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Here’s a scary thought: You may be less of a man than your father was—at least hormonally. A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that, on average, testosterone levels were higher in men of the same age in the ’80s than they were in the 2000s (due, researchers speculate, to higher rates of obesity and the wider use of medication these days).
Pregnant or nursing women who are exposed to EDCs can transfer these chemicals to their child. Exposure to EDCs during pregnancy affects the development of male fetuses. Fewer boys have been born in the United States and Japan in the last three decades. The more women are exposed to these hormone-disrupting substances, the greater the chance that their sons will have smaller genitals and incomplete testicular descent, leading to poor reproductive health in the long term. EDCs are also a threat to male fertility, as they contribute to testicular cancer and lower sperm count. All of these birth defects and abnormalities, collectively referred to as Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome (TDS), are linked to the impaired production of testosterone.5
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The use of anabolic steroids (manufactured androgenic hormones) shuts down the release of luteinising hormone and follicle stimulating hormone secretion from the pituitary gland, which in turn decreases the amount of testosterone and sperm produced within the testes. In men, prolonged exposure to anabolic steroids results in infertility, a decreased sex drive, shrinking of the testes and breast development. Liver damage may result from its prolonged attempts to detoxify the anabolic steroids. Behavioural changes (such as increased irritability) may also be observed. Undesirable reactions also occur in women who take anabolic steroids regularly, as a high concentration of testosterone, either natural or manufactured, can cause masculinisation (virilisation) of women.
Does the diminution that age brings with it in both total and bioavailable T have any clinical significance? This question leads us to the theme of this paper, “The Many Faces of Testosterone”. If testosterone were simply a “sex hormone” involved only with sexual desire and arousal we might tend to dismiss testosterone treatment in the aging man as merely a “life-style” therapy without any substantive basis for broad physiological necessity. The fact is, however, that the sexual attributes of testosterone are the least of its physiological necessities and that testosterone has a broad spectrum of demonstrated physiological functions as well as a wide variety of physiological and pathophysiological associations about which we are just learning.
The basis for my thinking that T levels could be boosted by cold baths came from a post I wrote a few years ago on the benefits of cold showers. One benefit I found in my research was that they could increase testosterone levels. I mentioned a 1993 study done by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England that found increased T levels after taking a cold shower. Here’s the thing. I can’t find a link to the original source and I can’t find any other studies that support this claim! So without supporting research, I’m unsure of the effects of cold showers on testosterone.
Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 actually isn’t a vitamin, it’s a hormone — a really important hormone that provides a whole host of health benefits. Our bodies can naturally make vitamin D from the sun, but recent studies have shown that many Westerners are vitamin D3 deprived because we’re spending less and less time outdoors. When we do decide to venture outside, we slather our bodies with sunscreen, which prevents the sun reaching our skin to kick-off vitamin D3 production. If you’re not getting enough sun, you may have a vitamin D3 deficiency, which may contribute to low T levels. If you think you need more vitamin D3, supplement it with a pill. Studies have shown that men who take this supplement see a boost in their testosterone levels. Because I have a darker complexion — which makes me prone to Vitamin D3 deficiency — I took 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 in the morning.
If you're a man who's experiencing symptoms such as decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depressed mood, and difficulties with concentration and memory, and you think low testosterone may be to blame, you can have your levels tested. Since testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day, you'll probably need more than a blood test to get a true picture of your levels.
Like other supplements and medication, testosterone therapy comes with risks and possible side effects. This is particularly true if you try to take it for normal aging rather than for treatment of a condition. Also, the Cleveland Clinic points out that the effects that these supplements may have on your heart and prostate can lead to a number of potential issues. Complications include:
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.
We start with plastic. A lot of plastic contains bisphenol A (BPA); BPA is a weak synthetic estrogen. Like many other chemicals used in making plastics, BPA is a hormone disruptor and can block or mimic hormones and how they act in the body (34). If you think you’re safe with BPA plastic, think again. Research shows that BPA free plastic has similar estrogen-like effects on the body.
Testosterone is necessary for normal sperm development. It activates genes in Sertoli cells, which promote differentiation of spermatogonia. It regulates acute HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis) response under dominance challenge. Androgen including testosterone enhances muscle growth. Testosterone also regulates the population of thromboxane A2 receptors on megakaryocytes and platelets and hence platelet aggregation in humans.
Why bother with such common micronutrients? Because it's not uncommon for athletes to suffer from zinc and magnesium deficiencies, partly due to inadequate replenishing of levels after intense bouts of exercise. Deficiencies in these key minerals can lead to a poor anabolic hormone profile, impaired immune function, and increased cortisol, ultimately leading to decreases in strength and performance.
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Many endocrinologists are sounding the alarm about the damaging effects that come with exposure to common household chemicals. Called “endocrine disruptors,” these chemicals interfere with our body’s hormone system and cause problems like weight gain and learning disabilities. One type of endocrine disruptor is particularly bad news for our testosterone levels.
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TT may help you but it may have adverse (harmful) results. (See discussion of these side effects below.) The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has said that testosterone drug labels should state that there is a risk for heart disease and stroke for some men using testosterone products. All men should be checked for heart disease and stroke before, and periodically while on, TT. The AUA however, on careful review of evidence-based peer review literature, has stated that there is no strong evidence that TT either increases or decreases the risk of cardiovascular events.
Phthalates are found to cause poor testosterone synthesis by disrupting an enzyme required to create the male hormone. Women with high levels of DEHP and DBP (two types of phthalates) in their system during pregnancy were found to have sons that had feminine characteristics Phthalates are found in vinyl flooring, detergents, automotive plastics, soaps and shampoos, deodorants, perfumes, hair sprays, plastic bags and food packaging, among a long list of common products. Aside from phthalates, other chemicals that possess gender-bending traits are:
The effect excess testosterone has on the body depends on both age and sex. It is unlikely that adult men will develop a disorder in which they produce too much testosterone and it is often difficult to spot that an adult male has too much testosterone. More obviously, young children with too much testosterone may enter a false growth spurt and show signs of early puberty and young girls may experience abnormal changes to their genitalia. In both males and females, too much testosterone can lead to precocious puberty and result in infertility.