It’s fair to say that testosterone has seen its fair share of bad publicity and has quite a bad reputation for being a hormone that increases aggression and impatience, and is seen as a contributor to violent behavior. But does this hormone deserve the bad reputation it gets, and what does it actually do for us?
What is a Hormone and What is Testosterone?
A hormone is a molecule that is produced naturally in the body to serve a purpose – usually relating to one or more organs. Another example of a naturally produced hormone in the body is the thyroid-stimulating hormone triiodothyronine, which regulates our body’s metabolic rate.
Testosterone is a major sex hormone that both genders produce and need, but it is thought of as the male sex hormone because of its importance in sexual maturity development in males. Testosterone is produced in the testes in men and the ovaries in women.
What Does Testosterone Do?
Testosterone has many very important roles in both males and females.
The primary function of testosterone in men begins in their development years; it is responsible for the development of many sexual functions like the penis and testes becoming viable for reproduction. It is also responsible for sperm production. Testosterone is the driving hormone behind the deepening of your voice, the start of growing expected male hair, like pubic hair and facial hair, as well as some important muscle and bone growth functions.
In women, testosterone plays just as an important role. Although it is an androgen (male sex hormone), it still has an important role to play in ovarian function, as well as bone and muscle strength and sexual behavior, with some studies (although inconclusive) linking it to libido.
The levels of testosterone in both men and women are controlled by the pituitary gland. The hormone is synthesized by cholesterol, but the level of testosterone in the body is not related to your cholesterol level.
The Effects of Too Much Testosterone in Men
Too much testosterone in the body is quite a rare problem in men, and it’s made more difficult to determine by the fact that the level of testosterone needed in the body at any time varies, so testing for the presence of the hormone doesn’t often yield much information about if it is too low or not. Given the misconception about the hormone’s effect on men (making them aggressive or prone to violence and bad behavior), most people are quite surprised to learn the rarity of the issue of too much testosterone. Having too much testosterone, however, can present in many different ways. Some of these effects include low sperm counts, smaller testicles and impotence, as well as heart disease and liver disease. Some evidence that points to the increased risk of blood clots and high blood pressure also exists.
Some less serious effects of too much testosterone are thought to be increased signs of acne, insomnia, headaches and mood swings, and, yes, increased aggressive behavior, although this has not been conclusively agreed upon by scientists studying the testosterone hormone.
The Effects of Too Little Testosterone in Men
Just like having too much testosterone might be detrimental, having too little can be even more so, particularly during puberty and early male development. Some of the signs and symptoms you might notice from having too little free testosterone in the body include a reduction in body and facial hair and a loss of muscle mass, as well as a low sex drive, impotence and increased breast size. You could also experience hot flashes and irritability, as well as difficulty concentrating. Most of these are simply symptoms of aging, as testosterone levels drop naturally as you age.
Testosterone and Age
Testosterone production in men decreases naturally with age, with studies identifying approximately a 1% to 2% drop off in testosterone levels per year. This is different from the female menopause when estrogen levels suddenly drop off because it’s gradual and the effects are less noticeable because of this. This drop off occurs because over time the testes produce less testosterone as the pituitary gland requests less testosterone production. By age 45, it’s estimated that about a third of men have reduced levels of testosterone.
Diseases That Affect Testosterone Levels
It’s not just aging that can have an effect on your testosterone levels. There are some conditions that might have an effect on testosterone levels too. The most common ones are injury, infection or treatment on the testes that can lead to their inability or ineffectiveness to produce testosterone, as well as a pituitary disorder. This can be caused by tumors or medication, as well as certain autoimmune diseases and conditions.
Very rare conditions like Klinefelter syndrome (where a male has an extra X-chromosome) will affect testosterone levels and production too.
Some Ways to Naturally Increase Testosterone
Because there is no baseline indication as to what the ‘correct’ level of testosterone is, knowing if you have a lack of testosterone can be quite difficult. By harnessing some easy and effective ways of increasing testosterone naturally, you can be sure, particularly as you age, that you are maintaining healthy levels of testosterone. Here are some ways to naturally increase testosterone:
Exercise and Resistance Training
Exercise, both cardiovascular training and resistance or weight training, is important to keep us fit and healthy, but they have some other hidden benefits too. Studies suggest that increasing our exercise regime and including a good weight-based resistance training program is the best type of exercise to naturally boost testosterone levels. These same studies found that people who maintained a good level of physical fitness through exercise, particularly in the elderly, had higher testosterone levels on average than those that didn’t.
Changing Your Diet to Include the Right Foods
Like just about anything health and wellness related, it starts with your diet. By eating the right foods and maintaining a balanced diet, you’re likely going to maintain the best testosterone levels. If you diet too often or overeat, your testosterone levels can be affected. You’ll want a diet rich in the right amount of protein but including carbs and fat in your diet is also important to testosterone, according to research. Sticking to whole foods is always the best option, and ensuring your diet is balanced with fat, protein and carbs without restricting your calorie intake too often is important too.
Use a Supplement
Natural supplements can make a big difference to the levels of testosterone in your body. This might be as simple as getting more sun, with a link in vitamin D to your testosterone level, or it might be ensuring you get the right amount of vitamins and minerals your body needs, paying particular attention to vitamins A, C, and E, which all have a part to play in hormone production.
Another option might be to make use of a testosterone boosting supplement like Testogen. Testogen contains only natural ingredients all chosen for their testosterone boosting properties, like the inclusion of pumpkin seeds. An option like this might help you in the gym with workouts and muscle growth, or at work to increase and improve your focus and fatigue. It could have other benefits too – like an increased libido! If this option appeals, you should learn more about Testogen.
It seems like everything that might affect your health can be counteracted by sleeping better. And that’s because there is a lot of truth to that. Adults should aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night as the optimal amount for better health.
Studies around testosterone and sleep have found that a surprising 15% drop in testosterone can be observed in adults who sleep less than 6 hours a night, which could end up meaning your testosterone levels are too low. You should always try and aim for at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
Do Your Best to Stress Less
Stress affects us in a lot of different ways, not only mentally but physiologically too. That’s because stress has been shown to increase the levels of the hormone cortisol in our body and having an unnaturally high level of cortisol can lead to a reduction in testosterone. There is a balance between cortisol and testosterone in our body, so if one of them increases, the other decreases.
Increased stress might also lead to an increase in the amount of food we eat, leading to weight gain – which will also contribute to a change in our testosterone levels. This means you’ll want to try and keep your stress low to avoid too much disruption in your testosterone production.
Testosterone has an important role to play in your body, and by doing what you can to supplement the body’s natural ability to produce it, particularly as you age, you’re helping your body fight the natural effects of aging and decreasing the risks associated with a lower testosterone level. Remember to sleep well, pay attention to your diet, use a testosterone boosting supplement and get some good resistance exercise into your lifestyle.