The hormone that majorly contributes to the development of sexual characteristics in men is known as testosterone. It is produced by the testicles and it is important for sexually related functions and attributes in men.
It is responsible for the manifestation of manly features such as a deep voice, facial and body hair, muscular build and other features related to sexuality and appearance.
It also promotes the production of red blood cells, improves bone density, aids muscle mass development, and boosts sperm production. Testosterone is also present in women, but in very minute quantities. Low testosterone levels in men are not uncommon and can happen at various periods in life.
The male body begins to produce testosterone a few weeks after conception (right inside the womb). The amount of testosterone (Testosterone level) increases with puberty when the male sexual characteristics begin to manifest.
It peaks during the late teens or in the early 20s, however, low testosterone in 20s can occur. Testosterone levels naturally begin to drop as a man approaches the mid-thirties or thereabout.
WHAT IS LOW TESTOSTERONE?
Hypogonadism or low testosterone levels in men refers to a condition where the male testicles (reproductive glands) do not produce sufficient amounts of testosterone.
Low testosterone levels in men are also called testosterone deficiency syndrome (TD) or LOW-T. The American Urology Association has described testosterone deficiency as having less than 300 nanograms per deciliter(ng/dL) of testosterone in the blood. Testosterone below 200 is considered very low, in this case, low testosterone medication is advised.
The production of testosterone is preceded by a signal from the hypothalamus to the testicles to initiate testosterone production. The hypothalamus which is located in the brain makes a type of hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).
This hormone acts by signaling the anterior pituitary gland to release two types of hormones; follicle-stimulating hormone(FSH) and Luteinizing hormone (LH), it is the latter hormone (LH) that relays a message to the testicles to produce testosterone. This process can be affected by one or both of the following reasons
- A problem in the testicles which prevents the smooth production of testosterone. This is known as primary hypogonadism.
- A problem with the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland which affects how the testes receive information to produce testosterone. This is referred to as secondary hypogonadism.
WHAT CAUSES LOW TESTOSTERONE IN MEN?
Low testosterone and concentration or hypogonadism is often caused by aging. Testosterone levels in men naturally drop after age 30 and continue to decline with increasing age(about 1% or 2% drop in a year).
Testosterone levels can also occur due to congenital abnormalities before or after birth, an example is the Klinefelter syndrome which is the abnormal pairing of the sex chromosomes that results in the abnormal development of the testicles, which affects testosterone production. Some causes of low testosterone levels in men include:
- Pituitary disorders(a pituitary tumor or a brain tumor located near the pituitary glands)
- Medications (such as opiate and some hormone drugs)
- Lack of high testosterone food
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer patients
- Hemochromatosis ( Excess iron in the blood)
- Undescended testicles(When the testicles do not protrude from the abdomen into the scrotum after birth)
- Inflammatory diseases
- Anemia low testosterone
- Hemorrhoids and low testosterone
- Accidental injury or damage to the testicles
- Alcohol addiction
- Ambiguous genitalia(Abnormal development of the sex organs from birth )
- Metabolic syndrome (includes high blood sugar, blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels)
- Cancer of the testicles that leads to removal of the testicles
- Infections that affect the testicles
- Hormone disorders
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF LOW TESTOSTERONE IN MEN
A number of signs and symptoms usually precede the diagnosis of testosterone shortage in men. However, it should be noted that some of the signs and symptoms may bear semblance to symptoms of other diseases and only a proper diagnosis can ascertain testosterone deficiency. The following are some common signs and symptoms of low testosterone levels in men.
Erectile Dysfunction: Testosterone plays a role in erection by stimulating tissues within the penis to produce nitric oxide which is a vital part of the erection process. Insufficient amounts of testosterone in the body can make it difficult to initiate the erection process which may result in erectile dysfunction.
Lack of sexual desire: one of the key functions of testosterone is to stimulate sexual desire in men. Sex drive usually declines with age, but a sudden lack of sexual desire may be associated with a dip in testosterone levels. Low testosterone supplements are often recommended in this case.
Tiredness/fatigue: Feeling tired even after taking enough rest or a lack of interest in physical activities may be an indication that your testosterone level is low. This is because testosterone deficiency can cause a deficit in body energy levels. High testosterone foods are recommended.
Depression/mood swings/irritability: Depression, mood swings and irritability are quite common in people with hypogonadism, however, there is barely any scientific evidence to show the connection between mood disturbances and low testosterone levels.
Loss of facial and body hair: Testosterone is involved in hair production. Although hair loss or balding is a significant part of aging in most men, testosterone deficiency can also contribute to loss of facial and body hair.
Osteoporosis and reduced muscle mass: Since testosterone helps to increase bone density and muscle mass, a reduction in its quantity in the body can cause the bones to become thin, weak, and more susceptible to fractures, this is known as osteoporosis.
Increase in body fat: Research suggests that decreased muscle mass in men with testosterone deficiency can lead to weight gain. This may be because muscles burn more calories than fat tissues. Also, obesity or excess weight gain can cause low testosterone levels in men.
Reduction in semen volume: A reduction in semen volume may be a pointer for hypogonadism. Testosterone is involved in semen production, and a decrease in semen volume may mean there isn’t enough testosterone in the body. This can also be linked to infertility problems.
Gynaecomastia: Gynaecomastia simply means a rapid increase in breast size or breast enlargement in men. It is caused by an imbalance of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. The male body naturally produces estrogen in fewer amounts compared to testosterone. If testosterone levels are lower than estrogen levels in the male body, gynecomastia may occur.
LOW TESTOSTERONE IN CHILDREN
Hypogonadism can start when an unborn male child is still developing in the womb. Insufficient testosterone production during fetal development can affect the growth of the external sex organs in male children.
Childbearing male genes can be born with female genitals due to testosterone deficiency. A male child born with ambiguous genitals (genitals that are undecidedly not male or female) and underdeveloped genitals can be an indication of low testosterone levels.
Problems with testosterone levels during puberty can hinder the development of male sexual features such as muscle growth, deepening of the voice, body and facial hair growth. It may also cause gynecomastia and excessive limb growth.
HOW IS LOW TESTOSTERONE LEVELS DIAGNOSED?
Low testosterone icd 10 is diagnosed medically through physical exams, symptom assessment and a series of blood tests. This can be done by low testosterone urologist or endocrinologist.
Blood tests are done multiple times to achieve accurate results because testosterone levels tend to fluctuate in the blood throughout the day. Doctors usually collect blood samples for measuring testosterone in the early hours of the morning when testosterone levels are naturally high.
Once low testosterone levels in men are detected, the doctor may recommend other tests that are based on the symptoms of hypogonadism such as a bone density test to check if there is a need for the treatment of osteoporosis.
NATURAL WAYS TO BOOST TESTOSTERONE LEVELS IN THE BODY
Management of low testosterone levels in men has been made easy over the years. Testosterone replacement therapy is probably the most common solution to testosterone deficiency.
The benefits of male testosterone therapy are immense. It involves treatment with testosterone injections, gels, patches, capsules, and pellets. However, You can also increase testosterone levels in your body and alleviate the resulting symptoms by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Hypogonadism prevention can be done by performing lots of physical activity and eating certain foods to help boost testosterone levels in your blood and it may also abate the symptoms associated with the condition. Below are tips on how to improve testosterone levels quickly and naturally.
BUILD YOUR MUSCLE STRENGTH
If you want to up your testosterone levels, then you need to flex those muscles. Studies have shown that engaging in muscle-strengthening activities like sprinting can help boost testosterone levels in men.
You can take short sprints within your neighborhood or on the treadmill at the gym. Also, resistance training exercises like bench presses, deadlifts, squats, and Olympic lifts can significantly increase testosterone levels in the body.
LOAD UP ON PROTEIN, CARBS, AND FAT
Eating a diet rich in protein can help you get more testosterone. Protein deficiency can contribute to lower levels of testosterone in the body. However, Protein is not the only nutrient you should focus on, it is always good to create a balance of protein, carbs, and fat in your diet.
Eating foods rich in protein and low in carbs can significantly decrease testosterone levels in your blood. There is evidence that fat can have a steroid effect on testosterone levels in the blood, especially when combined with exercise.
Also, note that a diet rich in a higher proportion of protein compared to fat is more beneficial to older men with testosterone problems. This is because older men tend to produce more sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) when they consume less amount of protein.
This counts as a disadvantage because SHBG naturally binds to testosterone in the body which results in the noticeable decline of testosterone levels in the blood.
KEEP ZINC AND MAGNESIUM IN MIND
A variety of foods are rich in zinc and magnesium which are nutrients that are testosterone friendly. Magnesium helps to prevent the effects of SHBG by preventing it from binding to testosterone in the blood.
Almonds and cashews and peanuts are loaded with this nutrient. You can also eat spinach as it is another major source of magnesium. Zinc plays a role in the production of testosterone.
A good source of zinc is oysters which contain ample amounts of the recommended daily intake of zinc. It is also present in beef and beans. Zinc and magnesium are also available in the form of supplements.
STAY AWAY FROM STRESS
Cortisol is one hormone that comes to mind when stress is mentioned. And it is also the reason why you need to keep stress far away from you if you are to boost your testosterone levels. This is because high levels of cortisol in the body mean low levels of testosterone. Elevated levels of cortisol in the blood can deplete testosterone levels quickly.
CHANGE YOUR SLEEPING HABIT
If you are fond of accumulating sleep debts due to unhealthy sleep patterns, then your testosterone is bound to suffer. In fact, getting only 5 hours of sleep daily has been associated with low testosterone levels in men. For best results, it is pertinent you get at least 7-10 hours of sleep nightly. Try to make it to bed early every day and watch your testosterone levels shoot through the roof.
GET YOUR DAILY DOSE OF SUNSHINE
You might be wondering why you need to expose your skin to sunlight in order to boost your testosterone levels, the reason is not far-fetched. When you expose your skin to the bright rays of the sun, your skin makes vitamin D from cholesterol.
And Vitam D without a doubt is vastly beneficial to health. Among its numerous health benefits is increasing testosterone levels in your blood. However, you must be careful about how you expose your skin to the sun, as wrong sun exposure has severe consequences.
Experts suggest that the best time to get your dose of vitamin D from the sun is around midday. You can also gain vitamin D from the diet but Only a few foods contain a good amount of this beneficial nutrient.
They include egg yolk, sardine, cod liver oil, beef liver, swordfish, tuna, and salmon. Vitamin D is also available in the form of supplements, in fact, studies have shown that taking vitamin D supplements can be a good way of increasing testosterone in the body.
BE CAREFUL WITH THE PLASTIC
A number of studies have shown that men who are exposed to elevated levels of the chemical found in plastics called Bisphenol-A (BPA) have a greater risk of developing sexual dysfunctions which include decreased levels of testosterone in the blood.
This means that BPA found in plastics can interfere with the hormone making process in men and decrease the levels of sex hormone in the blood. Food packaging containers including cans and some plastic bottles usually contain BPA.
You should watch where you store your food, and it might be safer to opt for glass containers instead of plastic.
EXPERIMENT WITH HERBS
Taking herbs like ginger and ashwagandha(a medicinal herb) may help up testosterone levels in your body. Ashwagandha has been found to boost testosterone production in infertile men.
It can also lower elevated levels of cortisol due to stress, which might also be a reason for testosterone decline in the blood. Research suggests that ginger, especially when taken as an extract can boost testosterone levels to a certain degree.