Testosterone is a male hormone that plays a vital role in men’s sexual and reproductive function, as well as contributes to muscle mass, hair growth, bone density, red blood cell production, and even emotional wellness. When men hit approximately 30 years old, their testosterone levels begin to naturally decrease. While this is a normal part of the aging process, men with decreased testosterone are at a higher risk for hair loss, prostate enlargement, and cancer.
While testosterone naturally declines due to over activity of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, which converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) widespread chemical exposure and environmental toxins can cause a decline in testosterone as early as childhood; even kids are harbouring the implications of testosterone decline.
The good news is that there are steps we can take to limit our exposure to toxins and boost our testosterone levels naturally. By educating ourselves on which chemicals to look out for, we can make better and more informed choices that help us stay healthy.
How do environmental toxins cause testosterone decline?
The endocrine system (a collection of glands that produce hormones) is disrupted by environmental toxins such as personal hygiene products, chemical cleaners and contraceptive drugs. These are all endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that we unknowingly ingest as they eventually appear in our food and drinking water. These chemicals even have the power to cause men to take on feminine qualities due to the way it negatively affects testosterone production.
What chemicals should I look out for?
- Phthalates: this chemical is often found in plastics, detergents, soaps, deodorants, shampoos, plastic bags and food packaging and wreaks havoc on male hormones and reproductive health. Phthalates disrupt the enzyme needed to create testosterone.
- Bisphenol-A (BPA): also common in plastic products, BPA can affect fetal development and increases hormone imbalance in both men and women.
- Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) - A potential carcinogen commonly used in water - and grease-resistant food coatings.
- MSG: this food additive can impact fertility and reproductive health.
- Contraceptives: these products contain synthetic hormones that your body doesn’t know how to detoxify properly, which can lead to chronic illnesses.
How do I limit my exposure to environmental toxins?
- Stop using teflon: EDCs can leach into your food from this material. Instead, use ceramic cookware.
- Stop eating canned foods: cans are lined with a sealant full of BPAs, which is a powerful EDC.
- Use natural products: opt for natural and toxin-free detergents, soaps, shampoos, conditioners and cleaners.
- Eat organic: Many foods are laden with the chemicals discussed above. Instead, choose organic.
How do I boost my testosterone levels?
- Zinc: research shows that supplementing with zinc can improve testosterone levels. Try incorporating zinc-rich foods into your diet, such as oysters, meat, fish, beans, and fermented foods like kefir.
- Vitamin D: vital for men’s health, vitamin D helps maintain semen quality and sperm count, as well as improve your libido. I recommend getting safe sun exposure and supplementing with vitamin D3.
- Tribulus-terrestris: this leaf extract may gently stimulate the normal production of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland. This may lead the body to maintain testosterone at healthy levels.
- Saw palmetto (Serenoarepens): the fat-soluble extract of the fruit of the saw palmetto tree and has been shown to significantly diminish the signs and symptoms of prostate enlargement by blocking the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into DHT (the stronger and more potent form of testosterone).
- Exercise: short, high-intensity exercise has a positive effect on testosterone levels.
- Reduce your stress: when we’re under stress, our body goes into fight or flight mode. When we’re in this sympathetic nervous system, our body produces a stress hormone called cortisol, which blocks the production of testosterone. I recommend incorporating daily, stress-reducing practices such as getting outside, meditating, practicing yoga, or doing something creative.
- Get enough sleep: poor sleep can lower testosterone levels. Practice healthy sleep habits by going to bed earlier, avoiding excess caffeine and alcohol, and limiting screen time.
If you’re still wondering how to keep your testosterone at its most optimal level, visit your local Naturopathic Doctor to create a diet and lifestyle plan.