What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone that is responsible for sexual drive, function, and development. But testosterone does so much more. For men, testosterone plays a role in mood, energy level, hair growth, protein synthesis, muscle production, fat storage, red blood cell synthesis, and bone growth and strength, to name a few.
Courtesy: Infinity Medical Institute
What are the symptoms of low testosterone?
Low levels of testosterone can produce a variety of symptoms in men, including:
- decreased sex drive
- less energy
- weight gain
- feelings of depression
- low self-esteem
- less body hair
- thinner bones
Most men notice their energy level, motivation, and sex drive diminishing. While a gradual decrease in testosterone as we age is normal, low testosterone can happen to men at any age.
“Normal” vs. “Optimal” Testosterone
While anything greater than 300 ng/dL may be considered “normal” by your doctor, there is a big difference between “normal” and “optimal”. For someone in their 20’s, optimal testosterone should be in the 700-800 range. You may feel many of the symptoms listed above, seek medical treatment, and be told that your testosterone is “normal”, and be left with no solution. This is often due to the fact that insurance usually will not cover treatment for testosterone when it is not below this value. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be treated, or that treatment has to be expensive.
How do I raise my Testosterone?
The first step to increasing your testosterone should be a commitment to making some lifestyle changes that promote healthy testosterone levels. Obesity plays a large factor in low testosterone due to an enzyme called aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme that converts testosterone to estradiol, a form of estrogen. While it is found in many areas of the body, it is more densely located in fat cells, or adipose tissue. Obesity makes the aromatase enzyme more active, meaning more testosterone in your body is being converted, lowering your testosterone level. This also causes a higher estrogen level, which can lead to changes in mood, sex drive, and even gynecomastia, or the development of dense breast tissue in men. Other factors that increase the activity of aromatase include insulin, increasing age, and alcohol.
Healthy physical activity and a healthy diet has been shown to elevate testosterone levels, among the hundreds of other benefits it affords. While it may not solve the problem of low testosterone, it will help to ensure results from treatment are maximized, and side effects minimized.
Traditional treatment methods include providing your body with additional testosterone directly. This may include injections, topical gels, implanted pellets, or even oral supplementation. These treatments are very effective, because they directly increase your testosterone levels quickly. However, this does come with a down side. Because you are providing your body with testosterone from the outside, your body may “turn off” your own natural testosterone production because it isn’t needed. This means you are forever dependent on the external testosterone, and may cause atrophy (shrinking) of the testicles, as well as decreased fertility. If having children is still a possibility in your future plans, this could be a big problem.
There are other options, however, but you will not find these options offered in most medical offices. They are currently “off label,” meaning the medications are being used for a purpose that has not been specifically approved by the FDA. However, numerous studies have been done on these medications and they show it to be safe and effective. There are two medications that are useful in this way:
Clomiphene: This medication works by binding to estrogen receptors in the hypothalamus (a part of the brain), which increases the amount of gonadotropins released by the hypothalamus, namely leutinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone. These hormones are the messengers that tell your testicles to produce testosterone and sperm cells. It has been used in fertility treatments for a long time, and has been shown to be effective at increasing your own natural production of testosterone.
Aromatase Inhibitor: There are several different medications in this category. All of them work the same way: by bonding to the aromatase enzyme and preventing conversion of testosterone to estradiol. Often these medications are prescribed along with traditional testosterone treatment methods because a large increase in testosterone will mean a large increase in estrogen, which can cause side effects like gynecomastia and diminished sex drive. However, dropping your estrogen level too low will also result in diminished sex drive and energy levels. This is why proper dosing and a provider who is experienced with prescribing these medications is so important.
At Elite Medical Aesthetics, our provider, Shawn Whitfield FNP-C, is experienced and well versed in treating testosterone deficiency in all ages. However, having low testosterone is not an isolated problem because it has such far-reaching effects into so many aspects of your life and your health. This is why an experienced provider matters: treating the whole person, not just the numbers on the lab sheet, with the most up-to-date options, and at an affordable price. We provide free consultations for any of our services, and we take the time to listen to you, rather than rush you out the door.