“Testosterone supplements” are everywhere in today’s health market. These products claim to boost testosterone naturally to address myriad health concerns and can be easily purchased online, in specialty nutrition stores, and even at your corner pharmacy. Indeed, over-the-counter testosterone treatment has grown into a full-scale industry that attracts men of all ages. The golden question is, do these supplements really work?
So far, the results are mixed. Some research shows that certain supplements could have a positive effect on the body’s testosterone levels. Other studies show little or no change. And while the results depend on the specific supplement investigated, none will raise testosterone levels as much as hormone replacement therapy. What’s more, over-the-counter “testosterone boosters” won’t have the same effects on energy, muscle composition, sex drive, and mood as actual testosterone.
Knowing this, one has to wonder why so many men seek to treat their low testosterone symptoms with over-the-counter supplements. How did the “testosterone booster” movement gain such traction? And, more importantly, where should you turn if you want to raise your testosterone levels safely, effectively, and predictably?
Why Men Seek Over-the-Counter Testosterone Treatment
In order to understand the rise of over-the-counter testosterone treatment, we have to understand how important testosterone is, and how it affects the male body. Testosterone is an incredibly powerful hormone. When levels are normal, testosterone helps maintain several markers of “vitality” that a man might feel really good about—musculature, sex drive, energy, and mood. However, many men have testosterone levels that fall below the normal range, particularly as they age, potentially causing a host of symptoms that can deeply affect how you look, feel, and experience the world around you.
Enter testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). TRT is an innovative treatment option that helps men who experience andropause or other forms of hypogonadism restore their body’s natural testosterone levels. After having your hormone levels tested by a qualified practitioner, you would begin taking medications that contain a dose of testosterone determined to be appropriate for your symptoms and physiology. Your body responds to these hormones as it would to endogenous testosterone, often resulting in improved energy, mood, sex drive, lean body mass, and cognitive function. Hormone replacement therapy is highly effective and accessible to men across the United States.
Still, men may hesitate to try TRT for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they conflate testosterone replacement with anabolic steroids—a common misconception that prevents many men from getting the help they need. Others worry about potential side effects and health risks. And, often, men are reluctant to seek help from professionals due to shame and embarrassment about the very personal symptoms of low testosterone. After all, the symptoms of low testosterone aren’t like the symptoms of most other health conditions—they can feel like signs that you are less of a man. And that can be extraordinarily painful to talk about with anyone, let alone a medical practitioner you barely know.
Any of these could spur someone to try over-the-counter supplements claiming to boost testosterone. But having a good reason for wanting to seek out OTC products does not mean it’s a good idea.
Do OTC “Testosterone Boosters” Really Work?
At this point, it’s important to reiterate that testosterone replacement therapy involves medications that include testosterone hormone. In contrast, none of the over-the-counter drugs that claim to boost testosterone levels include testosterone. If these supplements do have an impact on hormone levels, it’s because they’re acting on secondary processes rather than supplying the body with exogenous testosterone.
As for whether or not these substances work, that depends on quite a few variables. The following substances have been researched in connection with testosterone and initial results indicate that they may have some impact on testosterone levels in the male body:
Most of these studies have been small in scope and relatively unimpressive in result; on average, none of these “testosterone boosting” supplements have been shown to raise testosterone levels by more than 20%. In many cases, only men who start with below-average testosterone levels or specific nutrient deficiencies saw benefits from supplementation, and some studies have found no impact on testosterone levels at all. What’s more, some supplements may not be appropriate for all men and could produce side effects or carry health risks depending on dosage, health status, medication status, and individual reaction. Until over-the-counter testosterone treatments are proven to be both effective and safe through extensive research, it’s impossible to say whether these products will provide relief for your low T symptoms.
Where to Get Effective Testosterone Treatment
If you are struggling with the symptoms of low testosterone, it’s never a good idea to self medicate. While it may be intimidating, seeking out the best hormone health specialists in your area is the optimal way to fully understand your symptoms and find meaningful relief. These specialists undergo extensive training to accurately diagnose hormonal imbalances and provide you with the best treatment possible. Moreover, they understand the difficulties you may have in talking about your symptoms and offer compassionate, non-judgmental care. If your testosterone levels are confirmed to be low via hormone testing, they can explain all your options and what to expect from treatment.
For most men, testosterone replacement therapy is the best treatment for low testosterone. With bioidentical testosterone, this therapy can be customized to the unique needs of each patient, potentially enhancing efficacy and reducing side effects. However, TRT isn’t the only way to support hormone health. If testosterone therapy isn’t the right treatment for you, your hormone health specialist can identify other research-backed therapies that are more appropriate. If you are interested in incorporating supplements or natural therapies into your treatment plan, your hormone health specialist can point you toward the most promising products and strategies and objectively monitor your progress. Regardless of what treatment you end up choosing, the insight and support your health care practitioner provides is invaluable.
Talking about your experience with low testosterone can be difficult, but it’s critical to ensure you get the right care. If you’re ready to get back to living life at your optimal level of health, reach out to a practitioner who understands your needs and will help you forge a path toward recovery.
BodyLogicMD is a network of highly-qualified hormone health practitioners who specialize in helping men find the right treatment for the symptoms of low testosterone. BodyLogic-affiliated practitioners work with men from all walks of life and all stages of the aging process to feel their best and achieve optimal wellness. Contact a local practitioner to start your journey toward improved emotional, mental, and physical health. Or, take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to get a better idea of how testosterone and other hormones might be impacting your everyday life.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.