DHT, the apex androgen for all men.
Testosterone is only thought to be a precursor hormone in the body for the synthesis of DHT, which is the most potent alpha hormone. It’s like cholesterol that’s the precursor to pregnenolone and testosterone.
Many of the beneficial effect of testosterone is actually through DHT, and blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT eliminates those benefits.
Testosterone is converted to DHT via the 5-alpha reductase (5-AR) enzyme in the body. Although testosterone is a major contributor to circulating DHT, DHT can also be created from other precursors, such as DHEA, androstenedione, androsterone, 17-hydroxypregnenolone and 17-hydroxyprogesterone.
A few really cool facts about DHT why it’s superior to testosterone
DHT is 2.5-10 times more potent than testosterone and here’s why:
- DHT has 4 times higher affinity to AR (androgen receptors) than testosterone
- Binding of DHT to the AR transforms the AR to its DNA-binding state
- DHT upregulates AR synthesis and reduces AR turnover
- The dissociation rate of testosterone from receptors is 3-5 fold faster than DHT (meaning DHT exerts a much more powerful effect on AR than testosterone)
However, high concentrations of intracellular T can shift AR binding away from DHT by mass action, as only 10% of T converts to DHT via 5-AR and DHT is roughly 7- to 10-fold lower in the circulation than T (R). So DHT is clearly outnumbered.
In the blood, DHT is also bound to SHBG (5 times high affinity and longer binding halflife (43 sec) than T (12 sec)) and more weakly to albumin. In general, protein-bound DHT is inactive except in some reproductive tissues in which megalin, an endocytic receptor, acts as a pathway for cellular uptake of DHT when bound to SHBG.
Ok, enough geeking out.
Let’s discuss why you even want high DHT in the first place.
Like I mentioned, the benefits of high testosterone is mostly due to the conversion of DHT.
So having high DHT will make you feel:
- Calm and collected
- Confident & non-intimidated by others
- Fearless, but not reckless
- Protective of those you love
- Stress resilient
- Mentally quick and sharp
…and a host of other benefits as well.
It truly is a hormone we want to maximize alongside testosterone, dopamine and thyroid. Keep in mind that the body is complicated and that all hormones need to work together for all the benefits.
Now I’m going to show you how to boost your DHT effortlessly and effectively.
I’m going to start of with the most important things that you have to do on a consistent basis and then move on to things that you can do sporadically and inconsistently, but that will have additional benefits.
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#1 Optimize testosterone production
Testosterone is one of the most important precursors to DHT production and the more you have the more can be converted to DHT. I have already written a lot about this so you can just get my free ebook on boosting testosterone or read my article on boosting testosterone here.
#2 Optimize thyroid hormone production
Thyroid hormones are essential for not only testosterone production, but also conversion to DHT. In the hyperthyroid state, testosterone and DHT production is dramatically increased while their clearance rate is decreased. Hyperthyroid affects DHT the most, as plasma levels are increased by 8-10 times over the average values found in euthyroid men (R).
Here are a few tips of optimize thyroid hormone production:
- Avoid goitrogenic foods (they inhibit the uptake of iodine by the thyroid), such as cruciferous vegetables such as bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, canola, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, coy sum, collard greens, horseradish, kai-lan, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, radishes, rapeseed, rapini, rutabagas, and turnips.
- Avoid halogens, such as fluoride (found in drinking water, toothpaste and other chemical production), chlorine (found in swimming polls) and bromide (found in baked goodies)
- Avoid excess stress. Cortisol lowers thyroid hormone production as well as conversion of T4 to T3. Cortisol also makes the body resistant to thyroid hormones.
- Don’t overtrain. Overreaching with proper deloading is still perfectly fine.
- Eat enough calories. A caloric deficit lowers thyroid hormones
- Eat enough protein.
- Eat lots of nutritious foods. A deficiency in vitamins and minerals can lower thyroid hormone production.
If you want an immediate solution for a slow thyroid, take a thyroid supplement in the meanwhile while you’re working on optimizing the rest. Here are a few options:
- TyroMax – a very high quality glandular product
- TyroMix – 3mcg T3 & 6mcg T4 per drop, 360 drops. Take 2 drops per meal to gauge the effect.
Or sometimes you just need selenium, which is very important for converting T4 into T3.
#3 Eat carbs
Carbs, and especially the insulin release, increases DHT production (R, R). But it’s not only the insulin that’s important, but people on a low carbohydrate diet have less DHT than people on a high carb diet (R).
But don’t just start slamming down maltodextrin shakes, rather consume wholesome foods like milk, fruits and starches such as potatoes and sweet potatoes.
It would be a good to first check your fasting glucose levels and then avoid carbs that make you go on a blood sugar roller coaster. Keep in mind that not all carbs are the same and if baked goodies give you low blood sugar symptoms, a banana or apple might not.
So experiment with different carb sources and even get a blood sugar meter so you can check your levels in the morning, during the day and a few hours after eating a certain carb source to see how it’s affecting you.
#4 Eat good fats
A good amount of fat in the diet is very beneficial for testosterone production. However, some fats inhibit the 5-AR enzyme and can lower DHT levels.
It’s the type of fat that’s important. Saturated fats increase testosterone production, whereas polyunsaturated fats lower it. Monounsaturated fat is mainly neutral towards testosterone levels.
Saturated fats are mainly found in beef, bison, goat, sheep and game fat, dairy fat, coconut oil, cocoa butter and MCT oil.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are found in high amounts of most nut-, seed-, and vegetable oils, with the exception of olive oil and macadamia nut oil.
So if you want to maximize testosterone production, eat a healthy amount of saturated fat sources and try to keep the polyunsaturated fat as low as possible.
Additionally, PUFAs potently inhibit 5-AR.
The more double bonds the PUFA has, the more potent it inhibits 5-AR.
- Linoleic acid (an omega 6), found in vegetables, seeds and nuts, has 2 double bonds.
- Alpha-linolenic acid, the “pre-cursor” to omega 3 found in flax seeds for example, has 3 double bonds.
- Arachidonic acid (an omega 6) found in eggs has 4 double bonds.
- EPA and DHA (omega 3s) found in fish oil have 5 and 6 double bonds respectively.
Which ones will have the most inhibitory effect?
That’s right, the fish oil, followed by arachidonic acid, linolenic acid and finally linoleic acid.
For conformation, this in vivo human study found the following: (from strongest inhibitor to weakest):
- Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) (found in evening primrose oil, blackcurrant seed oil, borage seed oil, and hemp seed)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (found in fatty fish and fish oils)
- Arachidonic acid (found mostly in eggs and poultry fat)
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (found in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybeans and soybean oil, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil, perilla seed oil, Tofu, walnuts and walnut oil.)
- Linoleic acid (found in all vegetable, nut and seed oils)
- Palmitoleic acid (An omega 7, found in macadamia nut oil and sea buckthorn oil) ->
- Oleic acid (found in olive oil, avocados, and most other foods) ->
- Myristoleic acid
As you can see, this whole list is from PUFAs and some MUFAs here at the end. No saturated fat has the same potent inhibitory effect, except lauric acid (found in coconut oil), but which is actually less than a third as inhibitory as oleic acid.
So if you want to maximize DHT, avoid the PUFAs, simple as that.
#5 Keep inflammation low
Chronic inflammation is one of the most destructive things to health, androgens and longevity. Elevated inflammatory markers, such as IL-6 and CRP, have significant inhibitory effects on the synthesis of DHT by inhibiting 5-AR (R). Oxidative stress also has similar inhibitor actions (R, R).
Promoters of inflammation include polyunsaturated fat, high phosphate intake, excess iron and heavy metals, etc. I have elaborated more on this in my ebook (link provided above).
Anti-biotics, vitamin E, aspirin and a few other herbs are very effective at lowering inflammation and can increase DHT.
Sleeping is very important for your testosterone production (R). Under 7 hours of sleep a night can negatively influence your testosterone levels as well as general health, energy levels and brain function. Testosterone is highest in the morning and lowest in the evening, but only after a good nights rest.
Testosterone and DHT is mostly increased during the REM phase of sleep.
With too little sleep, or bad quality sleep, adequate amounts of DHT is unable to be replenished.
Here are a few tips to improve sleep:
- Sleep in a completely dark, quiet and cool room.
- Use blue light filters or blue light blocker glasses after sundown.
- Take time to relax at least one hour before bed (e.g. drink a cup of tea and look at the stars or listen to relaxing music).
- Write everything down that’s on your mind (e.g. things you have to get done the next day) so that your mind can be cleared and relaxed so that it can “shut down”. Having a lot on your mind before you go to bed keeps your brain on “standby mode” and will have your mind repeating everything you have to do so that you don’t forget it.
- Be active during the day.
- Get sunlight on your eyes in the morning when you wake up.
- Supplements like magnesium, glycine, Ashwagandha, Valerian, theanine and Magnolia have been found to improve sleep quality when taken before bed.
#7 Lower estrogen
Estrogen is the most potent negative regulators of testosterone production and also has an inhibitory action on 5-AR (R). Keeping estradiol at or below 20pg/dl is a good goal.
Although people might still have high DHT in the presence of high estrogen, and this is because other potent inducers of DHT might also be elevated, such as hyperinsulinemia in diabetes.
Read more here to:
- lower the aromatase or alternatively, get my list of the top 6 aromatase inhibitors here.
- de-activate estrogen receptors
- increase estrogen detoxification
#8 Lower prolactin
Prolactin inhibits 5-AR in normal men (R). Luckily, it can quickly be reversed as 5-AR is reactivated within 48-72 hrs after normalization of prolactin levels. You can read more here on lowering prolactin here…
#9 Stay lean
Fat tissue contains enzymes that breaks down DHT into lesser potent steroids, which is actually able to activate the estrogen receptors and promote excess body hair growth. The more fat you have, the more androgenic hormones gets broken down…
#10 Avoid 5-AR inhibitors
- Soy (genistein, daidzein)
- Green tea
- Pumpkin seed oil
- Sulforaphane (R)
- Flavonoids (biochanin A, quercetin, myricetin, fisetin and kaempferol) (R, R, R, R)
- Black pepper (R).
- Rosemary (R)
- Panax ginseng (R)
- Beta-sitosterol. (R) (found in avocadoes, nuts, black cumin oil/black seed oil, pygeum, stinging nettle)
- Azelaic acid (found in wheat, rye, and barley) (R)
- Reishi mushroom, (R) including other mushrooms, with white button mushroom being the least inhibitory.
- Saw palmetto (R)
- Fenugreek (R)
- Pesticides. (R)
- DIM (is able to displace DHT from its receptor and is a estrogen receptor agonist) (R)
- Lignan. Lignans are compounds found in plant food sources. Lignans strongly inhibit 5-alpha reductase, and also lowers testosterone (R). Foods that are high in lignans include seeds (especially flax seed) and whole grains (breads, pastas, cereals etc.)
#11 Exercise & being active
Exercise is one of the most beneficial things we can do for our health and androgens.
Exercise, when done right, stimulate the production of androgens in the muscles themselves as well as increase testicular testosterone production and conversion to DHT.
In this study, weight lighting, including explosive exercises, significantly increased 5-alpha reductase. After 12 weeks of following the training program, the men experienced a 58% increase in DHT (R).
Not only weight training can increase DHT, but almost all kinds of physical activity (except the exhausting overtraining type), such as walking, jogging, springing, HIIT, swimming, hiking and so on (R, R, R, R).
Check out my facebook post on physical activity
So now that we discussed the low hanging fruit of boosting DHT, let’s check out a few proven supplements.
Creatine supplementation is shown to increase DHT significantly by 56% (after 7 days of creatine loading in rugby players), while testosterone levels were not affected (R).
Some people say that the boost in DHT is due to creatine increasing exercise volume and intensity, and that this boost increases DHT, and not specifically the creatine itself, but regardless, creatine aids in boosting DHT.
Once you have done the loading phase for 7 days at a dose of 20g, you can reduce the dose to 5g and then stick to that dose indefinitely. There is no need to cycle creatine. And apart from its exercise performance, muscle building and androgen boosting benefits, it’s also great for general energy levels and brain function.
Once creatine levels are saturated in the body it really doesn’t matter when you take it, but I still take mine post-workout, as there is a study that shows superior gains that way.
Boron is a non-essential mineral that increases testosterone and DHT. Some studies show that boron increase estrogen and others show that it decrease estrogen. So if you do get estrogenic symptoms from boron, it would be best no to take it (R).
For its DHT boosting benefits you have to take 10-12mg daily as 2.5mg daily had no effect on androgen levels (R).
I just take plain ol’ Borax for my boron, but here are a few good supplements you can use:
#3 Butea Superba
This herb can very potently increase DHT, but the effects goes away about a week after you stop (as with most supplements) (R). It’s definitely a nice herb to use to experience the effect of high DHT and all the benefits that come with that.
- Butea Superba – (Amazon)
Regular coffee consumption boosts testosterone and DHT levels and caffeine supplementation at doses of 2-4mg/kg/day is able to boost DHT by 57% (R). The dose would be 160mg-320mg per day for an 80kg man, which is easily obtainable with 3 cups of coffee a day or 1-2 double espressos.
Zinc intake is significantly correlated with total and free testosterone and DHT (R, R, R). An in vitro study show that zinc inhibits DHT production, but this in vivo study (in actually humans) show that zinc boosts DHT levels.
Zinc supplementation (120mg twice daily) significantly increased DHT (19%), and also slightly increased testosterone in eugonadal men (490 to 750ng/dl), showing upregulation of the 5 alpha reductase enzyme even at very high dose zinc (R). You can read more on zinc here…
I’d definitely not recommend taking such high doses, but would rather recommend getting zinc from food such as organ meat, red meat and oysters, but if your zinc intake is still low, use only 30mg daily.
#6 Tribulus Terrestris
Men who took 250mg Tribulus Terrestris (TT) daily had a significant decrease in the percentage of body fat and increase in lean mass as well as an increase in DHT levels (R). TT also increased total testosterone and DHEA-S, which is the storage form of DHEA (R). You can read more on Tribulus Terrestris here…
- Tribulus Terrestris – (Amazon, iHerb, Myhealthonline) Take 1 cap from the amazon supplement and take 3g from the iHerb supplement, depending on which one you take.
#7 Alfalfa sprouts
Consuming 50g of alfalfa sprouts for 4 week increased DHT by roughly 140pg/ml on average or by 24% in middle aged men (R). Although, alfalfa is also estrogenic, so I would not use or recommend it to boost DHT.
Ok, now that we discussed all the methods and supplements that’s been shown to actually increase DHT in humans, let’s enter some deeper darker more uncharted waters of supplements that can potentially boost DHT. These supplements are either proven to boost the 5-AR enzyme, but has not been directly tested to see if they increase DHT or not, or are indirectly involved in the synthesis of DHT.
#1 Boost IGF-1
IGF-1 stimulates the activity of the 5-AR enzyme (R) and some studies actually show that testosterone to DHT conversion in the skin (beard area) is IGF-1 dependent. Time to boost that IGF-1!
IGF-1 is an anabolic growth factor synthesized by the liver and boosts muscle growth and reducing body fat.
Milk consumption is able to dramatically increase insulin and IGF-1 serum levels, even comparable to high GI foods (R). Magnesium, zinc, protein, vitamin D, protein, DHEA, proper sleep and selenium also increase IGF-1 just to name a few.
#2 Vitamin B1 & vitamin B3
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) is a co-factor used in anabolic reactions as well as for the 5-AR enzyme. Potentially, the more NADPH there is, the faster 5-AR can convert T to DHT (R).
Vitamin B1 work through the pentose phosphate pathway to increase the production of NADPH. More NADPH –> more DHT formation. You can read more on vitamin B1 here…
So theoretically, vitamin B1 and B3 can increase DHT by increase NADPH levels, the cofactor for 5-AR.
#3 Raw milk
Raw milk contains a host of different hormones, including 5-alpha reduced steroids, so drinking milk can increase DHT levels (R).
But it won’t blow your DHT through the roof however, as milk consumption only increases DHT slightly over time (R).
Morphine increases 5-alpha reductase mRNA, however, it also increases aromatase mRNA in the brain and gonads (R, R). Even if you get a boost in DHT, you’d most likely also get a boost in estrogen. Plus, morphine is an opioid agonist and opioids lower testosterone production. This is not something I’d use to boost DHT.
But if you’re still game for it you can try poppy seeds as it contains natural morphine and codeine. 100g poppy seeds equals 0.5mg-20mg of morphine (R).
Glycine, a very important non-essential amino acid, are shown to increase 5-AR in the brain leading increased conversion from progesterone to allopregnanolone. You can read more on glycine here.
So glycine are more likely to boost brain alpha reduced steroids through 5-alpha reductase type 1, instead of DHT through 5-AR type 2. People with anxiety or PFS might benefit a lot from taking a few teaspoons of glycine per day.
#6 Vitamin B6
Pyridoxine hydrochloride (the plain normal mostly available form of B6) significantly increases the activity of 5-AR, whereas pyridoxal hydrochloride had an inhibitory influence on 5-AR (R).
Pyridoxal phosphate, the active form of vitamin B6, showed modification of the enzyme, but the study did not specific if it was stimulatory or inhibitory. But from anecdotal experiences, people don’t experience low DHT symptoms from the active form of vitamin B6.
I recommend getting your vitamin B6 from food, but if you do want to take some, a good quality B-vitamin should have enough vitamin B6.
The pro-hormones than boost DHT most effectively are DHEA, androsterone and 11-keto DHT.
Under ideal conditions (without inflammation or elevated cortisol), DHEA favors the DHT route instead of the estrogen one. Applying DHEA topically on the skin and especially the scrotum skin can boost DHT significantly as the skin expresses a lot of 5-AR.
Androsterone and 11-keto DHT are already 5-alpha reduced and doesn’t require the 5-AR enzyme. They just need to convert to DHT in the body.
If you want to play around with prohormones I recommend taking small doses of each, no more than 15mg of DHEA daily, 1-5mg androsterone and 1-5mg 11-keto DHT.
#8 Vitamin A
In this in-vitro study, all-trans-retinoic acid (the active form of vitamin A) increased 5-AR. Human dosage would be 500-700mg of all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA), which would be a huge dose. Smaller doses of vitamin A should also have a stimulatory effect. Vitamin B2 is a cofactor in converting retinol to retinoic acid and should help with boosting 5-AR (R).
Foods high in retinol (animal form of vitamin A) are beef-, chicken- and lamb liver, eggs, full fat milk and cod liver oil.
Plant sources of vitamin A (beta-carotene) include green leafy veggies, pumpkin, butternut, sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, etc.
#9 Have a drink now and then
Enjoying an alcoholic beverage every now and then increases 5-AR type 1 in the brain, which leads to higher allopregnanolone in the brain (R). However, chronic use of alcohol reduces the function of the 5-AR enzyme and can lead to low 5 alpha reduced steroids (R).
Sorghum seed extract is able to increase DHT by 54% (R). Sorghum contains goitrogenic substances though and has been reported to cause hair loss is some people, although other report only good effect.
Simple ways to consume sorghum is just to make porridge/pancakes with the flour, use sorghum syrup or make a tincture of the flour or more specifically, the seeds.
Magnesium is essential for energy and steroid production and increases the enzyme 17β-HSD, which increases the conversion of 5α-Androstanedione / 3α-Androstanediol / 3β-Androstanediol to DHT. You can read more on magnesium here…
Most people are deficient in magnesium and can benefit from eating more magnesium rich foods, such as cocoa, green leafy veggies, potatoes, etc, or consume a good supplements.
#12 Vitamin D
Vitamin D is actually a seco-steroid and acts more like a steroid than a vitamin. Vitamin D further enhances the actions of androgens (e.g. DHT) by inhibiting its deactivation from androgen receptors by inhibiting the glucuronidation (a mechanism that inactivates and eliminates substances) of DHT, resulting in an accumulation of DHT to exert a more powerful effect (R). You can read more on vitamin D here…
Get your levels tested. If you’re deficient, take 5000IU daily until your levels are around 50ng/mL.
Nicotine boosts DHT by inhibiting the enzyme, 3α-HSD, which is the enzyme that breaks DHT down into 3α-androstanediol. The study was done in vitro on dog prostate though, but it might have truth in humans as well (R). Gums or patches are advised and not smoking.
#14 Boost histamine
Histamine significantly increases DHT synthesis (R). You can boost histamine with its precursor amino acid, histidine. Take about 500mg-4g. Combine that with beta-alanine (5g) and folic acid (800mcg) for synergistic results.
If you want a more subtle approach, use an H3 receptor antagonist, such as Pitolisant and/or Kutaj Bark (Hollarhena antidysenteric, which contains conessine).
#15 Increase oxytocin
Oxytocin is able to increase 5-alpha reductase (R). Vitamin C is able to increase oxytocin levels (R). Oxytocin is also increased by exercise, laughter, meditation, relaxation, massage, slow music, etc…
Among phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine, only phosphatidylserine is able to stimulate the 5 alpha-reductase (R). Phosphatidylserine is also able to lower cortisol at doses of 300-600mg and enhance mental function, so maybe that is a good dose to start at for boosting 5-AR.
#17 NMDA activation
NMDA agonists increase 5α-reductase mRNA and DHT levels (91). Exercise, glycine, glutamate, pregnenolone and DHEA are NMDA agonists.
#18 Boost nerve growth factor
Nerve growth factor (NGF), which promotes nerve regeneration and growth, induces the elevation of 5α-reductase mRNA in the brain (R). Theanine, lithium, butyrate, exercise, nicotine, DHEA, etc., increases NGF.
#19 HDAC inhibitors
Histone deacetylase (HDAC) is a class of enzymes that regulate DNA expression. This in vitro study shows that HDAC inhibitors increase the production of 5 alpha-reduced neurosteroids, such as allopregnanolone and DHT (R).
Natural HDAC inhibitors are short-chain fatty acids such as butyric acid (found in dairy fat) and valeric acid (also found in valerian root), Trichostatin A, niacinamide, biotin, lipoic acid, garlic, vitamin E, CLA, and nicotine.
#20 Lower adrenaline
Adrenaline is usually secreted in a stressful situation and returns to baseline shortly after the stress has passed. However, with chronic stress and chronic adrenal stimulation, adrenaline will be chronically elevated.
Noradrenaline, in the pineal gland, increases both estrogen and lowers DHT, by increasing aromatase and block 5-alpha reductase, by 72% and 39% respectively (R). Substances that effectively lower excessive noradrenaline are sugar, salt, taurine, niacinamide, inosine, androsterone, magnesium, GABA promotors and vitamin B6.
Symptoms of elevated adrenaline include rapid heart beat, cold hands and feet, feeling jittery, anxious and fearful, increased breath rate and heart rate, elevated body temperature and sweating.
#21 Some drugs
Carbamazepine, reserpine, diazepam (Valium – GABA agonist), phenytoin, phenobarbital, disulfiram, methylphenidate (Ritalin) and methamphetamine significantly increase the 5-alpha reductase enzyme in the diencephalon (the posterior part of the forebrain, containing the epithalamus, thalamus, hypothalamus, and ventral thalamus and the third ventricle) (R).
#22 Trichostatin A
Trichostatin A, an antibiotic, and also a SIRT1 inhibitor similar to niacinamide (vitamin B3), is able to boost 5-AR in glial cells in the brain (R). So maybe all SIRT1 inhibitors will have a positive influence on 5-AR in the brain, thus niacinamide will be effective boosting 5-alpha reduced steroids in the brain.