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Low testosterone can cause sexual dysfunction. It also can leave you feeling not much like yourself. There are many causes for a drop in testosterone levels. Often, diet and lifestyle changes often can help avoid low testosterone and support healthier levels.

Testosterone’s Role in Your Body

Testosterone is the hormone that gives men their male characteristics. Although women make smaller amounts of it in their bodies, testosterone is the major male sex hormone. It affects a man’s appearance, muscle size and strength, sperm production, and sex drive.

It also plays other important roles in the body, including maintaining healthy bone density, fat distribution, and red blood cell production. In men, low testosterone levels may result in reduced body hair, loss of muscle mass, lower sex drive, and impotence. Other effects of low testosterone in men can include brittle bones, hot flashes, enlarged breasts, and even low energy and depression.

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What Causes Low Testosterone?

Your testes produce testosterone, but your brain and pituitary gland control the levels in your body. A man’s testosterone level peaks in early adulthood, around the age of 30, and declines naturally with age. Sometimes, however, testosterone levels drop more than they normally should.

Certain health conditions can cause abnormally low testosterone. Some of these include:

  • Injury or infection in the testes
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Hormone disorders
  • Alcoholism

Medicines such as opiate painkillers and steroid injections also can cause low testosterone.

If you feel like your testosterone might be abnormally low, you should talk to your doctor. Tests can be done to determine if it’s within a normal range. If necessary, your doctor can order further testing to identify the cause of low testosterone and recommend treatments.

Much of the time, men in their 40s and 50 notice symptoms of lower testosterone — which may be a natural decline due to aging. But if you are overweight, have insulin resistance, are under lots of stress, or aren’t sleeping well, you might have worse symptoms. If your testosterone has dipped because of these factors, the best way to boost it is with diet and lifestyle changes.

Diet and Low Testosterone Levels

Contrary to what you might have heard, there isn’t any single food or supplement that can permanently boost low testosterone levels. Your body makes hormones like testosterone from the nutrients you eat — especially fat, protein, and certain vitamins and minerals. Eating a healthy, balanced diet can go a long way toward supporting healthier testosterone levels as you age.

Researchers have found that men who eat a “Western-style” diet often have lower testosterone levels. A Western-style diet is high in the refined carbs and added sugars found in white bread, desserts, pastries, and sweetened soft drinks. It’s also low in vegetables and often includes more fast foods, fried foods, and unhealthy fats.

A diet that supports healthy testosterone levels includes lots of foods like:

  • Lean proteins (skinless poultry, seafood, lean beef)
  • Eggs
  • Colorful fruits and vegetables (berries, leafy greens, carrots, broccoli)
  • Legumes (kidney, black, and navy beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil
  • Whole grains (oats, brown rice, whole wheat cereals and breads)

And it includes eliminating — or only occasionally consuming — foods like:

  • Alcohol (men should have no more than two drinks per day).
  • Chips or fried snacks
  • Desserts or pastries
  • Fast foods
  • Refined grains (white bread, pasta, rice)
  • Soft drinks

The Bottom Line

Eating a healthier diet will promote a healthier weight. It can also help your cells become more responsive to insulin if you are showing signs of insulin resistance. Both of these things may help to boost your testosterone and maintain healthy levels as you age.

If you suspect you have symptoms of low testosterone, talk to your doctor. If necessary, your doctor can refer you to a registered dietitian or other specialists who can help with stress management, sleep problems, or sexual dysfunction.

For male sexual and reproductive health issues, contact the UPMC Men’s Health Center at 1-877-641-4636 to connect with an expert.

Testosterone and Androgens. Hormone Health Network. Endocrine Society.

Low Testosterone (Hypogonadism).

Hormone Health Network. Endocrine Society.

Testosterone-Associated Dietary Pattern Predicts Low Testosterone Levels and Hypogonadism. Nutrients.

Alternatives to Testosterone Therapy: A Review. Sexual Medicine Reviews.

About Men’s Health Center

The UPMC Men’s Health Center evaluates and treats conditions affecting men’s sexual and reproductive health. With years of clinical experience in male sexual medicine and surgery, our team has treated a wide variety of conditions and performed thousands of surgeries. We are dedicated to providing patients the highest level of quality care. Our providers understand the intimate nature of male sexual difficulties, and we will work to help you restore your normal level of sexual function in a comfortable, educational, and discreet environment.