How to Keep Your Body’s Four Most Important Hormones in Balance: Part Four – Testosterone.
This is the fourth and final part in my series that examines how our body’s four key hormones—cortisol, insulin, estrogen, and testosterone—all work in tandem to keep us balanced and healthy, as well as how to recognize and treat imbalances naturally through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes. PART ONE explains how CORTISOL, which, when out of balance, can have the biggest impact on the function of the body’s other three key hormones. PART TWO addressed INSULIN, which plays a vital role in our energy levels, weight maintenance, and can directly impact our sex hormones when out of balance. PART THREE tackled ESTROGEN—the female reproductive hormone that plays a vital role in our health whether we’re male or female. Part four of this series takes on testosterone. Though we typically associate this hormone with men, proper levels are important whether we’re male or female.
What does it do? Testosterone’s primary function is to keep the male reproductive system running smoothly, though it’s responsible for several other functions, including maintaining a healthy sex drive, promoting lean muscle mass, and improving confidence, assertiveness, and optimism in both sexes. Together with all-important cortisol, balanced levels of both hormones help to keep us calm, confident, and in the mood.
What causes an imbalance? Though naturally too-high levels of testosterone are possible, they are rare, and the main concern with testosterone imbalance is with levels that are too low. Just as with estrogen, when cortisol levels are too high, they can over-consume the resources needed to produce the proper amount of testosterone. Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes can also reduce testosterone in the body through the storage of excess visceral fat, which produces aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. Men also experience a version of menopause, called andropause, which can affect testosterone levels.
What are signs of an imbalance? In men, low testosterone will manifest itself in a sluggish sex drive, loss of muscle and an increase in body fat, decreased bone mass, depression, hair loss, and fatigue. In women, it will manifest much the same way, as well as through acne, muscle weakness, loss of period, and fertility problems. On the other end of the scale, those with too-high levels (typically caused by supplementation), will experience symptoms such as testicular atrophy, male breast enlargement (gynecomastia), and liver disease.
How can I boost my testosterone levels? As we’ve learned, balancing any of the body’s master hormones starts with lowering cortisol—meaning healthy stress management, regular exercise, and consistent, restful sleep. In addition to a balanced diet (long-term over- or under-eating can both be problematic), a daily 3000IU vitamin D supplement can also be beneficial. Research has shown that it can boost testosterone levels by about 25 percent.
Here are some other specific ways you can modify your plate—and your lifestyle—to restore testosterone levels:
• Through food: Boost the amount of healthy fats in your diet, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, pastured meat and eggs, and wild-caught fish. Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower have also been linked to lowering estrogen and increasing testosterone production in men. Finally, tuna, salmon, and sardines are all rich sources of testosterone-supporting vitamin D, as well as black, white, and kidney beans.
• Through exercise: Exercise in general has testosterone-boosting benefits, but exercise such as weight-lifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are considered some of the most effective testosterone boosters. Smart exercise is also an effective way to manage stress, thereby also reducing libido-killing high cortisol levels.
•• What You Should Avoid: Reduce stress by practicing self-care and by getting regular exercise. Cut cortisol-boosting caffeine and take a break from alcohol, as it can disrupt the delicate balance between estrogen and testosterone in your body. Be sure to limit your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as much as possible by avoiding plastic, heating food in plastic, and by reading labels on all your personal and home care products. Finally, avoid boosting testosterone through supplementation, as it can lead to the adverse side effects outlined above.
If you’ve followed along through this series, you should now have a much better understanding of how the body’s four master hormones all work together for optimal health. If you suspect you have a hormonal imbalance, contact me to see how we can work together to create an individual plan that will support your lifelong wellness.