Testosterone is a hormone produced by the testes (although women’s ovaries also produce a smaller amount). It is the defining male hormone, and it plays a primary role in men’s sexual and reproductive health. It also provides muscle mass, hair growth, strong bones, the production of red blood cells, and emotional health. It is also important for prostate health.
As men age, beginning as early as thirty, the production of testosterone begins to decline. This decline can impact men in a number of ways. You may experience enlargement of the prostate, hair loss, low energy, decline in libido, weight gain, and a higher risk of developing cancer.
Along with age, there is another factor that contributes to the decline of testosterone, and that is exposure to chemicals. Endocrine-distrupting chemicals include phthalates, BPA, PFOA, and metalloestrogens. These are often found inside your house, leaching from human products such as personal hygiene products, chemical cleansers, or contraceptive drugs. They may also end up in your food and drinking water. Recent research has shown that statins and the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide both interfere with the ability of the testicles to produce testosterone. Avoid chemicals when possible, and avoid cookware with a non-stick lining.
There are several options for dealing with age-related testosterone decline and its effects:
There are pharmaceutical drugs that are often prescribed specifically for an enlarged prostate, including alpha-blockers such as Flomax, Hytrin, Cardura and Rapaflow. These relax the smooth muscles, including those of your bladder and prostate, and thus improve urine flow. However, they don’t do anything to reduce the actual size of the prostate. Another class of drugs are the 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, including Avodart and Proscar. These come with a number of risks, including a greater chance of developing prostate cancer.
Many experts believe saw palmetto is a better choice for shrinking the prostate. Saw palmetto is a supplement that supports prostate health, and it is very potent if a high-quality source is used. Because it is a fat-soluble supplement, taking it with eggs will enhance its absorption. There is also significant research that shows taking saw palmetto with astaxanthin provides synergistic benefits. Zinc and vitamin D also support testicular health.
Finally, there is hormone replacement (HRT.) There are synthetic HRT products, as well as bioidentical options. Testosterone replacement can be given through muscular injections every few weeks, through transdermal patches work on the body, or through a testosterone gel that is applied topically to the shoulders, arms or abdomen.
Some experts recommend using the bioidentical hormone DHEA, which is secreted by the adrenal glands and is a precursor of testosterone. DHEA production also declines with age, and it can be supplemented through trans-mucosal application (for men, this is usually at the opening of the rectum).
Before you consider HRT, see a physician who specializes in this area. Get your testosterone levels tested and discuss your options.