Everything You Need to Know About Testosterone
In this weeks article we take a look at testosterone, one of the main hormones that the body produces. We delve into what it actually is, what it does for us, how we can tell if we have too much or too little, and what we can do to make sure we have a healthy amount of testosterone in our bodies.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone in our bodies, it is predominantly available in males and it is made in the testicles. For women, they also make testosterone in their ovaries but in much smaller quantities. Testosterone is also known as the male sex hormone since it affects a mans appearance and sexual development. It normally begins to increase as we go through puberty, and then slowly starts to decline with increasing age. Testosterone is most often associated with sex drive, and plays a vital role in sperm production. It also affects bone and muscle mass, the way men store fat in the body, and even red blood cell production. A man’s testosterone levels can also affect his mood.
What Can Cause Lower Testosterone Levels?
While testosterone production naturally tapers off as a man ages, other factors can cause hormone levels to drop. Including:
- Primary hypogonadism: This is where under-active testes can cause suboptimal growth and health of the testes- the under-activity can be due to illness, injury or hereditary traits such as undescended testicles or Klinefelters Syndrome, which is when a man is born with three sex chromosomes. Injury to the testicles and cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation can negatively affect testosterone production.
- Obesity - high fat can affect hormone production
- Stress - Severe emotional or physical stress from an illness can cause the body to temporarily shut down.
What Are Symptoms Associated With Low Testosterone?
A range of symptoms can occur if your testosterone levels drop below a healthy level. A normal range for testosterone is 300 to 1,000 ng/dL.
Decreased Sex Drive: Testosterone plays a key role in libido in men. someone with low T will normally experience a more drastic drop in their desire to have sex.
Weight Gain: Men with low testosterone may also experience increases in body fat. In particular, they sometimes develop gynaecomastia or enlarged breast tissue. This effect is believed to occur due to an imbalance between testosterone and oestrogen within men.
Mood Swings: Men with low T can experience changes in their mood. Because testosterone influences many physical processes in the body, it can also influence mood and mental capacity. suggests that men with low T are more likely to face depression, irritability, or a lack of focus.
How Do I Know if I have Low Testosterone?
An easy blood test can determine your total testosterone levels. Lower signs of testosterone will normally involve your GP getting involved as it could be signs of problems in your pituitary glands. Whereas testosterone readings that are abnormally high can sometimes be a sign of cancer in the testes or an adrenal gland disorder. You can get tested at home using the Total Testosterone home testing kit.
Can I Increase My Testosterone Levels?
There are two main ways to increase your testosterone levels, naturally and through medication. Natural ways to increase your testosterone by effective lifestyle changes such as losing weight, having a better diet to include testosterone boosting foods such as egg yolks, tuna, beans, and cereals.
If however lifestyle changes alone are not enough to boost your T levels, there is testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to help with this. Normally coming in the form of a patch, gel, or injection. Replacement therapy may produce desired results, such as increased muscle mass and a stronger sex drive. But the treatment does carry some side effects. These include:
- Oily Skin
- Fluid Retention
- Testicles Shrinking
- Decreased Sperm Production
The jury is still out with TRT and its potential link to physiological changes in man. It is also reported to potentially lower the risk of certain cancers in men that are on replacement therapy - but there is still a lot of reporting to be done on the subject. A carefully formulated TRT plan should help limit the potential side effects you may experience.
To recap, testosterone plays a vital role in men's health linking sexual, physical, and mental health. An abnormally high or low reading of testosterone can affect a man's ability to store fat, build muscle, strengthen bones, and live a healthier life. If you feel like you are suffering from any of the above symptoms of low T you can get tested at home and have the results texted to you.
Author: Matthew Jennings
Clinically Reviewed By:
Ibrahim Nakib BSc(Hons) MRPharmS