Why is Testosterone so important ?

Testosterone is known as the male sex hormone. Females have it as well but it’s more associated with men - and not always in a positive way. Testosterone is often linked to male aggression and inappropriate behaviour (road rage, pub fights, general 'alpha male' behaviour).

Too much testosterone can lead to overly aggressive behaviour,  but it has many positive functions as well:

  • Builds muscle
  • Burns fat – promotes metabolic activity
  • Helps build red blood cells
  • Improves brain health – can help lower anxiety, depression
  • Improves immune health – helps control inflammation, lowers risk of auto immune conditions
  • Improves insulin sensitivity, and thus helps with blood sugar control

So testosterone has a lot of important roles to play. Unfortunately for men,  testosterone levels do drop as we get older, so it’s something middle-aged and older blokes need to be particularly attuned to.

Where does testosterone come from ?

In males, testosterone is produced in the testes where cholesterol is converted into testosterone.

This process is stimulated by other hormones – namely luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). These two hormones are released by the pituitary gland on signals from the brain. So the brain is involved in the production of testosterone but the process occurs in the testicles, where sperm is also produced

What causes low testosterone ?

One thing that can cause testosterone levels to drop is a physiological malfunction in that process. Either the brain fails to signal for LH and FSH to be released, or the testes fail to respond to these hormones (ie low sensitivity to LH/FSH). So it could be a brain problem or a testicle problem.

There are other factors that can deplete testosterone levels:

  • Advancing Age – as mentioned. Testosterone levels decrease by 1-2% per year from around age 30 onwards
  • Chronic Stress – a major contributor to low testosterone
    • Cortisol (the main stress hormone) is also produced from cholesterol and it competes with testosterone. Cortisol ‘trumps’ most other hormones, so it wins this competition.
    • Thus as cortisol increases, testosterone will decrease.
  • Inflammation – inflammatory cytokines reduce testosterone levels. Stress causes inflammation, so these two factors are closely linked
  • Lack of sleep – a drop in testosterone levels is one of the side effects of poor sleep
  • High blood sugars
  • Obesity, especially excess fat around the gut
  • Some medications – opioid pain killers and anti-depressants can suppress testosterone  levels

Does low testosterone have any negative health effects ?

Unfortunately it does ! Low testosterone can lead to a number of problems, including:

  • Muscle depletion
  • Reduced bone strength (which can ultimately lead to osteoporosis)
  • Low red blood cell count, anaemia
  • Low sex drive, erectile dysfunction
  • Fatigue, lack of energy and motivation, low mood, even depression
  • Anxiety, worry – this is a bit of a vicious cycle as anxiety raises stress levels which we saw earlier is one of the causes of low testosterone. So the increased anxiety/stress causes testosterone levels to drop further, causing even more worry and anxiety…..
  • Poor sleep – similarly, low testosterone disrupts sleep which causes testosterone to drop further, and so the cycle goes on
  • Weight gain (gut fat, man boobs) – again, the same vicious cycle occurs here

These symptoms degrade your overall quality of life.

So they’re really worth trying to avoid or reduce !

What can men do to help increase testosterone, or at least prevent testosterone levels dropping too low ?

The key is to “get the basics right”, namely:

  1. Eat the right foods (ie good nutrition)
  2. Reduce your stress levels (Ie stress control)
  3. Stay active – don’t be sedentary; do regular exercise (both strength and endurance)
  4. Get plenty of rest (good quality sleep; enough relaxation time)
  5. Keep your weight under control (especially excess weight around the gut)
Basics v2

Specific nutrients to help boost testosterone

Research has identified four specific vitamins and minerals that contribute to healthy testosterone levels: Zinc, Vitamin D, Selenium, Vitamin C

  • Zinc (Zn)- crucial in the synthesis of LH and FSH, and thus in the production of testosterone.  The main food sources of Zn include seafood (oysters), poultry, meat, eggs, chickpeas, almonds, cashews,  pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
zinc 2
  • Vitamin D- plays a vital role in the synthesis of testosterone.  Main food sources include Omega 3-rich fish (ie oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines), mushrooms, eggs.
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  • Selenium (Se) -  Se also contributes to healthy testosterone levels, but the evidence is not as strong as for Zn and Vit D. Main food sources of Se include brazil nuts, tuna, organ meat, eggs, brown rice, sunflower seeds
selenium-rich-foods
  • Vitamin C - Vitamin C has also been shown to help boost testosterone levels. Main food sources are citrus fruits, berries, bell peppers, leafy green vegetables (eg spinach, chard)
Vit C foods

Protein: In addition to the above specific nutrients, getting sufficient good quality protein is important for healthy testosterone levels.  Main sources of animal protein are meat, fish, eggs, dairy. For vegetarians and vegans (and for everyone) other protein sources include legumes (beans, chick peas, lentils) , tofu, nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds).

 

To conclude, testosterone is very important to good health. So it’s crucial for men, especially as they move into middle age and beyond, to be aware of their testosterone level.

It is going to decrease with age – that’s unavoidable. It won’t be as high as it was when you were 25yo. But if it falls too low, your quality of life will suffer.

So it's worth looking after your testosterone - follow the basics, boost your diet with the four key nutrients, and avoid the pitfalls of low testosterone ! 

Ready to find out more?

If you would like to discuss any of this further, book a free 20-minute telephone consultation with me. There is no obligation - just a chat about your health priorities and how I might be able to help