Testosterone is a hormone produced in the human body by the gonads. The adrenal glands produce testosterone in both sexes but in smaller quantities. Testosterone is the primary male hormone so it is naturally found more in men although the ovaries can release it also. When this happens, it is converted into estradiol, the strongest of the three estrogens in a woman’s body. Testosterone is an androgen, which means it influences the growth of the male reproductive system. The hormone affects the development of a man’s internal and external reproductive organs. In adults, it stimulates sperm production and supports a healthy sexual life. It is efficient in sustaining healthy bones and muscles and signals the body to create new blood cells. Testosterone increases libido both in men and women and is responsible for many of the changes that occur once a boy reaches adolescence. During puberty, boys register an increase in height, body and pubic hair growth, enlargement of the sexual organs and various emotional shifts that may affect their sexual and aggressive behaviors. Testosterone production is related to the aging process. The hormone is produced in smaller quantities as one grows older. The process is entirely natural. The decline usually starts after the age of thirty and continues throughout life.
Mechanism of action
The effects of testosterone in humans and other vertebrates occur in two main ways:
- By activating the androgen receptors directly or as dihydrotestosterone
- By converting into the female sex hormone estradiol and activating various other estrogen receptors
Following its synthesis, testosterone enters the blood stream to reach the target tissue cells in the male reproductive organs. Most of the testosterone binds to a plasma protein called “sex hormone binding globulin.” The remaining testosterone undergoes reduction and is converted into a more potent androgen, dihydrotestosterone, also known as DHT. Both testosterone and DHT bind to the androgen receptors but DHT has a greater ability than testosterone and the adrenal androgens. The binding occurs much easier in its case. The newly created receptors are fairly different from their components. They then move towards the cell, enter its nucleus and binds to certain nucleotide sequences of DNA. Hormone response elements, the process’ result, trigger the activity of genes responsible for producing the effects.
The androgen receptors are of utmost importance in the development of male reproductive tissues and organs. In the cases when DHT levels are lower than normal, the sexual organs may be affected ever since birth.
In males, the Leydig cells found in testes produce testosterone. The cells’ activity is strongly related to the luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone of the pituitary gland. They both influence the quality of testosterone. At the same time, the hormones depend on another one, namely the gonadotropin-releasing hormone found in the hypothalamus. Whenever the testosterone levels are low, the hypothalamus releases GnRH which in turn causes the production of pituitary gland hormones. The last ones stimulate the Leydig cells and eventually bring the amount of testosterone back to normal. High testosterone levels are linked to good health in men. It ‘s hard to spot potential problems in regards to excessive hormone production in adult men as they are unlikely to occur in this group. Issues may be visible in boys who prematurely enter puberty. A significant testosterone amount in females, on the other hand, may point towards the polycystic ovary syndrome. The medical condition characterized by facial and excessive body hair or a deepening voice can lead to emotional distress.
Testosterone is of equal importance as all the other hormones found in the human body. It is first produced by the fetus at around seven weeks after conception. Later on, it influences the growth and development of a boy’s reproductive organs during puberty, turning him into a man. Testosterone levels reach a peak around twenty years of age and enter decline after the man turns forty. Aside from its primary role, that of improving the libido and supporting a good sexual health, testosterone benefits the body in many other ways.
- Sexuality: Healthy testosterone levels during puberty encourage the natural development f the reproductive organs. The testicles and penis grow, the voice deepens, muscles become more prominent, and the sexual desire increases. During this period, most adolescents register an increased need for sexual stimulation.
- Reproductive system: Testosterone is an active part of a boy’s life before being born, approximately seven weeks after conception. At this stage, testosterone helps form the male genitals. During puberty, the levels increase, causing enlargement of the sexual organs. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are important in the testosterone production. It is the hormones found in these two glands the ones that ultimately make the testicles release testosterone. Erections become more frequent and the testicles produce sperm every day. Men who register low testosterone levels may suffer from, erectile dysfunctions. In adult men, high amount of this hormone increase libido, support healthy energy levels and maintain a strong body aspect. Also, they raise a man’s chances to find a partner. Specialists from Wayne State University conducted a study on the subject of testosterone’s importance in a man’s social life. The participants were placed into two groups by their testosterone levels. They then interacted with women and tried gaining their attention. The results showed that men with values under the normal range were less likely to attract a potential partner. Participants with high testosterone levels were satisfactory in most cases as women found their assertiveness and confidence appealing.
- Musculoskeletal system: Testosterone is one of the main factors that contribute to healthy muscles, especially after puberty when the levels increase. The hormone interacts with certain receptors found in the DNA and lead to protein synthesis that is vital for muscle strength. It also contributes to the production of neurotransmitters, encouraging tissue growth and repair. That is why most men who go to the gym on a regular basis are more likely to build muscles. Women who do similar exercises have little chances to become bulky as many men tend to. This happens because the testosterone levels produced by a woman’s body are considerably lower than those made by a man’s testicles.
Testosterone is beneficial also for healthy bones. The hormone interacts with bone marrow compounds than enhance the red blood cell production. Men with a testosterone deficiency have an overall frail aspect and are more prone to bone fractures or injuries. Testosterone is the primary anabolic steroid, responsible for muscle mass and bone density. Aging leads to a decrease in the quantity of testosterone which may cause osteoporosis.
Healthy testosterone levels are beneficial for hair growth, regular sleep patterns, resistance to pain or higher energy levels.
Low testosterone levels
Specialists state that a male’s testosterone levels register a slight decline after the age of thirty and decrease by one or two percent per year after the age of forty. The process is healthy and follows a mechanism of action similar to those of other hormones found in the human body. The media refers to it as the “male menopause.” Lower testosterone levels can lead to erectile dysfunctions, an increase in body weight, low libido, osteoporosis and even memory loss or insomnia. Studies were conducted in regards to possible benefits of hormone replacement therapy. The United States Food and Drug Administration experts affirm that the hormone’s normal range varies between 300-1000 ng/dL. Men who register lowered levels may consider a testosterone replacement therapy. Testosterone deficiency is not desired in the case of fetuses and boys undergoing puberty as it affects the reproductive organ development and leads to various disorders. It is not safe for the individual to assume he has low testosterone levels unless he consults a physician. Following a consult and several blood tests, the doctor will establish whether the patient suffers from testosterone deficiency. The tests are usually conducted in the morning when the quantity is the highest.
The following are some of the causes that lead to a decrease in testosterone levels, regardless of age:
- Dysfunction on the degree of pituitary gland or hypothalamus that produce hormones which send impulses to the testicles so they can release testosterone
- Chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer; likewise, medication used in treating various types of cancer as well as corticosteroid drugs can interfere with and even block testosterone production
- Alcoholism and obesity
- Liver and kidney diseases
- Injuries at the level of male reproductive organs, infections or loss of testicles
- Chronic stress
When facing a testosterone deficiency, a man can notice a decrease in libido or erectile dysfunctions. The physical changes affect the individual’s perception of himself also.
Natural testosterone boosters
- Lose weight: some experts present at the Endocrine Society’s 2012 meeting stated they had conducted various studies on the effect of weight loss on testosterone levels. The results showed that shedding extra pounds may increase the amount of testosterone. Obese men or male patients who have diabetes are more prone to testosterone deficiency than healthy men. A research project published in the European Journal of Endocrinology revealed that low testosterone levels are linked to the occurrence of diabetes and obesity. Another study by the University of Virginia Medical School showed an enhancement in the hormone’s productivity in men who ate no calories for twenty-four hours or tried the intermittent fasting method. Eating less can benefit the liver that is responsible for normalizing hormonal activity, of testosterone included. Small changes such as replacing simple carbohydrates with foods rich in fibers or consuming fish instead of red meat may prove to be viable in the long term. People who look to improve liver’s condition may want to avoid milk and other byproducts. Milk contains lactose which decreases the body’s sensitivity to insulin
- Try high-intensity workouts: intermittent fasting combined with short exercises of high intensity has proven effects on boosting testosterone production. The fasting implies skipping breakfast and eating three means between 12 P.M. and 6 P.M. This method enhances the effectiveness of many satiety hormones such as insulin, adiponectin or cholecystokinin. Furthermore, including high-intensity interval training in the weekly rituals may be beneficial for muscle strength. Researchers from the Ball State University affirmed that strength training is good as it improves hormone production. Also, another type of workout known as “burst training” can boost testosterone levels and maintain them for extended periods as well. People who practice these exercises must focus on integrating as many muscles as possible for maximum efficacy.
- Vitamin D: according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology, vitamin D is the one vitamin that contributes the most at increasing testosterone levels. The results showed improvement in participants who used vitamin D supplements as opposed to those who had low levels of both vitamin D and testosterone. Vitamin d is vital for the development of the sperm cell nucleus and sustains a healthy sperm quality. Aside from taking supplements, people can optimize their vitamin D levels by sitting in the sun as the skin can naturally produce it when exposed to the sun rays.
- Try medicinal herbs: plants are useful in treating all kinds of medical issues so why would not they be just as effective in increasing the testosterone levels? Studies conducted by specialists at the University of Hong Kong showed that ginseng improves the quantity of testosterone in male rats. Another herb, fenugreek, contains high amounts of furostanolic saponins which have proven effects on the male testosterone levels. Fenugreek can increase resistance also. Men who took supplements enriched with this herb had better endurance when performing exercises of high intensity. Some men use it for infertility or erectile dysfunctions as well. A third medicinal plant with great properties is damiana. Native to regions of Central and South America, Damiana is believed to increase libido and enhance sexual performance. Experts from the University of Mississippi discovered the herb contains acacetin and pinocembrin, two compounds that decrease the estrogen levels while increasing the testosterone ones.
- Get enough sleep: the majority of people feel refreshed after an eight-hour sleep. What most of them do not take advantage of is the period between 10 P.M. and 2 A.M that specialists say is essential for the body to experience both rapid eye movement sleep and non-rapid eye movement sleep. Quality sleep is essential for muscle growth and fat loss which is associated with healthy testosterone levels. Moreover, according to a study published in the journal “Current Opinion on Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity” sleeping enough and at the right time can have a significant impact on the testosterone production. Experts state that a man’s testosterone levels are likely to increase the longer he sleeps.
- Reduce stress: studies show that when facing stressful situations, the body releases cortisol a stress hormone. Cortisol does not only interfere with the testosterone production but can even block it. Chronic stress is damaging for the individual’s emotional well-being and his sexual performance. Experts have discovered that when cortisol levels are raised, the testosterone ones react similarly. Nonetheless, moments later it registers a sudden decline and can reach an even lower level than before.
- Reduce sugar: sugar is the main responsible for increasing the insulin levels which eventually lead to lower testosterone production. When exposed to high doses of sugar for long periods, the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin to counterbalance sugar’s adverse The body develops resistance to insulin, the leading cause of type II diabetes. The occurrence of diabetes is related to the body’s inability to release the proper amount of testosterone. Sugar should be excluded from the diet. The quantity should be reduced to a minimum if that is not possible.
Specialists advise people who may experience one or more of the symptoms related to low testosterone levels to consult with a physician. There are cases when the blood tests point towards other medical conditions that are not influenced by the amount of testosterone. The doctor will most likely perform various tests throughout the day as to obtain valid results. If the levels are below the normal range, the doctor will prescribe medical treatments containing testosterone products. It is for the best that the patient remains under medical surveillance during the treatment. Even so, before choosing to follow this method, one can opt for more natural ways to enhance testosterone production.