Det primära anaboliska och sexhormonet i människan är testosteron. Ett hormon som man pratar mycket om i viktlyftarsammanhang och ett hormon som fler och fler män har låga nivåer av. Men det är kvinnor som känner av låga testosteronnivåer mer än män gör!
Vi ska ta oss en närmare titt på detta viktiga hormon.
Hur fungerar det?
Det finns en del i hjärnan som heter hypotalamus som är ansvarig för din hormonproduktion. Den är kopplad till vårat endokrina system genom att hypotalamus sänder hormoner till hypofysen. Hypofysen i sin tur sänder signaler till testiklarna, äggstockarna, binjurarna och sköldkörteln. Hypofysen är i princip chefen över det endokrina systemet.
You and your hormones writes: ”In response to gonadotrophin-releasing hormone from the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland produces luteinising hormone which travels in the bloodstream to the gonads and stimulates the production and release of testosterone. As blood levels of testosterone increase, this feeds back to suppress the production of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone from the hypothalamus which, in turn, suppresses production of luteinising hormone by the pituitary gland. Levels of testosterone begin to fall as a result, so negative feedback decreases and the hypothalamus resumes secretion of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone.”
If you’re stressed, your body produces less testosterone. This is normal and a genius evolutional move. Your body needs to deal with the stress and it turns off processes not needed at the moment. This also applies to your tummy. When you’re being chased by a tiger you need more energy to run and be sharp and less energy to digest your food or make children.
However, if you’re constantly stressed, this means trouble. More on this later.
Both men and women need testosterone for their sex drive, muscle development, bone density and hair growth.
Interestingly enough, low testosterone in men can lead to diabetes and weight gain, while high testosterone in women does the same thing.
Read more here on how testosterone is made.
Testosterone through life
When I researched for this post, I came upon Mark Sisson’s post about testosterone.
He writes that testosterone plays a big part before we are even conceived.
First off, the mom and dad need good levels of their sex hormones of course (and lots of other hormones, and vitamin and mineral levels to make them healthy). In the womb, testosterone and dihydrotestosterone help develope the prostate and seminal vesicles. Testosterone and the other sex hormones help decide which sex the baby will have.
Here comes a very interesting part:
When a baby boy is born, his testosterone levels rise to roughly the same level as a teenager until it plummets when the baby is around 4-6 months old.
Mark Sisson writes: ”We’re still not entirely sure what the rise means and what all that testosterone is doing, but it’s definitely doing something. One theory is that the brain is being “masculinized.”
This is very interesting, and it has spurred a lot of discussion among my family and friends. My thought is that today we eat less than ideal. A lot of the food we eat from childhood, contain too much phytoestrogens among other things and this affects us hugely, partly by giving us hormonal imbalances. Phytoestrogens are most often plant-based compounds that evoke similar effects to estrogen. You find them in legumes, soy beans, brans, beans, fruits… Many chemicals and pesticide remnants in today’s food also help to disrupt our hormone levels.
This can mean that we don’t get enough testosterone in the early stages, hence not being ”masculinized” as we used to (or the boys aren’t). Could this then lead to the rise in young boys being confused over their sex?
Sure, a lot of young girls are also confused, but you mostly hear about the boys. Or at least I have.
This could also be because it’s a more open environment today, and more people are able to express how they really feel.
Still… I find this very interesting, and it must have an impact on today’s society.
If the parents eat less than ideal and also have too much phytoestrogens in their diets along with chemicals and other less than ideal compounds, the mom eat this during pregnancy and breast feeding and then the kid also eats this… Well, you can see what might happen.
Then we reach the teens. Testosterone levels rise once again and both boys and girls start to get pubic hair, the bones mature, we start sweating more and get oily hair and skin and some organs also change appearance.
I cannot remember now where I read this, but we humans have been reaching puberty earlier and earlier in the past 100 years. Today, a girl might reach puberty as early as 10-11 years old, and boys a few years later. But is this really the meaning of nature? Are we supposed to be able to carry children from 10-12 years old?
Our brains aren’t fully developed until around the age of 25. We might say that from 16-18 we’re considered adults, but we still have some development to do.
In the article I read, which unfortunately I cannot find again, in the hunter and gatherer time we did not reach sexual maturity until the mid to late part of our teens. We were then ready to carry a child, ready for childbirth and to take care of the child.
I find this extremely interesting. Especially as we enter puberty so early these days, mostly due to the change in diet which has our bodies sexual hormone levels rise so early, when we don’t even have a fully developed brain yet. Also, our bones don’t stop growing until the early to mid twenties, so are women really ready to carry children in their early teens? Yes, of course the body prepares for giving birth as the hormones work to soften the ligaments between the bones in your pelvis, which gives your pelvis additional room for birth. Still, I wonder if we’re truly ready for childbirth at such young age. Was nature really meaning for that to happen to begin with?
An interesting question I am not sure we’ll ever get the answer to.
As adults, testosterone is important for muscle growth, strong bones, a healthy libido, and for women, testosterone is crucial to make estrogen. (Mark Sisson writes more about testosterone being the building block for estrogen here).
What happens if we have HIGH levels of testosterone?
High levels of testosterone is less usual than having low levels of testosterone.
It’s not that common for adult men to have high levels of testosterone. An excess however will lead to more estrogen. Yep, men do have estrogen as well. The excess testosterone can convert to estrogen and this in turn can lead too mood swings, high blood pressure, retaining water, sensitive breasts and even breast growth.
Young children who experience high levels of testosterone enter puberty too early. Girls with high testosterone levels may experience abnormal changes to their genitalia. Both sexes with high levels of testosterone who enter puberty early can in fact become infertile.
Women with high testosterone levels can experience body and facial hair and a thinning hairline. They can also experience muscle growth, increased acne and a deepening voice.
There are some conditions that can cause the body to produce too much testosterone; adrenal disorders, ovarian cancer, testicle cancer, adrenal gland cancer, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
What happens if we have LOW levels of testosterone?
One of the main reasons for low levels of testosterone is stress.
Testosterone’s antagonist is cortisol, our stress hormone. I mentioned this briefly at the beginning. Chronic stress means chronically elevated cortisol levels, which means less testosterone production. Increased cortisol levels leads to insulin resistance, fat gain, and muscle waste. Cortisol is catabolic, it breaks down tissue, and testosterone promotes building of muscles (anabolic).
Low levels of teststosterone looks different depending on the age.
In a foetus, it can lead to disorders of sex development. Typically a boy might be born ”without” the testes. They haven’t dropped yet.
During puberty, a boy may not grow as much and fail to grow facial hair, get a deepend voice and his penis may not grow as much either. He may also have less strength.
As an adult, low levels of testosterone may lead to loss of muscle tone, body hair loss, fat gain, low libido, increased risk of depression, mental fogginess and difficult sleeping.
For women, low testosterone levels can lead too low libido and pain during intercourse, loss of muscle tone and bone density, weight gain around the abdomen, depression and/or anxiety, dry and thinning skin.
Wait a minute, why was that women can feel the effects of low/high levels of testosterone more than men?
I mentioned this briefly in the beginning.
Most of the testosterone in women is produced in the ovaries. The rest is produced in the adrenal glands, or in fact in the body fat and skin tissue as a response from signals from the adrenal glands.
”Testosterone is also produced in other body tissues such as body fat and skin by conversion of hormones produced by the adrenal glands called dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA sulphate (DHEAS) and androstenedione from the ovaries.” (Monash University, 2010)
Testosterone is important for a woman’s sexual libido (same as for men), but it’s also responsible for the sensitivity of a woman’s nipples and clitoris.
It’s also responsible for a woman’s estrogen production!
”The ovaries make oestrogen by converting testosterone to estrogen. After menopause, when the ovaries no longer do this, female fat tissue is the main source of estrogen which is made by converting adrenal androgens to weaker oestrogens in the fat.” (Monash University, 2010)
The more fat a woman has, the more testosterone is produced and it affects the ability to build muscles, you can even loose muscle mass. A woman who has done a hysterectomy produces less testosterone and also less estrogen, leading her to go through menopause much earlier and get menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, less control of the bladder, depression and mood swings, skin, hair and other tissue changes.
How can you boost testosterone naturally?
Here are a few tips on how to naturally boost your testosterone levels
- Weight lifting – lift heavy things. Experiment with the set and rest lengths and make sure to switch up the schedule every once in a while.
- De-stress – remember that cortisol is the antagonist to testosterone, so it’s crucial that you get your rest and learn to de-stress.
- vitamin D – it’s a steroid hormone which helps you boost testosterone. The best way to get vitamin D is the sun of course. You may need supplements during the dark months of the year but some people need it even in the summer if they don’t spend enough time outside.
- Healthy Fats – Saturated and monosaturated fats are important. Think things like animal fat, coconut oil and grass-fed butter, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, macadamia oil (to name a few).
- Eliminate Sugar – when you eat sugar, the insulin levels rise and the testosterone levels decrease. So it’s best to eliminate sugar from your diet, or at least eat much less of it. A Paleo diet is ideal, but beware of fruit. Eat perhaps one a day at the most.
- Zinc & Magnesium – both minerals are crucial for testosterone production. Zink is involved in cellular metabolism, wound healing and protein synthesis (among other things). Magnesium is vital to every organ in our body. Together, they help to increase the total free testosterone in men and women, both active and sedentary.
So go get some sun, do some weightlifting, intervals, get enough rest and sleep, take supplements if need be and eat a healthy diet free from grains and sugar and you can boost your testosterone levels.
Wishing you all a great day!
Links I’ve used as research for this blog post: