Hormones are our body’s way of communicating with our tissues to exert cellular functions. These chemical messengers govern our body systems and, in many ways, determine how we look and feel. Testosterone is one of the most influential chemical messengers in the body and bears tremendous physiological and psychological responsibility.
Testosterone is a potent androgen that’s responsible for pubescent changes and sexual maturation in young men. T’s effects are divided into two categories: anabolic activity, which is categorized by anatomical growth, and androgenic activity, which pertains to sexual development and reproductive processes.
Testosterone occurs in a bound form where it’s adhered to other molecules, and in an unbound “free” form, which is usable by hormone receptors. Sometimes you’ll hear free T referred to as “bioavailable” T since it’s the only form that can assert action on the body.
During puberty, T triggers changes to the vocal cords, broadens the shoulders, bulks up our muscles, and produces body and facial hair. In addition to these outward changes, T prepares our body to father children by triggering the production and maturation of sperm.
The effects of testosterone go far beyond its reproductive duties. T helps form our red blood cells, maintains our skeletal integrity, carries out neurological functions, and determines how our body processes nutrients.
Testes and Testosterone Production
The inner-lining of the testicles contains a unique type of cells called Leydig cells, which are responsible for 95% of all testosterone men produce. Follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones trigger replication of the Leydig cells and encourage them to supply T. Levels of these hormones are especially high during puberty.
The adrenal glands located in our abdomen supplement our levels with adrenal androgens. These androgens go through many enzymic activities to convert to testosterone but still only account for a small fraction of our body’s T.
Testosterone production naturally lessens as we age, and for a lot of men, these hormonal changes happen slowly and without issue. Men who are more sensitive to hormonal changes may feel a variety of effects ranging from fatigue and low libido to weight gain and hot flashes.
Men with mild T deficiencies sometimes find success in natural remedies like adding certain foods to their diet, exercise, and taking dietary supplements. While these remedies may not correct a pre-existing deficiency, they may give you “a leg up” on low T as you age.
Adding a few servings of shellfish to your weekly meal plan can boost zinc levels and give you a leg up on declining levels. Those who are allergic or can’t stomach the taste of crustaceans can get the same benefits by adding a zinc supplement to their daily routine. Why is zinc important? This mineral plays a role in many cellular functions and may even lend to the formation of T-producing Leydig cells in the testes.
Upping your intake of vitamin D may also help T production since it’s active form has steroidal properties within the body. Taking a supplement, eating fortified foods such as milk and cereal, or simply spending more time in the sun can help bump up your intake of this crucial nutrient. A study of hypogonadal men who were given Vitamin D supplements had a slight increase in both free and bound testosterone, with an average increase of 10 nanomoles per liter.
Several independent studies have acknowledged a link between sleep deprivation and low T levels. A decrease in testicular function is not unusual in men with sleep deficits, though this problem usually corrects itself with more rest.
Testosterone production peaks during deep sleep, and waking before your body has time to enter REM sleep will disrupt hormone production. While everyone can agree that sleeping in is fantastic, there’s no evidence that men with healthy sleep patterns gain any hormonal advantages from sleeping longer.
Weight-lifting can also create temporary spikes in levels, though these typically last just an hour or two post work out. Taking store-bought androgen boosters are not recommended since these are not FDA approved and can sometimes be tainted with dangerous substances. Always consult with your doctor before adding any dietary supplements to your regimen.
What Affects Testosterone Production
Clinical data shows that inflammatory, autoimmune, pituitary, and hypothalamic diseases can cause a decline in levels, and in some severe cases, cease T production entirely. Trama and major surgeries may also halt production temporarily, but generally, levels return to normal during the healing process.
Just as mental and physical stressors can cause us to be more prone to illness, these can also create dips in T levels. High cortisol levels associated with chronic psychological stress is shown to reduce testosterone and negatively impact levels over time.
Running extreme distances, for example, can physically stress your bodies to the point of androgen deficiency. While exercise in moderation is terrific for T maintenance, overdoing it is simply counterproductive.
Some medications can also affect T production, namely opiates and testosterone-inhibitors, which are often prescribed to men with prostate cancer. A series of studies involving 3,250 males who were long-term opiate users, found that 63% of the men studied had abnormally low T.
Studies show that men with high BMI typically have lower hormone levels than their healthy-weight peers. Estradiol, a testosterone-derived estrogen, can be partially to blame for this. High levels of belly fat can cause the active form of testosterone to undergo molecular changes that transform it into estrogen.
How We Can Help
Renew Vitality offers several approaches to ease the symptoms of men who fall on the spectrum of hormone deficiency. Our facilities provide testosterone and HGH therapy, as well as Sermorelin therapy, a revolutionary treatment that is paving the way for the future of hormone optimization.
In addition to medications, our physicians work with each patient to identify lifestyle changes to promote better management of natural hormone production. Our knowledgable physicians will counsel you on the most appropriate course of action for your body and keep a close check on your progress during treatment cycles.
You don’t have to live with the symptoms of low T. We encourage you to set up an appointment to see how we can help you manage your symptoms and improve your mental and physical wellbeing.
This content was reviewed by Dr. Gary Kawesch. Dr. Kawesch graduated from Yale University, getting his degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. He then got his medical degree at the UCLA School of Medicine. He completed his internship in internal medicine at USC’s Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, and his ophthalmology residency at the UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. For over 18 years, Dr. Kawesch was one of the foremost ophthalmic surgeons in the US and has consulted with and was a team doctor for seven professional sports teams in California. He continues to work with the Oakland Raiders. He trained with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and helps men increase their vitality, lifespan and overall healthspan.