Many of you, who are being treated for PTSD, depression, and TBI are being pumped full of medications - but few doctors within the VA system are focusing on something that could be truly enhancing the effects of these conditions - hormones. Specifically, your testosterone levels. Anything that affects the brain, could also affect your hormone levels because the brain directs the production of hormones. Additionally, many of the symptoms of PTSD and TBI - depression, anxiety, and insomnia - could be exacerbated by low testosterone levels. Balancing out your testosterone levels could be a primary component in alleviating the effects of these conditions and making your life much more normal.
I wrote the following article for my private fitness site. Please be aware, that I am giving you this, not because I want you to hire me as a coach - I am giving it to you because I know that there are many of you out there suffering while your treatment is not working to help. Also please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, and I do not pretend to be one, so please do not take this as medical advice. It is simply my opinion on things I would try and have tried to alleviate anxiety and depression through hormonal stabilization. Additionally, once you read this article, check out this Episode of Joe Rogan about Dr. Mark Gordon's practice and the charity foundation that gives veterans hormone therapy to treat these deficiencies.
As far as hormones go, testosterone is widely considered the holy grail of muscle building and performance. There are tons of remedies on the market for low T, but there's also a lot of scams. This article will give you some insight into things you can take, eat, and do to naturally increase your testosterone levels without resorting to hormone replacement or steroid use.
How Do You Know if You Have Low Testosterone?
Tests you should get: Testosterone, Free Testosterone, Leutinizing Hormone, Zinc
In general, the normal range for males is 270 – 1070 ng/dl. There is one thing you need to keep in mind here, this is an average range for all males. This includes both 18 year old boys and 80 year old diabetics. The average level of testosterone is 670 ng/dl. If you are under that level, you are under the average level for males and may express symptoms of low energy, low sex drive, and less than optimal body composition. Additionally, you could also be at increased risk for heart disease.
The normal range for females is 15-70 ng/dl. Females with low testosterone can express mood swings, weight gain, decreased sex drive, lack of focus, hair loss, and a host of other issues.
Hormone Replacement Therapy and Steroids
Many of you are going to try to go straight to steroid abuse or testosterone replacement therapy. While I agree that testosterone therapy is useful and it should be an available option for those who need it, it should be a last resort. Additionally, unless you are far under the normal range, then you will probably have a lot of difficulty getting a prescription. Steroids for non-medical use are illegal. Not that that will stop you, but there is the risk. If you go with this option, here is what you need to know. Once you begin using hormones, then your chance of naturally normalizing your testosterone or leutinizing hormone levels will drastically decrease. This means that you can have issues with fertility and reproduction. As such, unless you’ve had all the kids you’re going to have and you have no chance of competing for a top 5 spot at the Olympia, then I suggest you try other remedies first.
If you test low for zinc, chances are that you also have low testosterone. In individuals with low zinc and low testosterone levels, zinc has been shown to increase testosterone, but, I should note that zinc supplementation does not seem to increase testosterone levels in individuals with normal zinc levels. To normalize your zinc levels, supplement with 15-45mg of elemental zinc per day.
If you test low for Vitamin D, and you have low testosterone, you may also want to supplement with vitamin D. While the science here is a bit shaky as far as vitamin D’s relationship with testosterone (there has only been a single study), normalizing vitamin D levels is generally a good idea. My recommendation, if you test low for vitamin D, is to supplement with 35iu of vitamin D per pound of bodyweight until your levels normalize. Make sure you take this with food for proper absorption.
Vitamin C has been shown to increase testosterone, preserve testosterone levels, and enhance sperm quality. Vitamin C deficiency is more common in individuals with limited food variety in their diets, smokers, and people with certain chronic disorders. Males and females can take upwards of 2000mg of vitamin C a day total, and this can come from both food and supplement sources. Make sure you take this with food for proper absorption.
In addition to hormone replacement and nutritional supplements, there are various herbs and herbal blends on the market that claim to naturally increase testosterone levels. This is the really dirty side of the fitness business, and you really need to watch yourself here. I will go through each one and give you my objective opinion on each.
Tribulus Terrestris – this is a European plant that now grows around the world and especially in California. Bodybuilders and strength athletes often use it between cycles of steroids to rebuild their natural levels of testosterone. Pharmacological studies have demonstrated that tribulus has positive effects on increasing libido, increasing sperm count, reducing water retention, and improving blood flow. On the other hand, many of the commercial supplements that include tribulus offer proprietary blends that do not actually include much of the active ingredient, and some studies have found no effect of tribulus supplement on increased muscle mass, performance, or increased levels of testosterone. My advice here is, if you decide to use tribulus as a supplement, search out pure tribulus from herbal shops rather than commercial proprietary blends, and do not expect a miracle from using it. Might be a good idea to save your money.
Pine Pollen – Pine pollen is basically pollen that has been gathered from pine trees. Though it is used widely in traditional Chinese herbal medicine, this supplement is heavily under researched, and there are no studies demonstrating any relation between taking this supplement and increased testosterone. Some, such as sex expert Jordan Gray, have claimed that pine pollen is extremely effective at increasing libido. I will err on the conservative side here and tell you that you might want to wait until some research is done on this, but if you’re a risk taker, give it a whirl and see what happens. It’s your money!
D-Aspartic Acid – this is one of the two forms of the amino acid aspartic acid. The other one is l-aspartic acid. D-aspartic acid operates as a temporary testosterone booster. DAA as it is abbreviated, enters the brain and stimulates the release of leutinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, and growth hormone. It can also enter the testicles and cause a rate-limiting increase in testosterone. While this supplement is amazing while it is working, its testosterone boosting effects really only last around two weeks. As such, this supplement would be good to use in the final two weeks of preparation for a sporting event. The standard dose here would be between 2000 and 3000mg a day.
Oyster Extract – Oyster extract contains lots of zinc, and as we know, zinc supplementation can raise testosterone levels if you have a zinc deficiency. So if you’ve been tested, and you do have a zinc deficiency, then oyster extract could be an excellent and highly absorbable form of zinc. Suggested dose here is 500mg a day.
Stinging Nettle - So a lot of fitness professionals swear by stinging nettle as a testosterone booster. The problem I have is that, in every study, trials were conducted with it in conjunction with multiple herbs. So we can’t say that stinging nettle works to boost testosterone in isolation from these other variables. Supposedly, stinging nettle works with sex hormone binding globulin to provide for more free testosterone floating throughout the body, but again this has not been sufficiently demonstrated for me to make it an absolute recommendation.
Panax Ginseng – This one gets confusing. There are a lot of different ginsengs out there: American ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Siberian ginseng, and pseudo-ginseng. Panax ginseng, also known as true ginseng, mountain ginseng, or wild ginseng, is the one that has been experimentally shown to increase testosterone levels. Recommended dosage is 1000 mg used three times daily.
Other Things You Can Do to Raise Your Testosterone Levels
Clean Your House and Rid it of Molds and Toxins
A lot of people do not know this, but mold and compounds in dust can seriously put a detriment on your testosterone production and libido. One of the easiest and least expensive things you can do to raise your testosterone levels is to clean your house and rid it of any molds. Additionally, you’ll want to use natural cleaning products rather than harsh chemicals. Toxins from cleaning products can also reduce testosterone levels.
Change Your Hygiene Products
Get rid of all soaps, shampoos, lotions, and other products that contain parabens because these can also interfere with your hormonal processes.
Eat More Fat
If you’re following this diet, you’ll be eating a lot of fat, but I just want to emphasize this here. Fat contains the precursors your body needs to create testosterone. If you aren’t eating enough of it, then your test will go down.
Avoid Sugar, Excess Starchy Carbs, and Anything Made of Wheat or Flour
These foods will elevate levels of inflammation and increase cortisol secretion. Cortisol blocks the production of testosterone.
Get Proper Sleep
You’re going to need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep in order to increase testosterone production.
This was a fairly comprehensive list of things you can take, eat, and do to naturally increase your testosterone levels. The key here is self-quantification. Get yourself tested, know your levels, know your deficiencies if they exist, and then seek the appropriate tools.
Mohd, J. 2012. Pharmacological Scientific Evidence for the Promise of Tribulus Terrestris. International Research Journal of Pharmacy. 3(5), 403-404.
Oliver et al. 2010. The Effects of Ingesting a Tribulus Containing Proprietary Supplement with Combined Resistance Training, on Strength, Body Composition, and Hormonal Changes in Males.