Ask Dr. Ty: Keeping testosterone levels up

As men age, the level of testosterone in the body decreases. © bst2012 - Fotolia.com

As men age, the level of testosterone in the body decreases. © bst2012 - Fotolia.com

Question: I am a 46-year-old man. I would like to know if there is something I can take over-the-counter that could raise my testosterone levels?

- Sean W. via Facebook

Answer: Perhaps.

As men age, the level of testosterone in the body decreases. Without testosterone, men have a decreased interest in sex, larger breast tissue and can suffer from depression and fatigue. “Low T” also makes it harder to develop large muscles and more likely to have weaker bones.

Testosterone supplementation through pills, creams or patches is available with a prescription. However, like any medication, there are side effects. Testosterone medications are linked to larger prostates, sleep apnea and increased blood counts.

So, I applaud your interest in finding natural ways to prevent the consequences of “low T.”

Improving your zinc intake may potentially help. Zinc has been linked to testosterone levels in small studies, but is not widely pushed.

One study of young men in 1996 found that testosterone levels dropped more than half after five months of a low-zinc diet. The same study found that, among men ages 55 to 73, testosterone levels went up after taking 3mg in zinc supplements a day. But, it’s not clear if other dietary factors played a role.

While supplementation is debated for “low T,” doctors do push for diets rich in protein, which has, among its benefits, fair amounts of zinc. Mild zinc-deficiency is also related to sperm production.

In general, adult men should aim for 11 mg of zinc daily. It’s found in foods such as oysters, beef, lobster, crab and beans. Beef chuck roast, for example, has 7mg in a 3-ounce serving.

However, there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to zinc. Taking large doses — one to two grams — as a supplement in one sitting can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

In addition to a healthy diet, urologists recommend the following lifestyle changes for “low T”:

  • Keep a healthy weight. Body fat produces more estrogen, which promotes feminine characteristics.
  • Begin or continue resistance training to help build muscle mass.
  • Decrease stress.
  • Increase sleep.

Good luck!

Dr. Tyeese Gaines is a physician-journalist with over 10 years of print and broadcast experience, now serving as health editor for theGrio.com. Dr. Ty is also a practicing emergency medicine physician in New Jersey. Follow her on twitter at @doctorty or on Facebook.

Send your questions to askdoctorty@gmail.com.

Note: The information included in this post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider with questions. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.