My Health Story
I've had a number of men on the
Peak Testosterone Forum (and in emails) ask why
I started this site. And they've asked what has worked for me and what
hasn't. And they've asked how I boosted my testosterone.
Those are all fair questions of course.
When asked a question like this, I scarcely know where to start. It has
been a very long road and I've been through about five distinct stages. I'm not
trying to bore anyone into a coma, but I think most of the men coming to the
site are very much going to relate to one of these and so I am going to do a
thumbnail sketch of each:
Stage I. Pain and Suffering
Well, it all started for me in about 2007. This is when I really hit "the
Wall". As I've described elsewhere, I was absolutely miserable. Here
were some of my symptoms:
A Nearly Constant Feeling of Melancholy
Some Erectile Dysfunction
Muscle and Joint Aches
Passionless; Joyless; Zombie-like
Couldn't Think Straight
Basically, I was just barely able to function at work and in my personal life. Survival was
just about my only goal. Work, relationships - everything was a chore.
Of course, I searched for answers. I began reading on the internet and
tried to find what would cause my symptoms. To my surprise, I found many
syndromes that could supposedly cause these symptoms. This included
adrenal fatigue, yeast overgrowth/candididas, celiac's disease, Lyme Disease,
Epstein-Barr, fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and several others.
The doctors ran all the standard tests and found nothing. I even had my
colon checked for celiac disease and nothing turned up. Everything was a
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My doctor at the time was an excellent diagnostician if you had the flu or a
stomach ulcer or a rash or broken leg. But he absolutely did not know what
to do with me. When I explained to him that I was beginning to experience a
little erectile dysfunction, his solution was simple: 20 mg Cialis horse tabs.
And wow did those bad boys work! It was like being back in high school!
There was one problem though: Cialis gave me tremendous heartburn. I
knew that this was not going to be a good long term solution. At the time
I did not understand that Cialis and the other PDE5 inhibitors have issues with
other similar enzymes in the ear, eyes and stomach and can cause very severe
side effects. I would occasionally get mild ringing in my ears as well and
cut back on the dose. Plus, I found that Cialis was somewhat ingermittent (The PDE5 Inhbititors
are notorious for decreasing in efficacy, something I discuss in this link on
Stage II. Diagnosis and Non-Treatment (Androgel)
I can't remember for sure, but I am almost positive that I asked my doctor for a
testosterone test. I had run across an article that stated low
testosterone symptoms and I had a lot of them. Nothing else had worked, so
maybe, just maybe it could be hormonal. My testosterone reading came back
in the low 300's - I don't remember the exact number - and my doctor told me I
In those days all the labs had the lower range at about 260 or maybe 280 ng/dl.
And I was around 320, so my doctor concluded I was okay. Well, I'm a
numbers guy and I was thinking things to myself like, "That's only a little over
10% above this magic threshold. So maybe I've got about 90% of the
symptomology and not 100%, but that's still bad!"
My reasoning was not bad if you think about it. No man hits a magic number
and then all of his low testosterone symptoms appear, right? Obviously, as
his testosterone lowers more and more symptoms appear at a greater and greater
degree. However, I really didn't know any better and so I just let it lie,
although I did bug him for another test or two and they were always in the
300-350 ng/dl range. Unfortunately, he would not budge and I probably suffered
for a year like this, going back and forth with him.
So was angry at this doc? Well, no, that would be tough actually.
He was very personable, dedicated to his profession and did significant charity
work with children. I couldn't get too upset with him!
I should also mention that during this time I tried everything I could think of
to try to boost my testosterone naturally. But nothing worked.
Changes in diet, sleep, etc. just gave me no significant increase in
testosterone that I could see what so very. And so my testosterone story
seemed to have deadended.
Fortunately, we did another testosterone blood draw and it dipped into the
280's. Suddenly, my doctor was willing to designate me as hypogonadal!
I could not wait to start testosterone therapy but, at the time, knew absolutely
nothing about it. My physician's solution - and I think this was the only
HRT method he knew anything about whatsoever - was to give me Androgel.
Androgel, for those who do not know, is the blockbuster bioidentical
testosterone that really brought HRT into the mainstream. Suddenly, PCPs
everywhere had a Big Pharma-backed method of giving a man testosterone that was
easy and convenient. This made testosterone therapy less "steroid like"
and more palatable to those in primary care.
Androgel came in bottles with a pump on the top and applying was similar to lotion.
You just rub on the upper body and - voila! - the testosterone absorbs through
the skin and you're cured.
If it was only that easy! I found out the hard way that Androgel is often
poorly absorbed and some men get no boost in testosterone whatsoever. (See my
link on Testosterone and Androgel for more information.)
I was one of "those men" and my next reading showed no significant increase in
testosterone. I I knew that I did not feel any better - that was for sure.
My doctor then - reluctantly! - allowed me to increase the number of pumps on my
Androgel. Soon I found I was slathering Androgel all over my upper body.
It was getting ridiculous as my upper body was just covered with the stuff in
thick goopy layers.
I thought, "This ought to take care of the problem!" Well, it didn't.
Strangely, I found that no matter how much Androgel I put on myself, my
testosterone did not increase. Androgel never got me out of the lower
300's and with all that gel all over my upper body, I was worried about
transferrence to my wife and kids. (On the Forum, this is by far the most
common complaint that we get about HRT, i.e. what one might call Androgel Failure.)
This was very disappointing as I felt I may have finally found the root cause
of many of my problems. I assumed that HRT was just not going to work for me. I
did not know that there were actually many different forms of HRT that were
much more effective than Androgel and just assumed that I was out of luck. I
did, however, ask my doctor if he knew of another physician that dealt with this
kind of thing, i.e. "men's issues". I think he couldn't wait to get rid of
me and so he referred me to a urologist that he had heard knew something about
testosterone. I made an appointment as fast as I could!
Stage III. A Change in Diet and an Almost Effective Treatment
My urologist read my case and, fortunately, recognized that Androgel just was
not going to work with me. He did not know a lot about HRT, actually, but
did know of a good compounding pharmacy. He said that a compounded
testosterone was cheaper and could be made with a stronger strength and
absorption than Androgel.
And this turned out to be true. The compounded testosterone did what I
thought could never happen: it brought up testosterone levels up into the
400's. I even had a reading around 550 one time. But, in general, my
testosterone readings during this period were less than 500. My urologist
was very comfortable with me at this level, because he had undoubtedly seen many
men struggle and in many cases die from prostate cancer. I told him how I
had read a number of studies showing prostate cancer risk was not increased by
giving men HRT. His response, "Sure until they come up with a study that
shows the opposite." This just showed his caution and who can blame him?
What I found was that I felt better but certainly not great. However, it was
during this time that I had another big breakthrough: I tried a Low Fat
diet. I had picked up a copy of Dean Ornish's book and, being
experimental, I tried it. I was shocked at the results. Within just
a few days, it had greatly improved my fatigue and erectile dysfunction. This,
coupled with the slight increase in testosterone, finally gave me hope: I
was actually feeling better for the first time in years!
NOTE: I actually follow mostly closely a Low Fat Diet build on the guidelines
of another researcher named Neal Bernard, at least to a large part. Dr. Bernard
shows how to reverse disabetes and slow down or even reduce your arterial plaque,
something I cover in this link on Low Fat Diets and Diabetes
and The Best Health Books. I also avoid
the heavily GMO'd grains (wheat, corn, soy).
Stage IV. Painful But Effective Treatment (Testopel Pellets)
Inside I was anxious to try to raise my testosterone more and was convinced that
this would help me considerably. I had been reading much more about
testosterone and realized at this point that the 400's was still quite low
compare to normal youthful levels. However, my urologist was clearly
uncomfortable with the idea and I was very thankful to have found him in the first
place, since finally I was at least moving in the right direction.
After being on the compounded testosterone for a couple of years, my doctor
actually came to me and asked if I wanted to try pellets. He had a change
of heart and told me that he could probably get me into the mid 600's with
pellets if I was willing to try it.
Of course, I was all over that and, after making sure that my insurance covered
it, I scheduled the procedure. For those who don't know how pellets work,
it's an interesting procedure where little mini-tubes are inserted into your hip
tissue quite close to the surface. These tubes have the pellets and
basically the tube is withdrawn leaving the pellets under your skin. You
can actually feel the pellets after the procedure as a small bump.
The procedure wasn't too bad. Sure, you're partially naked
with the nurse and doc staring at your hemorrohoids for about 20 minutes while
you lay on your side, but I would have done just about anything to get my testosterone levels up.
Of course, you have a good amount of anasthesia and cannot really feel anything
except the pressure of your urologist wiggling the mini-tube (trocar) to get
Now I had read somewhere that getting pellets was no more painful "than drawing
blood." And that is true if you are just talking about the procedure
itself. However, afterward, I found it to be quite painful.
Basically, I could not exercise or lift weights for about five days afterward,
which for me was a fate worse than death, and the area felt semi-infected.
(It was not actually infected - it was just painful and felt inflamed.)
However, after I recoved from the procedure itself, I was one happy guy.
We never measured my testosterone at the peak, but I would guess I went up to
close to upper 600's and so, finally, I had doubled my testosterone levels! The
biggest change was "in my head". I FELT fantastic. Testosterone has
a big effect on a man's brain and I definitely felt it right between the ears.
What I noticed in particular was that the anxiety and sense of melancholy that I
had experienced for years and years subsided. Testosterone was simply a
fantastic "brain tonic" if you will.
I also noticed that I started to get some morning erections and my erectile
strength became even more consistent. I was sold on the power of testosterone!
Of course, anything to do with erections is always front and center for a guy,
but I was particularly struck with the mental aspect. I
noticed feelings - and I don't know quite how to describe this - that I had not
felt since I was much, much younger. I was always into music growing up
and I found that music once again profoundly affected me the way it used to. And
there were feelings of elation and joy in the everyday things of life that I
just had not experienced for a very, very long time.
I can remember thinking: "you're just not really alive if you are low
One other thing I noticed was that my gains in the gym seemed to acclerate.
I had been able to put on muscle even when I was in the 300's, but it was slow
going. However, during this relatively short time period, I picked up some nice increases
in strength and leg and arm size.
But there was a gnawing thought in the back of my head: could I go through
that procedure again? I'm a very thin guy - a card-carrying Skinny
Bastard by any standards - and I had precious little fat tissue as buffer
against those trocars. Plus, my doc wanted me to take antibiotics for a
few days before the procedure to insure that I did not get an infection.
This went against my tightly held health beliefs that antibiotics very often
attack your all-important good gut flora. So the whole thing seemed a
messy, painful business. And yet, I had to admit, it was literally a
fountain of youth for me.
Another problem that arose was that after a couple of months my testosterone
levels began to fall somewhat. That's the way the pellets work.
Everyman is a little different, but, depending on the number of pellets and
other factors, your testosterone levels will gradually begin to fall and then
you need another procedure. I also found that my urologist seemed to be
trying to spread out the time between procedures quite a bit and so I was
concerned about having a month+ of lowish testosterone where I felt about like I
did with the compounding.
Stage V. Finally! Testosterone Injections and Arimidex
All of my hesitation about pellets finally came to a head one day at work and I
did a quick search for HRT clinics. I noticed one just a couple of miles
from my house and went in for an appointment. By this time, I had become
quite knowledge on HRT matters and had been wanting to get on HRT. This
particular clinic was great because 1) they were national and thus should be
fairly stable/reliable, 2) they worked with my insurance companies and 3) they
used cypionate with Arimidex, which was my preferred delivery system based on
the research that I had seen.
NOTE: Injections must be well-managed to avoid most side effects
and to be effective. I discuss that here in my link on Testosterone Cypionate
I was really looking forward to my first shot as my libido was really slipping
from being so long on the pellets. I believe that by the time I got into the
clinic, it had been almost four months since my pellet procedure.
When I got my injection, the reaction I got was spectacular. No, I didn't
start getting spontaneous erections like I was 14 again. What I did get
that evening was, as best I can describe it, "fireworks in my brain". I
felt a little Jim Carrey in The Mask: the feeling was really powerful
between the ears. Not painful. Not scary. But I definitely had
the sesnsation that there was some "rewiring" going on.
Jumping ahead a little, the injections did something huge for me: they
completely vaporized my dysthymia. I had had mild depression pretty much
all of my adult life. A Low Fat Diet got rid of some of it and exercise
still another part of it. But I could never really defeat it completely.
What I noticed a couple of weeks after my injection was that I had absolutely no
sense of melancholy about me.
Also, I have always been high anxiety. I will sometimes call myself
Captain Anxiety in front of my family and they always laugh, because they know
it is true. The injections greatly helped with this issue. It was
strikingly noticeable to my boss and he has commented several times to me about
just this. This goes along with a lot of research that shows that,
counterintuitively to some, low testosterone animals are actually the ones most
likely to fight.
And then I got the best gift of all. In fact, it was like Christmas: I got
my morning erections back. I got occasional morning erections with a Low
Fat Diet and compounding and even a few more with pellets. But there was
no comparison with the injections: morning erections occurred almost
The return of the morning erections also was a "Aha!" moment for me. I
suddely realized the obvious: I had not had morning erections probably my
entire adult life. This coupled with the lifelong dysthymia made me wonder
if I was not low testosterone my entire adult life.
For anyone interested here is my current protocol:
--Testosterone Cypionate (130 mg weekly intramuscular)
--Arimidex (1/4 mg 2 X per week)
NOTE: I started out a 1/2 mg 2 X per week of the Arimidex, but, as is
often the case, I was able to back down the dosage even further.
And I also faced another realization: I probably had pretty bad venous
leakage and my newfound testosterone levels finally helped me overcome that.
My HRT clinic has me at a trough of about 670 ng/dl and a peak of about 850
ng/dl. And, because my last estradiol read was 21 pg/ml, I backed off my
dosage of Armidex to the 1/4 mg. One of my goals is to take as few
pharmaceutical as possible.
So you can see why I am such a huge fan of HRT: it literally gave me back
the youth back that I never had. I feel fanstic and have put on some extra
muscle by the way. I am now significantly stronger than I was in college
and my physique is better too.
And do I know for a fact that there will never be any risks or issues assocaited
with HRT? Of course not. So far the studies look good, but all of
that could change in five years. Maybe a study or two will come out showing
potential issues for certain men or certain types of HRT. Time will tell.
CAUTION: I already have a page on how the topicals may have issues
associated with them. See my link on Weird
Testosterone Risks for more information
In the meantime, I am very much enjoying feeling about half of my age! I
seriously feel MUCH better than I did in my 20's or 30's and
I feel that I owe it all to a Low Fat Diet, exercise, my HRT program and a good
What is my proudest moment? Getting off of Cialis. It is very easy to develop
a dependency on this drug - see my link on Cialis Dependency
for details - and I had to very slowly wean myself off it. But the benefits
were well worth it - no more stomach aches, no more ringing in my ears - and it should
improve my long term health outcomes. And, for the record, I also take no
erectile supplements, i.e. none of the relatively safe supplements I mention on
my site such as Pycnogenol, Korean Ginseng, Citrulline, etc.
One last comment: I have found many times over that I have to go back on Cialis
if I either abandon 1) a Low Fat Diet or 2) a high enough testosterone level -
about 600 ng/dl for me. I believe this is true due to years of low testosterone,
which accelerates hardening of the arteries. Well, I supposed decades of
fast food didn't help either!
NOTE: Now I do think it is important to mention that both low testosterone and
erectile dysfunction should always be checked by a doctor. Very often there
is an underlying medical condition associated with the problem and it is
important to be diagnosed by a professional. Finding a good physician can
be tricky but is well worth the effort.
At the end of the year in 2013 I had to go off of HRT due to a high PSA reading and even
had a prostate biopsy. However, they found that there was no cancer (or even precancer) but
did find inflammation. I was able to resume HRT. For details of my whole experience, see
this page: My Prostate Scare (High PSA but No Cancer).
I got a PSA at my clinic about a month afterwards and already my PSA had dropped
from a peak of 6.3 to 3.9. This is a very good sign that my new
"prostate program" was working, because the urologist said my prostate would be
inflamed for several months afterward. (They take 12 chunks out of the
prostate when they do the biopsy.)
One interesting comment is that I implemented a bunch of natural
anti-inflammatories (turmeric, quercetin, bromelain and IP6) and also have begun
to consume a vegan diet in order to protect my prostate. I don't want to
go through all that again! Now, to be honest, I don't really want to be
vegan but am doing it to make sure my IGF-1 levels stay in line. However,
one interesting thing came out of this and it showed in my latest blood draw at
Total Testosterone (Trough): 851 ng/dl
Estradiol: 26.4 pg/ml
There are two things that are noteworthy about the above. First of all, the only real change,
other than switching from drinking POM pomegranate juice, is to go almost entirely vegan. (I used to eat a lot
of egg whites and quite a bit of nonfat yogurt.) The veganism (or possibly the POM?) looks like it has raised
my trough T levels: they were always 620-720 from what I remember in the past.
In addition, what is very interesting is that my clinic had actually lowered my
Arimidex dose to 1/4 tab two times per week because of no guidelines on
estradiol. So, going vegan, I actually had higher testosterone and was
able to lower my Arimidex. In fact, at my followup visit, they decided to
take me down to 1/4 tab only once per week. So now it looks like I am
almost completely off of Arimidex.
Again, even though I do not really want to be completely vegan and would prefer
to be a lacto-ovo-vegetarian with occasional low fat meats, I really like the
changes I am seeing and will probably continue with things as is. Also,
erectle strength has been improved as well, but I believe this is due to the POM
Pomegranate juice, which has done wonders for some of our forum members.