Testosterone- More important than you may think (for both sexes)

The older I get and the more people I interact with, the more I realize how important testosterone is. It’s not just the male hormone that makes men manly, as some people may think. It plays a vital role in female hormone balance, physiology and well-being as well. In simplistic terms, testosterone contributes to male characteristics and estrogens do the same for women.

Low testosterone can contribute to the following conditions:

  • decreased libido
  • decreased erections
  • vaginal dryness
  • decreased muscle mass
  • decreased bone density
  • decreased flexibility and strength
  • fatigue and a feeling of being burned out
  • joint pain including neck and back pain
  • thinning skin
  • rapid aging
  • aches and pain
  • lack of motivation

Testosterone levels typically peak in men in their late 20s, then gradually decline from age 30 on. Research however, suggests that male testosterone levels are declining across the board at a much higher rate than ever before. Compared to sixty years ago, middle aged men have dramatically lower T levels than their fathers and grandfathers at the same age. In women, although their testosterone levels are much lower than men, the same phenomenon seems to be occurring. There are many reasons for this. Some of those reasons include (and there is a lot!):

“Estrogenic” compounds found in many products used today. These are often referred to as estrogen mimickers, because they mimic or act like estrogen in the human body.

Plastics– Some of those include phthalates and plasticizers (they make plastics soft), such as BPA and its replacement BPS which is just as bad (BPA was removed from most plastics in the food and beverage containers),

Hormones– given to animals we eat,

Herbicides and pesticides– used on crops and in gardens

Medications– that affect testosterone levels and sexual performance. Those include but are not limited to statin drugs for cholesterol, Ketoconazole an anti-fungal drug, beta blockers for high blood pressure, anti-histamines and stomach acid blocking drugs, anti-depressants, opioid pain killers, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other illicit drugs.

Even compounds made by our own body can significantly reduce testosterone levels. One such compound is called aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme made primarily by the fat cells of the body. Because of the increasing rate of obesity today, both men and women face a challenge with maintaining optimal testosterone levels, as aromatase converts testosterone into estrogen in the body. For men, this not only reduces the availability of testosterone, but it also increases feminine characteristics and can contribute to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Men with increased belly fat are at higher risk for having low T. For women, increased aromatase production due to increased body fat not only decreases their testosterone levels, but it also increases production of potentially harmful estrogen metabolites, which can lead to fibrocystic ovaries and breasts, endometriosis, increased risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers. An increase in body fat almost always correlates with an increase in insulin production and insulin resistance (which causes calories to be stored as body fat). Insulin is antagonistic to testosterone meaning the higher your insulin levels the lower your testosterone levels. Increased stress levels result in higher productions of cortisol by the adrenal glands and cortisol is also antagonistic to testosterone levels. This graphic shows the impact of increases in estrogen, insulin and cortisol on testosterone.

Many men choose to address this problem by taking synthetic testosterone. While this may seem like a simple answer and quick fix, the unfortunate truth is that taking synthetic testosterone, poses certain potential health risks for the user. There has been growing concerns as to a possible increase in risk of prostate cancer and heart related consequences from synthetic hormones, including testosterone. A better option if one were to opt for hormone replacement, would be bioidentical hormones. Even that has some drawbacks however. One such consideration is the fact that when an exogenous hormone is taken by the body (exogenous = from the outside-in), the organ or gland that normally produces that hormone begins to shut down its production. This is called a negative feedback loop. A drawback of this process is, if somebody plans on discontinuing the hormone therapy their body may not be capable of producing sufficient quantities of that hormone again. Therefore, there is a risk that if taken long enough, it may become a permanent necessity to take it, in order to maintain healthy hormone levels. To me, it would make sense to modify the dietary, behavioral and lifestyle factors that can help you make the most of what your body will naturally provide you with BEFORE opting for something that you may need to do for the rest of your life.


So, what are some practical things that we can do to enjoy normal, healthy levels of this very important hormone?


  1. EAT foods and/or take supplements that naturally boost testosterone levels


  • Healthy fats, like saturated and monounsaturated ones- coconut and coconut oil (MCT’s), salmon, halibut, fish oil, avocado, olive oil, cholesterol in general (T is made from it)..Eggs (omega 3 version)
  • Grass fed, free range beef, bison, wild game and grass-fed cow butter
  • Nuts & nut butters (esp. walnuts & macadamia nuts have a high omega 3:6 ratio, Brazil nuts have selenium which is also good for T)
  • Oysters
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage). These detoxify and help metabolize estrogen and eliminate harmful estrogens metabolites
  • Pomegranate
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)- increases cAMP > T
  • Whey protein
  • Oats
  • Very dark chocolate or pure cacao nibs
  • Parsley- contains apigening > T
  • Onions- contain apigening and quercetin
  • Garlic- increases nitric oxide


  • Vitamin D (D3 or Cholecalciferol is the active bioavailable form)
  • Saw Palmetto (even better when taken with astaxanthin)
  • Tribulus Terrestris
  • Eurycoma Longifolia Jack extract
  • Epimedium- AKA Horney Goat Weed
  • DHEA (although it can also boost estradiol and estrogen)


  1. EAT foods and/or take supplements that block conversion of testosterone into estrogen by the aromatase enzyme (aromatase inhibitors)
  • White button mushrooms
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage)
  • Greens
  • Peppers
  • Blueberries, bilberries, blackberries and raspberries
  • Ginger
  • Zinc
  • Luteolin
  • Resveratrol
  • Chrysin
  • Stinging nettles
  • Grape seed extract


  1. Take supplements that block testosterones conversion into DHT (DHT is a testosterone by-product, that contributes to male pattern baldness, increased risk of Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy or BPH (prostate enlargement).
  • Zinc- Grass fed beef, lamb, oysters, shrimp are the highest sources, with sesame and pumpkin seeds, shitake mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, quinoa being the best vegetarian options
  • Saw Palmetto, even more effective when taken with astaxanthin
  • Stinging nettles
  • Tribulus Terrestris


  1. EXERCISE– especially intense resistance exercise (weights) and brief alternating periods of intense aerobic activity followed by lower intensity, following the H.I.I.T. protocol (high intensity interval training)


  1. LOSE WEIGHT and then maintain an optimal body composition of fat and muscle, to prevent conversion of your T into estrogen by the aromatase enzyme produced by your fat cells. Do not maintain a body fat percentage that is too low (less than 10 percent for men and 14 percent for women)


  1. REDUCE stress– Stress causes cortisol release (the body’s stress hormone) and suppresses T


  1. INCREASE sleep- Get 7-9 hours per night



(When I say avoid, what I really mean is to decrease in the proportion that you want to increase your testosterone levels)

  1. AVOID foods that have estrogenic effects (containing phyto [plant]estrogens)-
  • Soy- strong estrogenic effects- isoflavones
  • Dairy from cows given Bovine Growth Hormones
  • Flax seed- high in lignans
  • Lentils
  • Barley & hops (yes even beer)
  • Ginseng
  • Licorice- high in glycyrrhizic acid
  • Peppermint and spearmint
  • Foods in cans almost always have plastic liners that contain BPA or BPS
  • Using Teflon cookware which can release EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals) at high temperatures
  • Any fruits or vegetables that have pesticide residues. Pesticides are common estrogen mimickers.


  1. AVOID foods (and beverages) that increase activity aromatase activity, thereby converting your testosterone to estrogen
  • Cheese
  • Grains
  • Alcohol
  • Yogurt
  • Soy which contains genistein and daidzein
  • Corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower oils
  • Grapefruit
  • I,3-C or DIM supplements
  • Chocolate (the processed kind high in sugar)


  1. AVOID other T sapping crap
  • Excess sugar- Sugar increases insulin which decreases T
  • Excess alcohol- definitely dose dependent. The more you drink, the lower your T
  • Corn and high fructose corn syrup
  • Processed food
  • “Bad” fats- i.e. hydrogenated and those heated to high temperatures which cause rancidity
  • Try to find alternatives for medications (under a doctor’s supervision), like the ones listed above
  • Fluoridated water and toothpaste


  1. AVOID exposure to drugs and chemicals (estrogen mimickers and EDCs, that negatively impact testosterone by acting like an estrogen or interfering with T production
  • Dioxins- A chemical used in herbicides, industrial bleaching, produced by waste incineration and became infamous from being used in the chemical Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Dioxins are persistent meaning very long lasting in the environment. In addition to reproductive and developmental problems, they can cause also cause cancer
  • Fire retardants- (mattresses, pillows, fire retardant fabrics)
  • Parabens- Propyl-, methyl- and other parabens are pseudoestrogens
  • Phthalates – Chemicals that make plastics soft, but are pseudoestrogens
  • Glyphosate- (the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup). Avoid GMO corn, wheat and soy.
  • Fragrances- Perfumes and artificial fragrances
  • Perfluorinated compounds- (PFCs)
  • Heavy metals- (mercury, lead, aluminum, etc.). These are referred to as metalloestrogens


The bottom line, is that it is no wonder why testosterone levels have plummeted over the last 60 years! With the increased production and use of various chemicals and medications that we are exposed to commonly in our everyday life. In addition, the increased rates of sugary and high carbohydrate foods that have contributed to dramatic increase in obesity, this downward trend makes perfect sense. The good news is, that by having an awareness of and making conscious decisions on what we use in our environment, on and in our bodies and how we sleep and exercise, we can create dramatic improvements for our benefit. Use the lists I’ve given you for grocery shopping and food preparation and I believe that you will be very happy with the results.

Action Steps- Circle the areas that you need to improve on from the article and then transfer into action steps that you fill into these blanks:


  1. __________________________________________________________________________


  1. __________________________________________________________________________


  1. __________________________________________________________________________


  1. __________________________________________________________________________


  1. __________________________________________________________________________


Alan Palmer

I have been a practicing chiropractor for 30 years. Originally from Minnesota, I graduated from Northwestern College of Chiropractic in 1985. Since 1996 and 1998 respectively, I have provided chiropractic care for the players, coaches and employees of the Arizona Coyotes National Hockey League Hockey Club and the Arizona Diamondbacks Major League Baseball Team. In addition, I provided care for the San Francisco Giants in spring training for 7 years. Since 1985 I have been studying functional medicine applications, Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) concepts and advanced clinical nutrition strategies. I welcome stubborn and complicated cases and those that traditional allopathic medicine has failed. One of my goals is to help people to reduce their dependency on medications. I do this by addressing the underlying causes of their illness or disease rather than treating their symptoms. This is accomplished by focusing on the restoration of normal healthy biochemistry and function through diet, exercise, supplementation and lifestyle modification.