Beyond decreased sperm production, another repercussion you don't see in the pop-up window ads asking "Is it low T?" is dependence: Once you begin taking testosterone, it's very difficult to stop because the body accommodates for the extra hormone and slows its natural production of it. In reality, replacing hormones is a lifelong commitment. Perhaps that's why some doctors are counseling patients to use caution and to look for other solutions before signing on for full testosterone therapy. Others see the gradual decrease in testosterone as a natural form of aging that we can combat by building muscle and reducing stress, even while we accept it and learn to live with it.
One alternative to straight testosterone replacement is to boost the levels of the hormones that stimulate testosterone production instead. DHEA , for example, is a "parent hormone" made in the adrenal gland and testes, which changes into testosterone in men and estrogen in women. One solution to low testosterone is DHEA supplements , which naturally raise the body's testosterone levels. The advantage is that the body never slows its own efforts to make the hormone the way it does with testosterone replacement, and it doesn't require some of the difficult, often messy delivery systems (transdermal gels or pellets) that testosterone does. According to clinical integrative pharmacist Scott Berliner, the possibility of abnormally low levels of DHEA is worth investigating when someone is suffering from low T, something traditional physicians may overlook. “If a 45-year-old man comes in with a level of 200, they give you testosterone. End of story. In the integrative model, we're always looking for the cause of things." And often the cause is a deficiency in DHEA. According to the National Institutes of Health, raising the body's level of DHEA can increase sexual function and may build muscle mass. There's a reason it's banned by the NCAA. Taking the supplemental hormone in high doses and for long periods of time is not recommended, as that can exacerbate side effects.