How To Increase Human Growth Hormone Levels Naturally

Human growth hormone (HGH) is an important hormone produced in the pituitary gland which stimulates tissue and bone growth in humans. This is a vital hormone that helps increase bone mineral density, reduces the incidence of having a heart attack by increasing HDL cholesterol, reducing total and LDL cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, fat mass, and C-reactive protein levels.

Furthermore, human growth hormone also regulates cognitive and metabolic function and adrenaline release and boosts muscle growth, strength, and exercise performance, and helps the body recover from injury and disease. [1][2] Growth hormone also helps with sleep disturbances because it regulates our sleep cycles and helps us get more prolonged and deeper sleep. [40]

Depending on age, low levels of human growth hormone may increase your risk of disease, support weight gain, and overall decrease your quality of life. [3] 

However, growth hormone replacement therapy is best used only for people who suffer from severe growth hormone deficiency, whereby this therapy has unquestionable benefits [64]

Otherwise, a proper, healthy diet with some lifestyle changes can significantly affect growth hormone levels without the risks involved in growth hormone replacement therapy when it is not necessary (I will cover this at the end of this article). 

So which foods increase growth hormone levels naturally, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of higher growth hormone levels without any adverse side effects?

1. Melatonin Rich Foods

Melatonin-rich foods can help you boost your growth hormone levels naturally. Human growth hormone is released as we sleep, regulating sleep cycles. [4] A snack before bedtime with melatonin-rich foods increases the melatonin release at night, facilitating a transition to sleep and promoting consistent and quality sleep while increasing growth hormone levels. Foods rich in melatonin include:

  • Tart cherries
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Nuts
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Raspberries
  • Pomegranate

It is best to get melatonin from foods, however, for jet lag, and for shift workers, and to help children adjust to a healthier sleep schedule and establish good sleep habits, melatonin supplements can be taken as a relief but is not advised for long term usage.

2. Tryptophan Rich Foods

Another study done in 2014 has shown that tryptophan-rich meals can significantly boost HGH levels. [5] 

In my article on Foods That Influence A Positive Mood, I talk about the benefits of tryptophan and the foods and practices that ensure maximum increase and absorption of tryptophan in the body. 

Such foods include the consumption of whole grains with legumes.

Furthermore, consuming tryptophan-rich foods coupled with exposure to sunlight or vitamin D supplementation when skin exposure to sunlight is not an option, significantly boosts growth hormone levels.

It is also possible to take supplements that help boost tryptophan.

3. Arginine Rich Foods

Arginine stimulates growth hormone secretion by boosting the growth hormone production [6] while also suppressing the secretion of growth hormone-inhibiting hormone.

Arginine-rich foods include seeds, nuts, brown rice, or soybeans. It is also possible to take arginine supplements. 

Other natural supplements to look for include Glutamine, Ornithine, and Glycine.

Lifestyle Changes That Boost Human Growth Hormone Levels

1. Losing body fat – The amount of belly fat we carry is directly related to our growth hormone production. Those who have higher levels of belly fat may have impaired growth hormone production. Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is the most dangerous type of stored fat, and numerous studies have linked it to many diseases. By losing belly fat, we can help optimize our human growth hormone levels and other health aspects. Check out my article titled 3 Reasons Why It Is Important To Lose Belly Fat and How To Do It Right to understand the problems associated with this type of fat tissue and how to reduce this fat type in your body. 

2. Fasting – One study has shown that growth hormone levels increased three days into true fasting by over 300%. [7] But the downsides of fasting include gout and a fall in blood pressure when standing as well as cardiac arrhythmias. Intermittent fasting is different and can be done regularly in the long term without negative side effects. Intermittent fasting helps optimize growth hormone levels by dropping body fat levels and keeping insulin levels stable during the day and night. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting leads to an increase in human growth hormone production. Check out my article titled Intermittent Fasting and Weight Loss on how to go about intermittent fasting properly as an easy and long-term solution.

3. Reducing sugar intake – Sugar and refined carbohydrates raise insulin levels the most, so reducing the intake of such foods will help optimize human growth hormone levels in the body. Excessive sugar intake also plays a major role in weight gain and obesity, known to reduce growth hormone production. 

4. Exercise – This is one of the most effective ways to raise human growth hormone levels significantly. High-intensity exercise affects growth hormone levels the most, but any type of exercise is beneficial.

The Ugly Side of Growth Hormone

When consuming foods that increase growth hormone production, there is no risk involved, and the benefits are extensive, as we see. However, potential risks come with chronic growth hormone administration. With chronic growth hormone administration, we see an increased BMI, an increase in heart disease, and an increase in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome through reduced insulin sensitivity and an increase in fasting sugar and lipoprotein (a) levels. Diabetes appears in 4% of people on growth hormone administration and carbohydrate intolerance in 20% of people on this treatment. [32]

There is also an increased risk of cancer recurrence in cancer survivors treated with growth hormone therapy during childhood.

To minimize the impact of these adverse effects, it is appropriate to start treatment only for those people with a severe growth hormone deficiency. Treatment should begin with the minimum effective dose and increase upwards only when necessary, while also monitoring blood glucose levels, hemoglobin A1c, and the lipid profile.

Take Away

As with any other hormone, having healthy levels of human growth hormone is essential. Our endocrine system, the system that regulates hormones, performs best when we eat and live healthily. It takes just some effort to be mindful of our diet and lifestyle, but the results are immense.

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References:

  • [1] O G Isaksson, J O Jansson, I A Gause. Growth hormone stimulates longitudinal bone growth directly. 1982 Jun 11;216(4551):1237-9. doi: 10.1126/science.7079756.
  • [2] D W Wilmore. Catabolic illness. Strategies for enhancing recovery. N Engl J Med. 1991 Sep 5;325(10):695-702. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199109053251005.
  • [40] Morselli L.L., Nedeltcheva A., Leproult R., Spiegel K., Martino E., Legros J.J., Weiss R.E., Mockel J., Van Cauter E., Copinschi G. Impact of GH replacement therapy on sleep in adult patients with GH deficiency of pituitary origin. Eur. J. Endocrinol. 2013;168:763–770. doi: 10.1530/EJE-12-1037.
  • [3] P V Carroll, E R Christ, B A Bengtsson, L Carlsson, J S Christiansen, D Clemmons, R Hintz, K Ho, Z Laron, P Sizonenko, P H Sönksen, T Tanaka, M Thorne. Growth hormone deficiency in adulthood and the effects of growth hormone replacement: a review. Growth Hormone Research Society Scientific Committee. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Feb;83(2):382-95. doi: 10.1210/jcem.83.2.4594.
  • [64] Allen D.B., Backeljauw P., Bidlingmaier M., Biller B.M., Boguszewski M., Burman P., Butler G., Chihara K., Christiansen J., Cianfarani S., et al. GH safety workshop position paper: A critical appraisal of recombinant human GH therapy in children and adults. Eur. J. Endocrinol. 2016;174:P1–P9. doi: 10.1530/EJE-15-0873.
  • [4] Y. Takahashi, D. M. Kipnis, and W. H. Daughaday. Growth hormone secretion during sleep. J Clin Invest. 1968 Sep; 47(9): 2079–2090. doi: 10.1172/JCI105893.
  • [5] Haruna Fukushige, Yumi Fukuda, Mizuho Tanaka, Kaoru Inami, Kai Wada, Yuki Tsumura, Masayuki Kondo, Tetsuo Harada, Tomoko Wakamura, and Takeshi Morita. Effects of tryptophan-rich breakfast and light exposure during the daytime on melatonin secretion at night. J Physiol Anthropol. 2014; 33(1): 33. Published online 2014 Nov 19. doi: 10.1186/1880-6805-33-33.
  • [6] R R Suminski, R J Robertson, F L Goss, S Arslanian, J Kang, S DaSilva, A C Utter, K F Metz. Acute effect of amino acid ingestion and resistance exercise on plasma growth hormone concentration in young men. J Physiol Anthropol. Int J Sport Nutr. 1997 Mar;7(1):48-60. doi: 10.1123/ijsn.7.1.48.
  • [7] P R Kerndt, J L Naughton, C E Driscoll, D A Loxterkamp. Fasting: the history, pathophysiology and complications. West J Med. 1982 Nov;137(5):379-99.
  • [32] Hoffman A.R., Kuntze J.E., Baptista J., Baum H.B., Baumann G.P., Biller B.M., Clark R.V., Cook D., Inzucchi S.E., Kleinberg D., et al. Growth hormone (GH) replacement therapy in adult-onset gh deficiency: Effects on body composition in men and women in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 2004;89:2048–2056. doi: 10.1210/jc.2003-030346.

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