Did you know that testosterone isn’t just a male hormone?
Both men and women have testosterone. In fact, men and women have virtually identical types of hormones. The relative amounts of the various hormones can differ and traditionally assigned gender differences often come from these variances in hormone levels.
Testosterone is a vital hormone that’s important for male development. It’s responsible for the deepening of the voice, the growth of facial hair, and many other features typically associated with maleness. Besides being an androgenic, or masculinizing hormone, testosterone is also an anabolic, or tissue-building hormone across the gender spectrum.
Though men have more testosterone than women, women produce and need testosterone too (just as men have some estrogen), just in smaller amounts. In both men and women, testosterone helps protect the nervous system and helps ward off low mood and serious cognitive and memory issues. Testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for libido in men, and likely helps maintain libido in women.
Like many hormones, testosterone levels decrease with age. The aging process can leave some men with low testosterone levels that have been shown to increase anxiousness, low mood, and a host of other issues. Testosterone also can be prematurely reduced (at any age) by long-term stress, environmental pollutant exposures, insulin imbalance, narcotic use, and many other lifestyle factors.
Some men go through a form of menopause called “andropause.” This phase can begin even in their 40s and 50s. The complications surrounding andropause include a wide array of manifestations, some of which also occur in women going through menopause.
Common Signs of Low Testosterone in Men
- Low libido
- Decreased frequency of morning erection
- Difficulty maintaining an erection
- Loss of ability to engage in vigorous activity
- Falling asleep after eating
- Memory loss
- Loss of pubic hair
- Sadness and irritability
- Lowered ability to experience pleasure
- Lowered endurance
- Loss of facial hair
- Loss of motivation at work
- Increased body fat and reduced lean muscle
- Low bone density
- Hot flashes
- Excessive sweating
Hormones and the Brain
Hormones are chemical messengers produced in the body that control and regulate the activity of certain cells or organs. Hormones such as estrogen and testosterone play a key role in helping maintain the health and vitality of your brain and body.
Communication between the brain and hormones is bidirectional. The brain sends out signals that instruct your body’s glands to produce and release hormones, and hormones travel back to the brain and influence its activity.
The human body produces hundreds of hormones, but the following five probably have the most direct influence on brain/mental health: thyroid (energy regulation), melatonin (sleep patterns and 24-hour cycling), estrogen (cognition and mood), progesterone (sexual behavior, stress, and mood), and testosterone (mood, motivation, sexuality, and strength).
When hormones are healthy, you tend to feel vibrant and energetic. When hormones are off, you’re likely to feel off. This may change the way you think, feel, and act.
There are many potential causes of hormonal imbalances in both men and women. The most common causes are diet, stress (from the hormone cortisol), environment, age, or lifestyle.
Women are more likely to experience imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid. In men, low testosterone levels are common. Both women and men can have imbalances in other hormones that affect the brain.
If you don’t get your hormones checked, you may never know the root cause of your issues.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Those who have low insulin, or use narcotics regularly for pain control, can have low testosterone. Many women on birth control pills can have an extremely low testosterone level because of the increase in SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin) caused by the pills, that absorb the available testosterone. Women suffering from fatigue, extreme pain, low mood, and other issues often have very low testosterone levels and can improve dramatically with testosterone replacement.
Testosterone can be replaced at any age and in both genders. Testosterone replacement therapy can help:
- Relieve low mood
- Revive libido
- Return motivation
- Revitalize energy
There are hundreds of studies showing the medical benefits of testosterone replacement therapy. Not only is testosterone helpful for improving libido and mood, but also for improving cognition, cardiac function, wound healing, muscle strength, stamina, recovery, and energy. However, it’s crucial that testosterone and any other hormone used for replacement therapy be chemically identical to the hormones the body makes (“bioidentical”).
It’s also important to understand that hormone replacement therapy has risks of adverse effects and should be undertaken only in close cooperation with an endocrinologist – an MD-level hormone specialist.
As is the case with many hormones, having your testosterone in the “normal range” doesn’t always mean it’s optimal. It’s essential to check your free testosterone level in addition to your total testosterone level, due to the SHBG issue noted above.
Ideally, your hormones should be in the upper-third of the normal range. Moving up from the lower third to the upper third of the normal range can dramatically improve your quality of life. Your testosterone level can only be fully assessed in the context of your other sex hormone levels, so be sure to get a broad profile hormone lab assessment.
If you feel like you’re experiencing a hormone imbalance, don’t settle for the typical “your blood tests are normal so you’re fine” response from your doctor. Seek out an endocrine specialist who can assist you through the process of hormone optimization, which can be lengthy and complex.
Supplements & Foods That Promote Testosterone Levels
Several foods are helpful for supporting healthy testosterone levels in the body. Many of these include vitamin D and zinc, which assist the body in making testosterone.
Beans – such as chickpeas, legumes, and lentils, are good sources of zinc.
Beef – liver is rich in vitamin D and some lean cuts of beef are high in zinc.
Egg Yolks – provide carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, and are a good source of vitamin D.
Oysters – are an excellent source of zinc, which can help with low T.
Tuna – is low in calories, rich in protein, and high in vitamin D, which is linked to testosterone production.
Natural Supplements that Promote Testosterone
When purchasing supplements, be sure to look for these ingredients that can help support healthy testosterone levels:
Ashwagandha – is a powerful adaptogen that can help reduce stress and increase testosterone levels.
Panax Ginseng – is more potent for male health than any of the other ginsengs.
Vitamin D3 – sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin,” this vitamin very likely assists with testosterone production.
Zinc – is essential for at least 100 enzymes and has been linked to healthy testosterone levels in the body.
Support your testosterone levels naturally with these nutrition and lifestyle recommendations for optimal health and well-being.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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