Testosterone is a hormone found in men’s testicles. Signs of low testosterone (also called hypogonadism) are often subtle and can be mistaken for a natural part of ageing. In men, testosterone stimulates sperm production and sex drive. It helps build muscle and bone mass. Typically, testosterone production decreases as men age and should it decrease more than normal, they can experience a range of symptoms which we can now explore.
Testosterone plays a role in the libido of both men and women. Men may experience some decline in bedroom performance. However, more likely they will notice a drastic drop in their desire to have sex.
When testosterone levels are too low a man may have difficulty achieving an erection or experience spontaneous erections, for example during sleep. Other health issues can cause erectile dysfunction. Therefore, it is important to be sure whether low testosterone is causing the issue.
Testosterone aids in the production of the substance which carries sperm called semen. Simply enough, men with low testosterone will notice a decrease in the amount of semen during ejaculation.
Balding is a normal part of ageing for most men. However, men with low testosterone may experience a loss of body and facial hair also.
You might be experiencing symptoms of low testosterone if you are tired all of the time, despite getting plenty of sleep, or if you are finding it harder to get motivated to go to the gym or exercise.
Testosterone plays a role in the building and strengthening of muscle. Therefore, men with low testosterone may experience muscle wasting or a decrease in both muscle mass and strength. Those who try to rebuild muscle lost this way may find it quite difficult.
Low testosterone is sometimes linked with a certain type of body fat increase condition called “gynecomastia”. This is a condition in which the man develops enlarged breasts. This is due to testosterone influencing the way in which your body stores fat.
Osteoporosis, or a condition that thins bone mass is often associated with women. However, men with low testosterone can also experience bone loss. This is because testosterone aids in the production and strengthening of bone.
Women can experience mood swings during menopause when their levels of oestrogen drop. Men with low testosterone can experience similar symptoms. Research suggests that men with low testosterone are more likely to experience depression, irritability, or a lack of focus.
According to a Harvard study in 2008, sperm counts in male infertility clinic patients were found to be lower by 41 million/ml in those who included soy foods in their diets compared to those who had a soy-free diet. The study also found that being overweight combined with the detrimental effects of soy foods drives sperm counts even lower.
The hops in beer contain large amounts of oestrogen. Hops are so estrogenic that beer is being researched as a potential treatment for “hot flashes” in menopausal women. If you want to optimize your testosterone levels, it’s best to completely avoid alcohol as research has shown as little as two drinks per day can lower your testosterone levels.
A young man in the prime of his reproductive years who is affected by the burden of obesity can expect greater than 50% chance of having low testosterone levels. Fat tissue contains an enzyme that converts testosterone to oestrogen. For healthy testosterone levels, drop the body fat.
An important mineral for producing testosterone in our bodies is Zinc. Shellfish, beef and pork are the best sources of zinc. Zinc is not found in large amounts in plant-based foods. The best and most common plant sources of zinc are legumes, nuts, seeds and oats.
Sleep deprivation is certainly a first world problem these days, whether from cramming for exams, meeting work deadlines, anxiety-related insomnia or a myriad of other causes. Sleep deprivation causes a form of stress that reduces testosterone levels by raising cortisol levels. Sleeping eight hours at night in a dark room is as always recommended.
Cortisol, the stress hormone produced by adrenal glands, blocks the effects of testosterone which suppresses libido, healthy competitive drive and aggression. Stress makes men less competitive, less assertive and also, as it turns out, less fertile. The best advice is to eliminate stress when possible. Meditate, practice yoga, laugh and hang out with those who make you happy.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley