What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone produced in the testicles. It is a male sex hormone and an adequate level of testosterone is needed for normal male sexual development and function. Testosterone is also present in women but in smaller amounts. During puberty, testosterone plays a key role in male characteristic development. Testosterone has key functions such as the development of muscle and bone, sperm production, deepening of voice and hair growth.
What is Low Testosterone?
Low testosterone is defined as less than 300 nanograms of hormone per deciliter of blood by the American Urology Association. As men age, the level of testosterone declines over the years. This is normal, so older men generally have lower testosterone levels.
Some men suffer from low testosterone, a condition called Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome (TD) or Low Testosterone (Low-T). This means your body doesn't have sufficient levels of testosterone. Around 2 out of 100 men suffer from low testosterone. Around 50% of men over the age of 80 have TD. There is a higher prevalence of TD in men who suffer from diabetes or are overweight. A study shows that 30% of overweight men have TD while only 6.4% of men in the normal weight range suffer from TD. Another study showed 24.5% of diabetic men had TD compared to 12.6% of men without diabetes.
12 specific signs and symptoms to know when you’re running low:
- Decreased sex drive
- Reduction in erectile function
- Body hair loss
- Reduction in beard growth
- Lean muscle mass loss
- Fatigue (feeling more tired than usual)
- Weight gain
- Depressive symptoms
- Loss of bone mass
- Decreased testicle size
- Sleep apnea (trouble getting a proper night sleep)
- Decreased sperm production
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms make sure to consult your doctor. Testosterone deficiency isn’t usually picked up on routine examinations. Your doctors might do a physical exam and run some blood tests. Multiple blood tests are needed as testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day. They are usually performed in the morning as that is when the testosterone levels are the highest.
Give your testosterone levels a boost
There are a few options to counter low testosterone levels. There are medical treatments and natural treatments. Each option has different efficacy levels and every individual is unique so each body will react differently to each treatment type.
Food for thought:
- Making some lifestyle changes can help your testosterone levels. Ensuring you have a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Adding weight exercises and losing weight are 2 ways to boost your testosterone levels.
- Some foods can help boost your testosterone levels. Food high in zinc and vitamin D and help you increase your testosterone levels. Foods that can help are tuna, egg yolks, fortified cereal, low-fat milk with vitamin D, oysters, shellfish, beef, nuts, and beans
Different ways to take testosterone:
- Injections - given every 10 to 14 days
- Patches - applied daily to different areas of the body such as the buttocks, arms, back, and tummy
- Gels - applied every day to a dry section to the skin of the upper back and arms.
- Pellets - implanted in the skin every 2 months
- Oral - recently approved for use
- Intranasal - administered through the nose
As promising as that all sounds Testosterone replacement therapy does not only come with benefits but also side effects.
Avoid delayed puberty
Protection against osteoporosis due to increased bone density and strength
Improvement in mood
Improvement in sexual function
Increased muscle mass and strength
Oily skin and acne
Fluid retention that may lead to ankle swelling
Worsening of sleep apnea
Reduction in testicle size
Skin redness and irritation on areas where the testosterone patch is placed
Reduction in sperm production
Beware, testosterone replacement therapy is not for everyone. Testosterone replacement therapy may not be suitable for men who suffer from these conditions:
Prostate cancer: Testosterone replacement therapy can cause the prostate gland to grow. So if a man suffers from prostate cancer early in life, the added testosterone from testosterone replacement therapy can stimulate cancer cell growth.
Untreated obstructive sleep apnea
An increased level of red blood cells
Enlarged prostate that has resulted in urinary symptom
Men with a Prostate Serum Antigen level higher than 4
A lump in the prostate that has not been looked at
Let's tackle some of your worries:
Testosterone replacement therapy has not been linked to prostate cancer
There has not been strong evidence linking an increased production in blood clots
Evidence has not been released showing an increased or decreased risk of heart conditions. However, if on testosterone replacement therapy, make sure to contact your doctor ASAP if experiencing symptoms of stroke or heart attack
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Harvard Health Publishing, “Treating low testosterone levels - Harvard Health.” in Harvard Health, Harvard Health, 2019, <https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/treating-low-testosterone-levels> [accessed 26 September 2019].
Cherney, K, “8 Testosterone-Boosting Foods.” in Healthline, Healthline Media, 2017, <https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/boosting-food> [accessed 26 September 2019].
“Testosterone therapy: Potential benefits and risks as you age.” in Mayo Clinic, , 2017, <https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/sexual-health/in-depth/testosterone-therapy/art-20045728> [accessed 8 May 2019].