“Testosterone supplements” are everywhere in today’s health market. These products claim to boost testosterone naturally to address myriad health concerns. They 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 important 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
To better understand the rise of over-the-counter testosterone treatment, we need to understand how important testosterone is to fundamental aspects of men’s health, 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. Free testosterone, the type of testosterone that circulates in the bloodstream, is particularly prone to decreasing as men get older. Unfortunately, free testosterone is also especially important for quality-of-life essentials such as sexual health, muscle mass, energy and mental health.
Low testosterone levels can potentially cause a host of symptoms that can deeply affect how you look, feel, and experience the world around you. Some of the associated symptoms include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of muscle mass
It’s understandable why men experiencing low testosterone look for ways to bring their testosterone production back to a healthy level.
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 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 levels, mood, sex drive, lean muscle mass, sperm count, 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. That can be extraordinarily painful to talk about with anyone, let alone a medical practitioner you barely know.
Any of these concerns could spur someone to try over-the-counter supplements claiming to boost testosterone. But having a good reason for wanting to seek out OTC testosterone booster supplements does not mean it’s a good idea.
Do OTC “Testosterone Boosters” Really Work?
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! So-called “natural testosterone boosters” offer some combination of vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, hormone precursors, and other (potentially unregulated) ingredients. Genuine testosterone is available only with a prescription from a medical professional, which is why you won’t find it in these supplements.
If these supposedly testosterone-boosting 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:
- D-aspartic acid
- Fenugreek extract
- Tribulus terrestris
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B6
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 increase testosterone levels by more than 20 percent. In many cases, only men who start with below-average testosterone levels or specific nutrient deficiencies saw health benefits from supplementation, and some studies have found no impact on testosterone levels at all.
Additionally, 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. Unfortunately, men often take these supplements without any supervision or input from medical professionals. Thus, there’s little way of knowing if a particular testosterone supplement might interact dangerously with other medications, or if it’s even increasing your levels of testosterone at all.
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. Fortunately, there are options for treating low testosterone that are proven effective and guided by the best science available.
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 hormone testing confirms that your testosterone levels are low, your practitioner can explain your options and what to expect from treatment.
For most men, testosterone replacement therapy is the best treatment for low testosterone. TRT may use either synthetic testosterone or bioidentical testosterone. Bioidentical options have gained popularity because they’re identical to human hormones and derived from natural ingredients. With bioidentical testosterone, this therapy can be customized to the unique needs of each patient, potentially enhancing efficacy and reducing side effects.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can offer the convenient, personalized and effective testosterone boosting treatment that you won’t get from OTC testosterone supplements. BHRT therapies are available in multiple easy treatment options, including pellet therapy, topical creams and patches.
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 which type of treatment you choose, the insight and support your healthcare practitioner provides is invaluable. They’ll work with you to create a personalized plan for correcting low levels of testosterone and getting on the road to better sexual performance, muscle growth, mental health and overall well-being.
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.
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.