In This Article
In This Article
Testosterone is a hormone your body produces mainly in the sex organs (testicles or ovaries). But a tiny amount of testosterone is also produced in your adrenal glands, which sit atop each kidney.
Testosterone influences many bodily functions, including regulating your:
It’s entirely normal for testosterone production to decrease as you age.1 However, excessively low testosterone levels can trigger various symptoms and health risks, such as erectile dysfunction, fatigue, and irritability.
There are many treatment options for low testosterone. But some people prefer to address the issue first through healthy lifestyle choices.
Testosterone is a type of androgen or sex hormone. Males naturally produce testosterone, but females have it, too, although in smaller quantities.
Testosterone is made in both the testicles and the ovaries. Several essential bodily functions depend on the level of testosterone.
“Testosterone is a hormone primarily for sexual differentiation in males. It is also responsible for sperm production and fertility,” explains our in-house medical expert, Dr. Rizza Mira.
Testosterone plays several essential roles in the body, including the following:
Although testosterone encourages the development of some critical male characteristics, it isn’t exclusively significant to men's body functions.
Testosterone also impacts women’s health. It helps stimulate ovarian functions, support bone strength, and regulate sexual drive (although there isn’t enough conclusive proof about this).2
A low testosterone or low T is a condition wherein the testicles don’t produce sufficient testosterone. It’s also called male hypogonadism.
“Primary hypogonadism arises from problems in the testicles itself. Secondary hypogonadism results from problems in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland,” says Dr. Mira.
If your testicles continue to produce less testosterone than average, your blood testosterone levels will drop. Men may develop testosterone deficiency due to the following reasons:
Testosterone levels gradually decline with age, but you can try different ways to slow down this process. Follow these measures to increase your testosterone naturally.
Regular exercise helps improve many aspects of your health. It can lower your risk of lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes and obesity.
Exercise is also one of the most effective natural ways to enhance your body’s testosterone level.
A study shows an exercise program can be more beneficial than taking additional testosterone. The study involved middle-aged to older men with low to normal testosterone levels.6
All types of exercise help increase testosterone levels, but two types of exercise are more effective:
HIIT involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise alternated with low-intensity rest periods.7
Many health problems originate from poor nutrition, which can also lead to an imbalance of hormones. Your diet can profoundly influence your testosterone levels.
A well-balanced and healthy diet is essential for overall health and can help optimize your testosterone. Some foods that can improve your testosterone are:
Stress is your body’s natural reaction to any demand or threat. But too much stress can affect many aspects of your health, including physical and mental well-being.
Do you know what happens in your body when you’re in stressful situations? Your nervous system releases a massive amount of two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol.
These two hormones are part of what is commonly known as your “fight or flight” response. It is a stress reaction that prepares your body for emergencies.
Your cortisol level can fluctuate throughout the day. They’re typically highest in the morning and lowest at night.
However, your cortisol level can remain elevated when you are constantly under stress. This can lead to chronic stress.
Elevated cortisol levels can wreak havoc in your body. It can interfere with different functions, including testosterone production.
It can suppress testosterone’s effects, leading to symptoms of low testosterone.8
Stress management can lessen the adverse effects stress can have on testosterone production.
One of the best ways to manage your stress levels is to identify your stressors. By doing so, you can develop an effective coping strategy.
Other ways that also work for stress management include:
Vitamin D is not only a nutrient you can get from food and sunlight, it’s also a hormone your body creates.
Your kidney produces vitamin D to help absorb and store calcium and phosphorus. These minerals are essential for bone health.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause many symptoms, including muscle weakness, fatigue, and so on.
Research suggests that low vitamin D levels are closely related to low testosterone. It’s because studies show that vitamin D helps enhance testosterone production.9,10
Sunlight exposure is the primary way of getting your daily dose of vitamin D. When early morning sunlight hits your skin, your body produces said vitamin.
However, the amount of vitamin D your body produces may be affected by the amount of sunlight.
Consider vitamin D supplementation if you live in an area with limited sunlight exposure.
It’s important to ensure you don’t over-expose yourself to vitamin D, as too much can be harmful. You must talk to your doctor about the proper dosage.
Despite the ongoing discussions about the health merits of supplements and multivitamins, studies show some can help maintain healthy testosterone levels.
According to research, supplements containing either zinc, magnesium, fenugreek, or ashwagandha may naturally increase testosterone levels.
Zinc is an abundant trace mineral in the body, second to iron. Adequate zinc intake helps maintain optimal bodily functions, such as the immune system, growth, and development.
What is this mineral’s connection to testosterone? Studies show that the zinc levels in your body can affect your hormones.11
Insufficient zinc may, in part, cause testosterone deficiency or hypogonadism. Precisely how lack of zinc lowers testosterone isn’t clear yet.
However, research demonstrates that zinc supplementation increases testosterone levels and sperm count in men.12 In a study, this increase is seen with consistent use of zinc for four weeks.
Magnesium is another mineral crucial to many bodily functions. It aids in maintaining healthy blood pressure, strong bones, and steady heart rhythm.
Research shows a positive association between magnesium and hormone levels despite removing other factors, such as weight, diet, and smoking.13
The connection between magnesium deficiency and testosterone levels has been examined in important studies where adults were given magnesium supplementation.14
Magnesium supplements have increased testosterone levels in men with magnesium deficiency.
Originally from the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia, fenugreek is a clover-like herb used in alternative medicine.
Research shows it can increase your testosterone levels naturally. Fenugreek contains furostanolic saponins, a compound that inhibits the enzymes aromatase and 5-alpha-reductase.15
These enzymes are responsible for testosterone breakdown. By preventing the metabolism of testosterone, fenugreek may help increase testosterone levels.
“This effect was examined in a study that used 500 mg of fenugreek. The results showed a 46% increase in testosterone in 90% of participants,” explains Dr. Mira.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb popular in Ayurvedic medicine. Research has recognized its many positive health benefits, especially in combating the effects of oxidative stress.
A study shows this adaptogen can also boost testosterone levels naturally by stimulating the production of luteinizing hormone (LH).16
“By stimulating LH production, there is an increase in testosterone. Aside from this, it decreases oxidative stress that destroys this hormonal process,” says Dr. Mira.
In men, the LH signals the Leydig cells of the testes to release testosterone. Leydig cells are situated in the tissue between your testicles.
Their primary role is to produce testosterone and, by extension, maintain sperm cell production and perform other bodily functions related to male characteristics and muscle growth.
Constant sleep deprivation increases your risk of developing chronic health problems, including high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, and mental health issues like depression.
Studies also reveal that sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality can lead to a decrease in testosterone.17
The natural process that controls your sleep-wake cycle, known as your circadian rhythm, is strongly tied to the rise in testosterone levels during sleep.
Lack of sleep can disrupt your circadian rhythm, which in turn can reduce your testosterone levels. Research suggests getting three solid hours of sleep per night to keep your testosterone levels balanced.18
Still, seven or more hours of sleep per night is best for optimal physical and mental wellness.
Here’s a silver lining—getting enough sleep can naturally boost your body's testosterone because of the link between sleep and your testosterone levels.
Below are several practices that can help you get a good night’s sleep:
Certain foods may help those with low testosterone increase their testosterone levels.
Protein intake affects your testosterone production and muscle mass gain. Protein is essential in testosterone production, so not consuming enough protein could lead to lower testosterone levels.
Here are some protein-rich foods that can help increase testosterone levels:
However, some studies also show that overconsumption of protein (especially on a low-carbohydrate diet) might decrease your testosterone level and muscle mass.20
Sticking to the recommended intake of 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories is essential to ensure you’re not excessively consuming protein.21
You may automatically associate the word "fats" with negative health connotations. Most people restrict fats, believing they may trigger weight gain and other health problems.
But this isn’t always the case since not all fats are created equal. In addition, a low-fat diet may not always benefit your health as you may miss out on essential nutrients, such as fiber, protein, or amino acids.
“Fats are important components of sex hormones like testosterone,” explains Dr. Mira.
Studies also show that a diet low in fats can lower testosterone levels.22 On the other hand, fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can boost your testosterone.
So, instead of restricting your fat intake, health experts believe it’s more important to focus on choosing healthier fats to improve your testosterone levels and overall wellness.
Health experts suggest getting 20 to 30 percent of your daily calories from fats to meet your recommended dietary allowance.23
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can be found in the following foods:
Research shows that supplements containing zinc can increase your T levels. Foods rich in zinc can also help elevate your testosterone, including:
“Zinc helps produce hormone precursors,” says Dr. Mira, explaining that once these precursors transform, they turn into active hormones.
Another vitamin that can improve low testosterone levels is vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 can be found in a variety of foods, including chicken, tuna, chickpeas, and potatoes.
Vitamin B6 is involved in testosterone production by helping recycle testosterone receptors once they’re activated.24
Testosterone receptors are proteins that enable testosterone to bind to cells.
Not necessarily. Men also need estrogen— it works with testosterone to control their sex drive, erectile function, and sperm production.
While estrogen is a major sex hormone in women, men also produce it in small amounts. However, a high estrogen level in men may lower testosterone count and cause other health problems.
“These two hormones try to balance each other out. A rise in one hormone causes a decrease in another,” says Dr. Mira.
You should strive to keep the balance between the two hormones.
Environment estrogen, also known as xenoestrogens, is a group of synthetic substances found in the environment that mimic the effects of estrogen.
Numerous types of sources contain xenoestrogens, such as:
“Studies show that environmental exposures to estrogen can have profound effects on reproductive physiology,” says Dr. Mira.
Get a headstart on reducing your exposure to environmental estrogen through these general tips:
Yes, alcohol consumption can affect your testosterone levels.
Drinking too much alcohol harms your health in practically every way, including your hormone health.
Excessive alcohol consumption interferes with the three organs involved in testosterone production— the hypothalamus, the anterior pituitary gland, and the testes.
“Alcohol causes direct damage to the cells that produce testosterone and inhibits hormone production,” says Dr. Mira.
When your body breaks down alcohol, the coenzyme NAD+, essential for testosterone production, is depleted in the testes and the liver.
In addition, alcohol intake increases the hormones estrogen and cortisol in your body, which are known to inhibit testosterone levels.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that men consume no more than two drinks per day and women have no more than one drink per day as moderate.25
You can start with these tips on moderating your alcohol consumption:
You should seek medical help if you’re experiencing symptoms of low T or male hypogonadism, like a decrease in sex drive and hot flashes or night sweats.
After evaluating you, they will likely require bloodwork to confirm your testosterone level for diagnosis and treatment options.
The signs of low T can be obvious or subtle, varying from person to person. Some of the common symptoms include:
You should consult your healthcare provider for a diagnosis if these symptoms sound familiar. A proper diagnosis will help them to develop the most suitable treatment plan for your symptoms.
Many factors, including age and underlying health conditions, can cause low T. Depending on the cause, many different treatment options are available.
For one, your doctor can prescribe over-the-counter (OTC) testosterone supplements.
They can also recommend testosterone replacement therapy in different forms, like pellets, injections, or patches.
The time it takes to boost your testosterone levels through natural methods depends on several factors, including your age, overall health, and habits.
However, you can generally expect some improvement in your symptoms within a few weeks to a few months of making significant lifestyle changes.
Many things can cause your testosterone levels to fluctuate, such as your diet, physical activity, sleep routine, and stress levels.
While there are ways to enhance your testosterone level, increasing your testosterone in a matter of days may not be possible.
The body tries to adjust to low testosterone levels, and this may take some time to send signals to the brain to increase its production.
Boosting your testosterone, whether through lifestyle changes or supplementation, takes time. It could take a few weeks or even months for noticeable changes to appear.
There are no major risks associated with boosting your testosterone through natural means. However, there are a few things you must keep in mind to set your expectations:
- You might only see results after a while because building your testosterone levels takes time.
- Some people will feel different results in different periods.
- If you have a medical condition causing low testosterone, boosting your testosterone levels may not be enough.
- Some testosterone-boosting supplements have potential side effects, such as acne, hair loss, and mood swings.
It is essential to talk to your doctor before making drastic lifestyle changes or taking supplements for your testosterone levels.