Why Increase Testosterone Levels?
Optimal testosterone levels minimizes the risk of disease while improving quality of life. That’s why you want to increase your testosterone levels if they are low.
There’s debate as to what a normal testosterone level should be. Too often blood tests only are used to determine whether a testosterone level is normal or not without taking into consideration of any symptoms a man may be having.
Males can have low testosterone symptoms even with testosterone levels that fall within the reference range – therefore normal levels.
A strong case can be made that a “normal” or “optimal” testosterone level in a given male is that level that places a man at minimal risk for future disease while enabling a him to live a life free of symptoms related to low testosterone. This level will vary from one male to another (as well as females).
Testosterone levels above 650 ng/dl are associated with lower rates of heart disease and cancer. (The normal testosterone range is 300 ng/dl to 1,000 ng/dl.)
To learn more about how the reference range for testosterone is established, and its shortcomings, please see our article on Testosterone Deficiency is Not Healthy .
Treatments to Increase Testosterone Levels
For men with suboptimal testosterone levels and who suffer symptoms (see Low Testosterone Symptoms) there are many options for increasing testosterone levels listed below.
- Testosterone Replacement Therapy
- Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) Therapy
- Aromatase Inhibitors
- Herbal Remedies
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
The most common and most predictable method to increase testosterone levels is by directly taking or receiving testosterone replacement treatments. Testosterone therapy comes in many forms including periodic intramuscular injections (not as bad as it may sound), daily application of gels, creams, or patches, or implantation of testosterone pellets under the skin every 3 to 6 months.
Each method has advantages and disadvantages (see Testosterone Therapy). Testosterone injections have long been considered the gold standard, but topical testosterone is being used more and more. There are several commercial testosterone gels available plus topical testosterone creams can be compounded enabling to fine tune the dose of a testosterone for a given male.
In recent years testosterone pellets have become more popular though still not quite as popular as testosterone injections and topical testosterone. See Testosterone Pellets for Men and Women.
For younger men who typically have lower levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), and for men who may wish to have children, HCC therapy may be an option (direct testosterone therapy will lead to diminished sperm counts). HCG is an analog of LH. LH stimulates the Leydig cells of the testes to make testosterone.
HCG injections stimulate production of more testosterone. The injections are given subcutaneously using a very small needle. Some physicians have their patients inject HCG daily, while doctors prefer a twice a week injection protocol. With time HCG will lose its effectiveness and most men will need to switch to testosterone therapy. The reason for this is that every day some Leydig cells die and at some point there are not enough cells to make enough testosterone to keep a male free of symptoms.
In the body some testosterone gets converted into estradiol, which is an estrogen. Estrogens are referred to as the “female” hormone. Men naturally make some estradiol, however if estradiol levels in a male get too high, it adversely affects the release of LH leading to diminished testosterone production.
The conversion of testosterone to estradiol is more likely in men with increased body fat, since the enzyme, aromatase, is found in high concentrations in fatty tissue. Aromatase inhibitors block aromatase thereby blocking the conversion of testosterone to estradiol. This provides two benefits. One there is more testosterone since less is getting converted to estradiol, and secondly, LH is now able to stimulate further testosterone production.
Anastrozole is the most common aromatase inhibitor used in males to block the conversion of testosterone to estradiol. Letrozole is another common aromatase inhibitor used in men.
Clomid is a fertility drug used to treat both male and female infertility. It also will increase testosterone levels in men. Clomid increases the release of FSH which stimulates sperm production and LH which increases testosterone levels. It is a good choice for younger men with low testosterone who are also interested in having children.
That’s one potential downside to direct testosterone replacement – decrease fertility which is avoided by the use of Clomid as well as HCG.
A few herbs have been reported to increase testosterone levels in a few isolated studies, but these findings have not been consistently shown. Herbs generally work by either stimulating more LH or stimulating the Leydig cells directly. Therefore, they have a better chance of working in the younger males who have some LH reserve and enough Leydig cells to produce testosterone.
Herbs reported to improve libido and increase testosterone include Tribulus terrestris and Muira puama. Yohimbine is promoted as increasing testosterone levels, but there is not any scientific evidence to support that claim.
Chrysin is a bioflavanoid with some ability to block aromatase, and therefore it has the potential to raise testosterone levels in some men who have elevated estradiol levels.
Herbs are generally safe, but can have any number of side effects, and that needs to be a consideration in one who develops a new symptom after initiating an herbal remedy.
See also the following.