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Testosterone is the “male hormone” that is responsible for the development of male sexual organs, sexual drive, producing sperm, muscle, strength, body hair, bone density, fat distribution, and the production of red blood cells. Production of testosterone increases during puberty and peaks in a man’s twenties. By age 30, the body starts to produce a little less testosterone each year.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Testosterone production normally declines around 1 percent per year after age 30 However, about 40 percent of men suffer from low testosterone outside the normal range. The most noticeable symptoms are the ones that prompt doctor visits but there are behind-the-scenes symptoms that can signal long-term problems.
Decreased libido and sexual performance
The number one complaint associated with low testosterone is decreased sexual performance and desire. Men may experience a decreased sex drive, fewer spontaneous erections and infertility. Of course there can be other factors that influence a man’s sex drive – and erectile dysfunction (ED) is not normally caused by low T. However, in some cases ED is found alongside lower testosterone production.
Testosterone helps to build muscle and outside of lifestyle changes (such as taking a sedentary job, not working out regularly and not eating well), low testosterone can lead to more fat on the body, less strength, decreased muscle mass, increasingly weak bones, less body hair, hot flashes (yes, men get them too!), fatigue, mental fog, and swelling of the breast tissue (man boobs).
Low energy is a side effect of low testosterone. Unfortunately, low T can also be the cause of insomnia and other changes in sleep patterns.
Emotional and mental changes
Depression and irritability are the most common emotional side effects of low testosterone. Mental symptoms include an inability to concentrate, trouble with memory recall, low motivation, and low self-confidence.
What Causes Low Testosterone?
Testosterone production naturally decreases as a man ages but abnormally low levels signal a deeper problem. Low testosterone may be caused by:
- A thyroid condition
- Pituitary gland problems
- Injury to the testicles
- Side effects of medication
- Testicular cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Genetic abnormalities
- Adrenal fatigue (some testosterone is also produced in the adrenal glands; the adrenals become fatigued as a result of chronic stress)
To determine whether you have low testosterone and determine the cause, you should see your physician and ask them to test you. Only a blood test accurately determines your testosterone level.
Treatment for Low Testosterone
There are some methods available to help to increase testosterone and reduce the unwanted symptoms. The treatment you choose depends on the severity of the deficiency.
Testosterone replacement therapy
Testosterone replacement is somewhat similar to steroid use among athletes, except that it only boosts testosterone to normal levels.
There are several methods of delivery, such as injections, pellets that are inserted under the skin of on your behind, and several topical solutions, added right on the skin.
While testosterone replacement works, it’s expensive, and it is not without risks (including sleep apnea, acne, prostate cancer, heart attack, stroke, man boobs, and aggression) – and it must be continued for the rest of your life once you choose to go that route.
Testosterone replacement is best used by men whose low-testosterone symptoms are moderate to severe. It is not suitable for men who are at risk of prostate cancer, or who have had it. One common method of increasing testosterone is using a legal supplement.
Staying in shape, exercising and keeping a healthy weight can help slow the decline of testosterone production.
- Intense weight bearing exercise such as weight lifting not only increases muscle mass and bone density and promotes weight loss, but it stimulates the body to produce more testosterone naturally.
- Stress management: since stress is a direct cause or significant contributing factor to hormonal imbalances (as well as many diseases), make sure to manage stress. Meditation and exercise are two of the best ways to balance the stress hormone cortisol and prevent it from building up in the body.
- Vitamin D supplementation: Vitamin D is vital for supporting the body’s testosterone production. If you don’t get outside much (even if it’s seasonal), consider a vitamin D supplement.
- Magnesium: many people are magnesium-deficient. Magnesium is essential for hormonal balance and optimal system functioning.
- Zinc: known to help stimulate the body to produce more testosterone.
If you’re going through the symptoms of low T, have a blood test to determine whether low testosterone is the culprit. Since you have treatment options, there is no reason to go through life suffering the effects of low testosterone!