Low testosterone, also known as low-T, can occur as a result of injury, surgery, or chronic illness and cause a host of symptoms that compromise your quality of life. But the most common cause of low testosterone isn’t an accident or illness— it’s aging. And the symptoms are no less serious because they’re driven by a natural process.
After a man reaches peak testosterone levels around his late 20s, the body gradually decreases testosterone production at a rate of 1-2% per year. The resulting changes may be undetectable at first. But by the time you reach the age of 40 or 50 (or younger, for some men), you may start noticing a significant difference in the way your body performs. May be due to andropause—also known as male menopause.
If you’re struggling with low libido, low energy, and low mood, you may be experiencing the effects of low-T. But before seeking treatment, it’s important to determine whether low testosterone is indeed the cause of your discomfort. An expert hormone practitioner will thoroughly evaluate your symptoms and complete comprehensive lab testing. If your testosterone levels are low, they’ll work with you to create a treatment plan, combining proven medications with alternative remedies as needed. And they’ll discuss all the risks—and benefits—associated with the best treatment for low testosterone: testosterone replacement therapy.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
As we age, our bodies undergo a long list of changes that may be uncomfortable for both our minds and our bodies. Many of these can be attributed to hormones, like testosterone, and others can be caused by the choices we make every day.
To determine if low testosterone is the primary cause of your symptoms, you’ll want to discuss everything you’re experiencing with your doctor. Some of the most common symptoms of low testosterone are:
Because these symptoms could also be related to other conditions or lifestyle choices, it’s essential to discuss other possible causes with your doctor before deciding on a treatment. Common complaints like erectile dysfunction and hair loss, for example, may be related to other hormones, lifestyle factors, or a separate health condition.
An expert hormone health practitioner will be able to determine which of your symptoms can be attributed to low testosterone. Through thorough clinical evaluation, they’ll help you decide whether treating low testosterone will be the best course of action—and how to treat it.
TRT: The Best Treatment For Low Testosterone
Although low testosterone levels can create a wide variety of subtle or severe symptoms, there’s one widely prescribed and highly effective treatment for them all: testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
TRT has been proven to relieve symptoms of low testosterone, increasing libido and sexual function, improving mood, increasing muscle mass and bone density, and improving cognition—all of which contribute to a higher quality of life for men. While it’s not a cure-all, testosterone therapy may be the key to helping you regain a sense of health and wellbeing.
Testosterone replacement therapy is widely accessible across the United States and comes in a variety of preparations to suit your preference:
- Pellets: These are implanted under the skin of the upper hip or buttocks and release a steady dose of testosterone into the body’s soft tissues over a few months.
- Injections: Testosterone is typically injected into your muscle once or twice per week,, and can be done at home after instruction by your doctor.
- Patches: Applied either to a fleshy part of the body once per day, patches deliver a small dose of testosterone over the course of 24 hours.
- Gels/Creams: These topical medications are applied to the skin of the upper arm or upper chest for a daily dose of testosterone.
For many men, testosterone pellet therapy is a particularly attractive choice, as they avoid the fluctuations that come with shorter-acting therapies and only require re-insertion every few months instead of more frequent dosing.
The Side Effects and Risks of TRT
Like any medication, testosterone replacement therapy can come with a few side effects. And while generally considered a safe treatment, there may be health risks that make TRT inappropriate for some men. You’ll want to discuss these possible outcomes extensively with your hormone practitioner before deciding whether or not hormone replacement therapy is right for you.
Some of the common side effects associated with TRT include:
- Oily skin and/or acne
- Lower sperm count and decreased testicle size
- Fluid retention
- Increased red blood cell count
If you have problems with your liver, kidneys, or prostate, or if you are currently trying to have children, testosterone replacement therapy may not be the best choice. Discuss these risks with your physician. Although the most recent research indicates there may not be a connection between TRT and prostate cancer, it’s still very important that you report your complete medical history (and any family incidences of cancer) before starting hormone therapy. Studies also indicate that TRT could reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and mortality by all causes—but testosterone has previously been associated with an increased risk of cardiac events including heart attack. Men with heart conditions or clotting disorders should consult with a cardiologist prior to starting hormone therapy.
Alternatives to Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Although testosterone replacement therapy is widely acknowledged as the best treatment for low testosterone, the symptoms you experience could also be caused by lifestyle choices. Rather than replacing testosterone with medication, it’s best to treat these issues separately by pursuing alternate therapies.
For those who do not qualify for testosterone replacement therapy—for instance, those who experience very mild symptoms or those who have low-T without symptoms—the following options may be viable alternatives or powerful supplements to therapy:
- Increasing your activity. A 2016 study confirmed that men who are sedentary produce lower levels of testosterone in the body. Increasing your amount of weight-bearing exercise and cardiovascular activity each week could help raise testosterone levels.
- Changing your diet. Obesity has been proven to reduce total levels of testosterone in the male body. By altering your diet and maintaining a healthy weight, it may be possible to reverse this condition and restore natural testosterone levels.
- Adding supplements. Emerging research indicates that increasing the level of vitamin D in the body may also increase testosterone. Other potential supplements include Zinc and those containing D-aspartic acid—two substances that are associated with testosterone production.
It is important, however, to note that while these alternatives may be effective for some mild cases, they are typically not enough to raise low testosterone levels for most men. As such, testosterone replacement therapy remains the gold standard for treating low-T.
Getting the Best Care for Low-T
If you’ve been diagnosed with low testosterone and are taking or about to start testosterone replacement therapy, you may want to pause and examine your options.
On one hand, you could receive standard androgen medications from your primary care physician. They will prescribe a standard dose and help you monitor side effects. But this doctor may not have the full range of experience and training in hormone imbalances and therapies. In other words, you may not receive the highest quality care possible.
You may be better off seeking testosterone replacement therapy from a qualified expert in hormone health. At BodyLogicMD, our expert practitioners are committed to delivering integrative care that takes the whole person into account. They will perform extensive testing to determine your hormone needs, prescribe fully customizable medication regimens for your symptoms, and help you reach optimal wellness through consistent monitoring and careful adjustment throughout the treatment process. They will also listen to your individual concerns and ensure that your treatment plan works for you.
If you’re looking to start testosterone replacement therapy under the care of the nation’s best hormone practitioners, consider partnering with BodyLogicMD.
BodyLogicMD is a network of hormone health practitioners who specialize in hormone therapies and integrative medicine. Our practitioners are among the highest qualified experts in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and dedicated to providing the best care possible. When you partner with BodyLogicMD, your practitioner will create a comprehensive treatment plan that is fully customized to you and your low testosterone symptoms—including lifestyle consulting and nutrition advice. Start your journey toward optimal health today. Contact a local practitioner in your area or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about the best treatment for low testosterone.
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 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.