Various supplements and medications may help increase a person's testosterone levels. However, increasing testosterone can come with a raised risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke.
Some people choose to increase their testosterone levels by using alternative treatments, though many of these lack scientific-backing.
Usually, a person should only take testosterone supplements if they have a medical condition that causes low testosterone. Alternatively, they may choose to do so if they are a transgender person, electing to take supplements as part of their transition process.
According to an article in the journal F1000 Research, the main ways doctors administer testosterone is through injections or transdermally via a person's skin.
A person may receive injections of testosterone from their doctor, or the doctor might allow them to inject themselves at home.
These injections will typically be either testosterone enanthate or testosterone cypionate, which people use every 1 to 2 weeks.
Injections can damage the tissue, so it is important to rotate injection sites and use a sterile technique.
Injections are highly effective at treating hypogonadism and ensure the dose a person receives is consistent.
Transdermal testosterone is a gel that people apply directly to the skin.
This treatment method is popular as it is easy to administer, and the amount of testosterone a person receives is consistent each day. This balance can avoid the effects of sudden, fluctuating doses that some people experience with injections.
There are some disadvantages that include:
- possible skin irritation
- the gel may transfer to another person through skin contact
- the gel rubs off, and so the necessary dose is reduced
If a person has issues with these methods of administering testosterone, a doctor may suggest these alternatives:
- subcutaneous testosterone pellet, which sits under the skin
- administering testosterone to the nose or cheek
- taking testosterone orally
These may be more convenient for a person to take, but they can also increase the chances of irritation or infection.
To choose the correct medicinal testosterone, people must work with their doctor. They may also wish to ask about the potential costs and benefits to their particular medical history and requirement to make a better decision.
There are many testosterone supplements available to buy over the counter that purport to increase a person's testosterone. However, there is typically little evidence to demonstrate their effectiveness.
Lifestyle changes, such as exercise, improving diet, and reducing excess weight may have a more significant impact than taking these supplements.
These choices should occur after a discussion with a doctor, so that the best approach is made for the individual in view of their personal medical history.
According to a study in the International Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine, D-Aspartic acid increases testosterone levels in some animals. However, studies that have looked at its effects on humans are inconclusive and mainly of poor quality. The paper says there is an urgent need for more research on this chemical, which occurs naturally in some human tissues.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone that occurs in the body, and people can purchase it as a testosterone supplement. However, an article in the American Journal of Men's Health suggests there was little evidence for its effectiveness.
According to the previous article in American Journal of Men's Health, manufacturers market various herbal supplements as improving testosterone and are sometimes available in combination with DHEA.
Much like other alternative treatment options, there is little evidence for their effectiveness for increasing testosterone. There may be concerns about dose, quality, and purity in these products that are not overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
As a person gets older their testosterone levels decrease, which can lead to the following:
- a reduction in libido
- erectile dysfunction
- a weakening of muscles and bones
People may wish to supplement their testosterone to counteract these natural effects of aging. However, the possible benefits of taking testosterone need to be in a balance with the higher risks of cardiovascular events.
The FDA do not recommend a person take testosterone supplements to counteract the effects of aging because of these higher risks.
If a person is transitioning, they may choose to have testosterone therapy to make the aspects of their body that society understands as masculine more apparent.
According to an article in the journal Translational Andrology and Urology, a doctor should explain the potential risks of hormone therapy to a person considering this treatment. They can then make a better decision about the potential benefits they would have and weigh them against the risks.
A person may have a condition that causes them to have low testosterone levels, most commonly hypogonadism. According to an article in the journal American Family Physician, if a person has hypogonadism, the best course of action is for them to begin testosterone therapy once they know the risks.
Research on testosterone therapies is still developing, in particular around the potential risks of increasing a person's testosterone levels. For some people, such as those who have hypogonadism or those who are transitioning, these risks may be worth the benefits.
However, current recommendations are not to take testosterone supplements to reverse the effects of aging. Alternative treatments have little evidence to back them up, meaning they may be ineffective and create some level of risk.