The surprising reasons why your testosterone may be low—and how to raise it without drugs

We hear relentlessly about drugs to “treat” male menopause, particularly during the evening news. In fact, I recently read that big pharma controls much of the advertising during the prime-time TV newscasts.1

How does that make you feel about what you are hearing (and not hearing) about the dangers of prescription “male menopause” drugs from the lamestream media?

Of course, all you really do hear about when it comes to male menopause is “Low-T,” or low testosterone—because big pharma has profitable mass-market (and dangerous) drugs to treat this so-called health condition.

But there are also other hormones involved in male menopause and healthy aging that deserve as much attention as testosterone.

We don’t hear as much about these hormones because (thankfully) big pharma has not (yet) developed mass-market consumer drugs to “treat” them. But I’ll tell you all about them. And what you can do to help ensure they’re at healthy levels as you get older.

First, though, I want to share with you an exciting new study that reveals a key nutrient for healthy testosterone levels.

It’s also vital for dozens of other important functions in our brain and body.

I’m talking about vitamin D, of course.

Low D means low T

As I’ve told you before, it’s entirely normal for men’s testosterone levels to decline with healthy aging.  Testosterone drops about 1 percent every year after age 30.

And it naturally drops after a man gets married (or these days, begins to live with a “partner”), and after having children. (I think this finding is another illustration of the mind-body connection by which mental states influence the pituitary gland, which influences hormones—but let’s save that discussion for another day).

Higher testosterone contributes to the increased risk of heart and prostate disease as men get older, so flagging levels of this hormone may actually be nature’s way of protecting us against these common, deadly diseases. And, as I reported in the August 2014 Insiders’ Cures (“The latest news: ‘Low-T’ therapy equals high risk for heart attack and stroke”), drugs for Low-T have also been shown to raise the risk of these diseases.

But sometimes testosterone levels can actually drop too low for healthy aging (see sidebar). Fortunately, there are several simple, natural ways you can boost your T to appropriate levels.

Vitamin D. In light of the role vitamin D plays in metabolism throughout the body, the latest research regarding its effects on testosterone comes as no surprise. In fact, my colleague, Dr. Michael Holick at Boston University, has maintained that vitamin D should be thought of as a hormone, not just another vitamin. Perhaps even another “aging hormone.”

The new study I mentioned earlier is part of ongoing research on first responders at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Researchers analyzed blood samples from 824 of those men for vitamin D and testosterone levels.2

More than two-thirds of the men had insufficient vitamin D levels (below 30 ng/ml). But only 11 percent of those men were taking D supplements (and clearly not taking enough).

Testosterone levels were significantly higher (342 ng/dL) in the men with sufficient vitamin D compared to the deficient men (319 ng/dL). The researchers also discovered that the men with low D levels had borderline Low-T.

And an earlier German study of overweight, but otherwise healthy men with low vitamin D and borderline Low-T, found that the men who took just 3,000 IU of D a day had a significant increase in testosterone levels after 12 months.3

That dose is well below the 10,000 IU a day of vitamin D that I now recommend. So if you get an adequate dose of D, your testosterone should naturally rise to healthy levels.

Sleep. One study reported that men who got only five hours of sleep per night for a week saw their testosterone levels drop by 10 to 15 percent.4 And other research shows that men with sleep apnea also have lower testosterone levels.

Why? Researchers think lack of sleep can boost the stress hormone cortisol, which can in turn lower testosterone. (I’ll tell you more about this a little later).

Diet. Eating refined sugar and carbs causes spikes in insulin, which have negative impacts on both T and growth hormone—another important hormone for healthy aging that I will tell you about shortly.

On the other hand, not getting enough cholesterol and healthy fats—like olive oil, nuts, avocados, and salmon—can also lower testosterone.

How? Well, all hormones in the body are made from cholesterol. So if you don’t have enough healthy fats and cholesterol, or are “blocking” their normal metabolism with toxic statin drugs, you are bound to be disrupting normal hormone levels like testosterone. (But why worry—if your testosterone is low because you are taking a statin drug, big pharma has another drug you can take to “fix” it.)

We all need cholesterol. Yet another reason the faulty government recommendations to cut cholesterol and fats from the diet were all wrong, all along. Which the government finally admitted.

The other two hormones you need to pay attention to

So what about the two “forgotten” hormones involved in male menopause? Let’s take a look. And also examine what you can do to boost these hormones and help ensure healthy aging.

Cortisol is usually considered the “stress hormone.” But in a research paper that Dr. Ken Seaton and I presented some years ago, I proposed that cortisol may also be considered the aging hormone. After all, isn’t stress basically the cause of all aging, ultimately, as well as age-related diseases?

High cortisol levels can result from excessive work and worry. Or a poor diet and lifestyle. And along with premature aging, high cortisol also results in weight gain—in all the wrong places.

In Cushing’s Syndrome, in which people produce too much cortico-steroid hormones, fat accumulates on the torso, with round belly fat and a “buffalo hump” on the upper back. This problem also results when people are given cortico-steroid drugs for long periods to suppress the immune system (usually another bad idea). But even if you don’t develop Cushing’s disease, extra belly fat has been linked to certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.

As I mentioned earlier, sleep is key to keeping cortisol in proper balance. You not only need at least six hours of shuteye a night, but also adequate REM sleep. If you can remember dreaming, that’s a good sign you are getting some REM time.

During REM sleep, your body also secretes more growth hormone (GH)—the third “male menopause” hormone. The higher your growth hormone levels, the lower your cortisol, and vice versa.

Growth hormone is responsible for physical growth during childhood and adolescence. And like testosterone, GH begins to drop as we age.

That’s why we hear so much about people taking GH to look younger. It can also promote weight loss and help your body recover from workouts faster.

Since GH supports testosterone levels, men who get treatment for low GH frequently find that T increases too. But beware if you go this route. Excess GH can increase blood pressure and blood sugar—which, of course, are primary causes of diabetes and heart disease.


 Low-T—how low can it go?

Readers often ask me how low testosterone can normally dip without the need for “treatment.” It’s no wonder people are curious about this, since mainstream medicine and big pharma have made Low-T into some kind of epidemic.

But the real surprise is that Low-T is actually not a pandemic, even by industry standards. While T does decline with age, studies show that 80 percent of men in their 60s do not have Low-T. And half of all men in their 80s don’t even have it.5

So what are you worried about? (Unless you are like the late Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who married a former Miss South Carolina and fathered four children after his 68th birthday. I got to meet Strom about 20 years ago at one of his birthday parties in the beautiful Indian Treaty Room of the historic Executive Office Building in D.C., and he still had a vigorous  handshake.)

Bottom line: The idea that healthy men should have their testosterone levels checked and treated is probably nonsense. It is actually very unlikely you have the kind of Low-T that can cause depression, mood changes, lack of energy, loss of muscle strength and bulk, low libido, or erectile dysfunction.

There are so many other causes for these conditions that can be hiding in plain sight—such as diabetes, obesity, poor sleep, poor diet, lack of sun exposure (including low vitamin D), physical inactivity, psychological factors, and stress. All of these real health issues may also incidentally lower testosterone—but what is cause and what is effect here?

That said, if you do have a persistent pattern of these symptoms, you may want to ask your doctor to test your T levels. A morning blood test is the standard way to measure testosterone. That’s because there is a very wide range of “normal,” and T levels vary during the course of the day and night.

The normal testosterone range is anywhere between 300 to 800 ng/dL. So if your levels are above 300, there’s no need to worry about Low-T.




2American Urological Association (AUA) 2015 Annual Meeting: Abstract MP51-04. Presented May 17, 2015.

3“Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Testosterone Levels in Men.” Horm Metab Res 2011; 43(3): 223-225.

4“Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men.” JAMA. 2011;305(21):2173-2174.