Testosterone: The Most Misunderstood Hormone
In this blog post, discover what role the hormone plays in the body and learn how to increase your levels through a combination of regimens.
The astounding demonization of testosterone has been truly amazing to watch. How one of the most important hormones for both men and women, has gotten so much flack from MSM, nobody will know. No matter what your opinion on testosterone may be, the 21st century reality is that men and women are severely deficient in it. This is expressed in people’s mental state, their ability to cope with adversity, body types and many other aspects of health. Optimal testosterone levels are absolutely vital for a vast array of processes within our bodies and help us to function at a high level. In this weeks newsletter, I will be discussing the basics of the sex hormone: testosterone - what it is, how it affect your wellbeing, and what promotes it or degrades it.
What are Sex Hormones
Sex hormones are the hormones associated with the two sexes (duh). Most know testosterone is associated with males, while estrogen is associated with females; however, both sexes possess these hormones in their bodies, although in differing ratios. The proper ratio aids in one’s ability to manage anxiety, promote ambition, further a healthy sexual behavior, while also playing a significant role in depression and even promotes spatial cognition (the perception of our environment an ability navigate about it). There is a lot more to testosterone than “rage” and “uncontrollable aggression”; rather, it is a vital hormone we all need to focus on more. So, lets dive a little deeper into each point.
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Anxiety is a common problem amongst people today, which can lead to a variety of debilitating issues.It can lead to decision paralysis, where it can be seemingly impossible to make logical decisions THAT ARE NOT DRIVEN BY emotions, AND CAN CAUSE depression and hopelessness. Some, suffering with anxiety, isolate, closing off from the rest of the world. Although the headaches of anxiety do not need to be explained, contributing factors need to be understood.
While there are many factors at play with anxiety, low levels of testosterone are a big one. Testosterone has pronounced affects on hindering fear and trepidation. It promotes willingness to explore and seek the unknown, particularly in social situations. When testosterone levels are insufficient, however, fear, anxiety, and decision paralysis begin taking place. These exact symptoms were found when examining testosterone levels in rats. Elevated levels of testosterone were reported to induce an increase in social exploration, while placating a decrease in anxiety, fear of punishment and avoidance.
The exact opposite findings were reported in rats with lower testosterone; they showed “more anxiety, fear, and freezing behavior on a large variety of tasks”, indicating a need for sufficient testosterone levels as a means to combat anxiety-driven symptoms. Could this explain why females, particularly those in their reproductive years, are 2x more likely to have an anxiety condition than men, and why they experience the most severe symptoms around their hormonal cycles? If low testosterone male rats exhibited these symptoms, could that not be a feasible hypothesis, especially considering the many modern day factors that harm our T measures, resulting in chronically low T?
Similar to anxiety, depression is a common issue in today's society and low levels of testosterone are a prevalent occurrence in depressed people. If you read my previous article on sunlight, you would know that serotonin is a key factor in depressive feelings, and that, when serotonin is increased, these symptoms can be effectively combatted. You might also know that dopamine is another well known neurotransmitter associated with depression. Well, it has been demonstrated that testosterone can increase both serotonin and dopamine.
Serotonin is often associated with being the "feel-good" chemical, helping us maintain feelings of wellbeing. Individuals with depression often have low levels of serotonin, causing mood dysregulation and other issues. Testosterone can be an important factor in increasing serotonin levels. While the exact mechanism is still a little fuzzy, there is compelling evidence to support the fact that testosterone aids, in some fashion, the increase in serotonin levels. One study examined a group of healthy men with optimal testosterone levels and suggested that “men with high levels of testosterone have higher cerebral serotonergic tonus”, meaning these men had higher levels of serotonin in the brain.
Dopamine is another neurotransmitter commonly discussed in relation to depression. Amongst many things, it is responsible for motivation, and when testosterone levels are optimized, dopamine levels follow suit. This was reflected in a study where castrated rats were given testosterone, and of the rats given testosterone, higher levels of dopamine were reported. This may explain other findings where testosterone replacement in men with low T yielded greater scores on depression assessments. One such study explained how men with depression and suboptimal testosterone levels, who were given testosterone gel, “had significantly greater improvement in scores on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale than subjects receiving placebo”. Clearly testosterone can help with depression by up regulating these important neurotransmitters, so what would one do if their testosterone levels are low?
So, How Do I Fix My Levels
While testosterone replacement therapy may be suitable for some, the majority of people do not need it. There are many different factors contributing to healthy and unhealthy testosterone markers, such as how much sun one is getting, nutrition, activity levels, toxin exposure, etc. Unfortunately, you will not get this information from your run of the mill doc. Allopathic medical doctors are ignorant when it comes to this hormone; they do not know how to treat individuals with low testosterone, nor do they consider its broad impact on the body.
Not that your going out of your way to do this, but how often do you see animals mating in winter time? If you had to guess, for both humans and animals, when would sexual activity be at its highest, winter or spring? Most likely you'd say spring. Sunlight is a driving force behind mating cycles, mainly due to its ability to raise testosterone, consequently influencing sexual behavior.
Testosterone stimulates the seeking out of mating activity. At the time of ovulation, women’s testosterone levels spike, prompting them to seek a male partner to foster their offspring. That's why female cows will break down fences while in "heat", if they smell or hear bulls in the vicinity. Similarly, human females suggest an increase in sexual libido around their cycles. A scientific review of 8,000 female participants, whom were given testosterone, found that a majority reported an increase in libido and other sexual behavioral markers post treatment.
Spring time is when nature triggers these behaviors in wild animals, hence the term “spring fever”, since sunlight increases testosterone and thereby its mating behaviors. A well known study dating back to 1939 found that when men had exposure to UV light on the chest, testosterone levels increased by 120%! When their testes were exposed a 200% increase followed. And after eight days of no UV exposure, testosterone returned to the initial measures.
This was further confirmed by a BBC article in 2010, which noted of “2,299 men studied, testosterone and vitamin D levels appeared to peak in the month of August, and drop off in the winter, hitting their lowest levels in March”. Yet, vitamin D isn't the only factor in increased testosterone levels.
Sunlight regulates our circadian rhythm, telling our bodies to produce certain hormones conducive for day and night. In the case of testosterone, morning is when levels are at their highest, as our eyes and skin are exposed to first light. Examining this circadian principle in low T males with an unusually low sex drive, scientists observed an astounding 70% increase in testosterone levels, and a 300% increase in sexual desire after having the men get consistent morning bright light exposure from a bright light therapy box.
Red light also has pronounced affects on testosterone levels. When rats were irradiated with 670nm red light, the outcome showed a significant difference in testosterone levels compared to the control group. The following chart shows this disparity:
Whether or not you're playing sports, competing in business, or pursuing a romantic partner, competition is nature's way of amplifying T levels. Some really fascinating discoveries have been made about monkey’s T in relation to their alpha male status. When a monkey procured alpha male status it “resulted in increased testicular size, circulating testosterone, reddening of the sexual skin on the face and genitalia, and heightened secretion from the sternal cutaneous gland”. Comparatively, when a monkey lost its alpha male status they “showed decreased testicular volume, decreased body mass, a reduction in the extent of red (but not blue) sexual skin coloration, and decreased sternal gland activity”.
In humans, athletes have expressed similar findings. T levels in male tennis players were reviewed prior to matches, and the mere act of competition brought about higher levels of T. This was accompanied by a positive mindset and outlook. Match winners carried on this trend, whereas losers lost this trend. Regardless, T was at the heart of competition and illustrated a bolstering of the hormone, especially amongst winners.
Proper sleep is imperative for the body to function optimally in numerous areas of health, and the same holds true when we analyze the impact of sleep deprivation on testosterone levels. When a group of healthy twenty-year-old males were deprived of sleep for a week, getting only five hours of rest per night instead of their usual eight, they experienced a marked decrease in their testosterone levels. The chart below is a great representation from this study.
Supplements + Diet + Personal Anecdotes
Numerous supplements have claimed to raise testosterone levels, and while most of these claims may be false, there are some that can aid in healthy testosterone levels. I have experimented with Fadoja Agrestis and experienced some surprising results. After getting my labs checked before and after taking this supplement, I saw an increase of 60% in my testosterone levels, which I have only ever noticed going from winter to summer, due to increased sun exposure. To learn more about this, simply look up Andrew Huberman and Fadoja; he was the one who inspired me to try this out.
Although I don't typically supplement with vitamin D in winter, as I have a UV light setup, it can be a beneficial way of helping out low T levels. If vitamin D supplementation is necessary during a time with low UV light, try cod liver oil or raw honey, or just find a high-quality vitamin D supplement.
I mentioned above how I have seen pronounced changes in my T before and after I established a proper circadian rhythm, including catching sunrise every morning for the past few years, as well as getting plenty of sun and red/UV light therapy. Read some of my previous articles on these topics for further understand how sunlight, melatonin, and blue light influence our biology.
Eating a diet rich in omega fatty acids provides your body with building blocks to make T, as most hormones require an input of cholesterol in order to be formed. I love avocados, cacao butter, grass fed ghee and butter, raw milk, olive oil, cod liver oil, and of course grass fed beef. Eating these foods will also provide zinc and creatine, other compounds useful for T production (you can supplement these as well).
Furthermore, try avoiding toxins such as heavy metals, glyphosate and plastics. There is plenty of research showing how harmful these toxins are for male and female reproductive hormones.
Lastly, working out is a no brainer when it comes to T, intense exercise is a great means of raising it. Also aim to reduce overall body fat percentage as well.
I hope this information was helpful in understanding an immensely important hormone for our health. If you start with some of those basic principles, you will be surprised in how much progress you can make. Thanks for reading and I wish you the best of luck with your hormone optimization journey!
This is for informational purposes only and not to be considered medical advice, consult a doctor when proceeding forth with any new health regimen.
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