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What is Testosterone?

What is testosterone

Testosterone is a hormone found within both men and women, however it is distributed in different amounts between the sexes. Testosterone is the predominant male sex hormone, and is made primarily in the testicles. While testosterone levels within men rise massively during the years of puberty, they then fall again slowly from the age of 30 years old. [1]

The same concept applies to women also, however while testosterone is associated with sperm production in males, testosterone is key for female fertility, and the ovulatory stages of a female’s cycle. By the time a woman reaches 40, the testosterone level concentration within the body will decrease by more than half, due to menopause and the end to the menstrual cycle. [2]

The testosterone hormone is vital for the biological functions and processes that occur internally within both of the sexes, with respect to muscle mass, red blood cell production/ blood levels, bone density and fat distribution. All biological factors get affected by the way testosterone levels are regulated in the human body. However, another influence from the hormone in men and women is shown through the urges of a sex drive, production of offspring, and the overall effect on mood in general.

There is also the possibility of being able to take testosterone supplement boosters in powder or capsule form to counteract symptoms that jeopardise the biological functions, (taken in similar context to a multivitamin). However the aim of these are not to achieve what the media often stigmatises through ‘steroids’, just to add quick mass to the body. They are alternatively used to boost your body’s defence against the steady decline of testosterone, as aging takes its toll naturally. T supplements can be taken as an extra ‘vitamin’ tablet in any gym regime to help men maintain the aesthetic that they have worked so hard to build.

Women and men’s health and wellbeing is tied to the regulation of testosterone levels within the body. Please refer down below, for a further elaborated guide on the significance of testosterone, the associated risks should men and women have a testosterone deficiency, and the various forms of testosterone supplementation on the market available today.

What happens when a man’s testosterone is low?

The NHS states that optimal testosterone levels (or T levels) for any male is 300-1100 ng/dL. Of course, all bodies differentiate from one another, meaning it is normal for testosterones levels to range anywhere in between the values stated. However, should an adult man find himself suffering with low testosterone levels that fall below the range mentioned, this may lead to a series of symptoms which ultimately can affect the quality of life massively. The symptoms of low testosterone are as follows:

  • Decreased sex drive and erectile dysfunction
  • Lower energy levels, endurance and muscle strength
  • Weight gain, inability to sustain weight loss and a large distribution of body fat
  • Scarcity of body and facial hair, loss of body hair and hair growth
  • Low density bone mass
  • Moodiness and low self-esteem
  • Depression and mental health disorders

There are other symptoms that are associated with the deficiency, yet these are classified as non-specific.

  • Poor cognitive function
  • Personal and work-life stress
  • Inability to find words and form efficient immediate sentences

Signs of low testosterone in men

Apparently, testosterone deficiency in men is more common than we would like to think. In fact, data suggests that in every 100 men, at least 2 of them will suffer from a testosterone deficiency. Today, it is more common for men over 30 to have the disorder, than it is in men who are younger. However, research has distinguished that males who suffer from metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, were 24.5% more likely to suffer low testosterone levels than those that do not have any metabolic disorder illnesses. [3]

It is harder to spot low testosterone levels in men than women, as the levels do decline at a slower rate, then women who suffer an immediate decline in a short period of time due to menopause. While lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol, steroid abuse and metabolic disorders can influence testosterone levels overall, it can happen naturally due to medical conditions which limit the natural testosterone replacement regulation within the body systems, pre-or-post puberty.

Low testosterone levels in women

Imbalances in testosterone within women, can disrupt the overall health and function of the body. Testosterone is primarily responsible for its influence in the follicle stimulation of reproduction hormones within the ovaries. [4] The hormones which are key to secrete and begin the ovulatory phase within the menstrual cycle are propagated by the testosterone precursors DHEA and DHEA-S. Should the female body be deficient in processing these compounds, testosterone is immediately made in smaller concentrations, which directly reduces the FSH and LH hormones needed to thicken the womb and ultimately shed it during menstruation. Reduced FSH and LH, also are a trigger for lowered estrogen and progesterone, which puts a female’s body at risk to irregular or absent periods all together.

Should females find themselves lacking in testosterone from puberty (called hypogonadism), this can have significant impacts to the development of the sex organs, which are a necessity for later child bearing years. [5]

Testosterone Level Testing at Home

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Testing testosterone

Before coming to the conclusion that you wish to supplement towards raising your testosterone levels, you need to get medically reviewed by a doctor. This will involve a blood test, which will account for all the current regulation of hormone levels in your body. As stated above, the normal T levels referenced from NHS for males is 300-1100 ng/dL and 15-70 ng/dL for women.[6] Should the blood levels within the blood test, come back below these normal levels, your doctor may suggest testosterone replacement therapy, however this is only in the extremest of cases, when quality of life is affected and natural supplements cannot be an alternative.

Testosterone therapy

Testosterone therapy may be a solution looked upon to aid testosterone production in those who have a general low testosterone level within their body i.e. hypogonadism. This usually will be in the form of injections, gel application and patches. [7] With medical interventions however, there are common myths that come attached within the industry. These claims have no scientific support or proof, yet they continuously hinder many individuals suffering with the symptoms of low testosterone, getting the medical attention needed.

Testosterone therapy within clinical studies has proven to improve symptoms within men and women who suffer with symptomatic hypogonadism. The Harvard Medical School reported in 2003, that men and women who received therapy noted lesser symptoms in regards to brain-fog/ lack of concentration, in addition to better body fat loss and increased muscle tone, when integrated within health and fitness interventions. However the relationship between the testes, androgen, the pituitary gland and testosterone production is still being researched further in regards to hypogonadism. It is always encouraged further within medical societies like the Urology Care Foundation, Mayo Clinic and the Endocrine Society, that further research must be encouraged to determine the safety of regular testosterone supplementation.

Examples of some of the (TRT) testosterone medically reviewed and used today in therapy are:

  • Injectable testosterone: Cypionate is a common example given, often injected by a doctor in the buttocks every 2-4 weeks.
  • Transdermal Testosterone: A medicated gel or patch applied directly to the skin of the thighs, back or arms, with various levels of concentration.

What are the myths associated with testosterone therapy?

You can easily get TRT

The Mayo clinic are leading researchers when it comes to Testosterone deficiency and utilising testosterone replacement therapy as a solution. Whenever they do recommend it, they do it with caution, and as a last resort. The reason being, is that there are many other intuitive ways of improving testosterone, and most of the time it involves improving lifestyle circumstances first before using physical medical changes to the body. Many medical scenarios regarding a low testosterone level are influenced by existing metabolic stresses like diabetes for example. Therefore, it can be solved with nutritional attention.

You can get cancer

The biggest myth to date since Testosterone therapy has been allowed to circulate, was the idea that Testosterone therapy is a direct cause of prostate cancer and the development of aggressive cancers even upon treatment. Thankfully it has since been discredited within the year 2015 by the Mayo Clinic , as there were no links within multiple meta-analysis reports to support the claim. [7]

It is always promoted that before you even consider treatment, to always express your concerns to a medical professional that can aid your situation and provide you with the correct health information when necessary.

Testosterone supplements: What are they?

Some testosterone supplements are taken on a daily basis, like the many vitamins that we take in pill and powder form. Often termed as ‘testosterone boosters’ via medical/health advertisement schemes within the industry, they can be effective in boosting the naturally occurring levels of testosterone hormone; even bought over the counter rather easily-but they do come with risks and side effects, as does most supplementation. They have as of late, become massively popular within the fitness industry, and those that wish to be involved with body building.

The main examples outside of testosterone therapy, include some of the boosting supplements listed below:

DHEA:

A typical steroid hormone that is produced naturally in the body by the adrenal glands. This hormone is a precursor to testosterone in the body, and has become very popular as an ingredient within testosterone level boosters. [8]

D-aspartic acid (DAA) :

An amino acid that creates several hormones in the body, one of which includes testosterone. DAA Triggers the LH hormone for testosterone production. [8]

How do you take a T Booster?

The best way for taking testosterone production boosters will depend on the exact testosterone direction of use on the packaging, and of course the age you introduce them. According to the NHS, men age 30 will lose testosterone at a rate of 2%, meaning taking it as a supplement would be a good idea for all men past puberty, whether or not they wish to maintain their muscle mass, gym gains, or if they genuinely are health conscious to issues like bone mass, blood cell production and the offset of aging in general. The levels that testosterone declines affects the quality of life, so intervening earlier before symptoms make themselves known should keep you in check.

The publication Men’s Health suggests that the best time to take a booster is first thing in the morning, and the last thing before bed. Often the powder variation that is so popular nowadays can easily be incorporated in everyday smoothies, and protein shakes, making it super easy to take. Being that they are mainly made from naturally sourced ingredients most of the time, they are very gentle to the body and therefore a better option to go for, for less side effects. However, that does not mean there are none…

How effective are T supplements in the body?

While boosters help men increase and maintain their hormone levels, some supplements are responsible primarily for blocking the interaction of hormones which stop testosterone production, like estrogen for example. Estrogen converts testosterone to estradiol, which is known to suppress sperm production in men and ultimately suppress fertility in the long-term, due to the knock on effect of the lower presence of the sex hormone in the body. High levels of estrogen in the male body have been known to increase the likelihood of erectile dysfunction, and slowed growth in regard to muscle or general stature in men. [9]

Because of their effectiveness in the blocking of estrogen and promoting testosterone production, users of boosters may report back alleviated symptoms of hypogonadism, alongside an increased sex drive, improved sexual function, increased muscle mass, and blood cell production. After a course of 6 to 8 months, it may be worth getting a blood test to check up on the effectiveness quantitatively. [10]

Side note: It is recommended to those that wish to boost their testosterone production, to be mindful of the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body. This hormone is actually key to inhibiting the levels of testosterone circulating within your body. So, before you think about forking out on supplements, which are always expensive, address the existing stress which will ruin all your efforts to increase your testosterone production. Get your meditation mat out, breathe…and incorporate a routine for the good of your long term health!

What are the side effects?

Some common side effects that have been noted from the topical and daily uses of testosterone supplementation include acne, which can be common due to the increase of oil presence and secretion within the pores of the skin. Fluid retention is another common side effect of the supplementation, which therefore can promote further breast swelling and ankle swelling unfortunately. [9]

There has been an increased awareness of the mental changes that come with going through supplementation of Testosterone. While side effects can alternate from person-to-person, mood changes and negative mental health, alongside symptoms of depression have been noted as very common. There even have been cases where increased aggression and anger bursts were reported by supplement users.

Are there any natural alternatives?

Top natural alternatives that fitness health junkies often propagate are things we often find within the cupboards of our kitchens or multivitamins-without even knowing! While there is not any testosterone in these supplements, they can actually encourage your body to produce testosterone naturally.

Ginger

GingerGinger is of course something rather common and often used as a spice within our everyday cooking, particularly when it comes to Asian recipes! While ginger has always been promoted within historical records for its healing habits, in regard to lowering inflammation and cholesterol, it can raise your testosterone too. Researchers have found within animal studies, rats had almost doubled their testosterone circulation within their bodies, after just a 30 day study. [10] Even within a 75-man clinical trial taken over 3 months, all 75 men who took the dose of ginger had clinical reports of at least 17% increased testosterone, despite reporting cases of infertility previously. [10]

 

Zinc

zincZinc has long been nutritionally promoted for men to to take when wanting to improve their chances of conceiving with their partner, so it makes complete sense that it would be advertised towards working for the goal of higher testosterone levels! Studies have supported this quantitatively, with 2018 reviews proving how low zinc in the diet can have a negative impact on sexual health and fertility, the further men go through the process of aging. It has been clinically proven just a 220mg dose of zinc supplements twice a day will benefit men with low testosterone, within 4 months. [10]

 

Read more about foods known to boost testosterone naturally.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does high testosterone do to a man?

High testosterone in men can have opposite effects to low testosterone. It has been noted that common symptoms of high testosterone, include excessive body hair, high aggression, testes enlargement and infertility. However, infertility is a common symptom in both high and low testosterone level men.

What is testosterone good for?

Testosterone in both men and women is key for the regulation of sex organs and fertility. Testosterone in men will regulate sperm production, and allow for the menstrual cycle and ovulation in women. Testosterone may be present in lesser amounts, from one man to another, or one woman to another. The problem is when testosterone drops or exceeds the exceptional ranges of 300-1100 ng/dL in men and 15-70 ng/dL in women.

What happens when a man takes testosterone?

When a man takes testosterone replacement during testosterone replacement therapy, there may be adverse side effects that can occur in the road to recovery. It is very common for men to suffer the shrinking of the testes, alongside fluid retention and excessive oil within the pores, resulting in acne. Of course, symptoms differ from man to man, there have been mental changes noted as symptoms too, with depression and erratic mood swings being possible.

Are T supplements safe to take?

T supplements are safe to take, when they do not actually contain testosterone in them and are made up of natural constituents. However the booster supplements can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, lowered sperm count and high fluid retention if taken beyond the doses instructed within care labels of packaging. It is always best to consult a doctor and actually take a blood test to know exact quantitative measures of testosterone in your body, before you self medicate with over the counter bought supplements.

References

  1. Roland, J. and Robinson, D., 2021. What Is Testosterone, and How Does It Affect Your Health?. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-testosterone [Accessed 12 May 2021].
  2. Nall, R., 2018. Low Testosterone in Women: Causes and Treatments. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone-in-women [Accessed 12 May 2021].
  3. Urologyhealth.org. 2021. Low Testosterone: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment – Urology Care Foundation. [online] Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/l/low-testosterone [Accessed 12 May 2021].
  4. Nall, R., 2018. Low Testosterone in Women: Causes and Treatments. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone-in-women [Accessed 12 May 2021].
  5. Case-Lo, C., 2020. What’s Causing My Low Testosterone?. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone-causes#symptoms [Accessed 12 May 2021].
  6. Roland, J. and Robinson, D., 2021. What Is Testosterone, and How Does It Affect Your Health?. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-testosterone#therapy [Accessed 12 May 2021].
  7. M, C., 2018. Options to Increase Your Testosterone. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/testosterone-replacement-therapy-and-other-options#who-is-it-for? [Accessed 12 May 2021].
  8. Eske, J., 2020. Testosterone boosters: Uses and effectiveness. [online] Medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/testosterone-boosters-uses-and-effectiveness [Accessed 12 May 2021].
  9. Jewell, T., 2019. Estrogen in Men: How It Works and What High or Low Levels Mean. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/estrogen-in-men#low-estrogen [Accessed 12 May 2021].
  10. Aremu, F., 2020. The 8 Best Supplements to Boost Testosterone Levels. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-testosterone-booster-supplements#1.-D-Aspartic-Acid [Accessed 12 May 2021].

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