always, please take the necessary precautions before adding supplementation to your health and wellness regimen.

This blog was written by Dr. Stephanie Nishek, please click here to learn more about the author.