Testosterone plays a vital role in male sexuality. This hormone gives men their deep voice, facial hair, and sexual drive. As men grow older, it’s natural for testosterone levels to decline, but levels can drop prematurely due to other factors.
Signs and symptoms of low testosterone include low sex drive, lack of energy, loss of muscle mass, erectile dysfunction, and mood changes. Could “low T” be affecting you? Read on to learn about the symptoms as well as natural solutions.
What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone is an anabolic steroid hormone produced mainly in the testicles. The brain sends signals to the pituitary gland, which tells the testes to produce and release this hormone. Testosterone is the primary main male sex hormone, although women have low amounts, as well. Like other hormones, it works as a messenger in the bloodstream.[1, 2]
Sex hormones like testosterone influence development from before birth into adulthood. During male puberty, testosterone leads to the growth of facial hair, a deeper voice, and greater muscle mass. Testosterone also plays a role in bone mass, body fat distribution, the production of red blood cells, and the development of other gender-specific features throughout life. Higher levels of testosterone go hand in hand with increased visual memory, verbal memory, and hand-eye coordination.
Men usually experience the highest testosterone around age 20, and then it decreases slowly with age. Testosterone oscillates throughout the day. Levels are highest between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Mood and stimuli also play a big role in testosterone fluctuations. Other hormone systems, including the thyroid, influence testosterone secretion, so keep your thyroid gland healthy!
Low Testosterone Symptoms
Testosterone levels most commonly decline in older men, but it can also happen in men under age 30. Having unbalanced hormones can affect both your body and mind. A man’s response to low testosterone ranges from hot flashes to hair loss. Below, we list the most common symptoms.
Changes in Libido
A reduced sex drive is considered the most prominent symptom of low testosterone.
Not surprisingly, testosterone affects your mood when it comes to sex. During puberty, higher levels of testosterone make boys more interested in masturbation, fantasies, and enhanced interest in sexual activity.
On the other hand, a decline in testosterone can reduce these same activities by lowering sexual desire and arousal and reducing interest in sex.
While testosterone affects your mindset and mood, it also physically affects the mechanisms behind sex. For a man to have sex, the body must go through a series of biological reactions that testosterone plays a role in. Both hormone and nerve stimulation lead to blood flow to the penis, which affects arousal and erectile function.
Testosterone is not the primary hormone involved in erections, but it plays a role through nitric oxide production, which stimulates blood flow to the penis. Men with low testosterone may have difficulty reaching a full erection. Also, low testosterone can be linked to low sperm count, although not in every case.
Fatigue and Depression
Testosterone is not just an important hormone to men's sexual health, but it also affects day-to-day energy levels. Some men who experience low levels of testosterone find that they often feel unusual tiredness and low energy levels.[2, 7]
Lower muscle mass — see below — is part of the reason for part of the tiredness experienced with low testosterone. However, low T causes both physical and mental fatigue — including stress or depression.
Cognition & Mood Changes
Men with lower testosterone have a higher chance of having depression, anxiety, and other mood-related issues.[2, 5] An ebb and flow of mood is normal, but hormonal imbalances like low T may disrupt your emotions more than usual.
The stress hormone cortisol can disrupt your testosterone levels. When one hormone floods into the bloodstream, it can block out the other. Anxiety, guilt, depression, or low self-esteem are all examples of feelings that raise cortisol level, which can then affect testosterone.
Lower testosterone levels lead to changes in body composition, including muscle and fat mass. Specifically, low T leads to higher body fat and lower muscle mass. Exercise can promote healthy testosterone levels and much more.
Men between the ages of 24 and 85 years with higher testosterone levels tend to have narrower waistlines, and men with lower testosterone tend to have wider ones. Exercise can help you stay on top of your game by boosting testosterone while improving muscle development and body fat loss!
Potential Low Testosterone Causes
Testosterone decline begins in your 40s and becomes pretty distinct by your 50s and 60s. Fifty percent of men over 80 experience low T.]
Causes of low testosterone, particularly in younger men, include:
- Poor diet and nutrition
- Long-term smoking
- Lack of sleep
- Chronic or acute stress
- Not enough exercise
- Use of certain medications
- High blood pressure
- Medical conditions like diabetes and liver disease
- An issue with the pituitary gland
Several other medical factors can also lower your testosterone levels. If you are concerned that you have a hormonal deficiency, check with your healthcare provider and ask for a testosterone level test.
Are There Natural Remedies?
If you have experienced symptoms of low T, don’t fret. You do not have to turn to testosterone replacement therapy to get your groove back. Many natural lifestyle choices can slowly restore hormonal balance without side effects and safety risks.
The number one remedy to low testosterone involves getting enough exercise! Increasing your physical activity has incredible all-around benefits for nearly every aspect of your health — including boosting testosterone levels in men.
Testosterone levels are much higher in men who have high physical activity versus those who have low physical activity.
Eat Testosterone-Boosting Foods
The number two solution involves eating foods that stimulate testosterone production. Food is the number one way to intake nutrients naturally. For men, foods rich in protein, vitamin D, and zinc can boost testosterone levels. Adding the right dietary supplements to your diet can support and regulate normal testosterone levels.
Examples of some healthy foods that have a positive effect on testosterone levels are:
- Olive oil
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
- Red grapes
- Pumpkin seeds
Learn more in our article on testosterone-boosting foods.
Take Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a key supplement to promote healthy levels of testosterone. Vitamin D acts as a steroid hormone in the body, and people low in D tend to have lower testosterone. Not only that, increasing your D levels raises testosterone levels!
Many foods are rich in vitamin D, and sunshine is one of the best sources of this vitamin. However, if you do not get enough high-D foods or sunlight due to working indoors or living in northern latitudes, supplements can make a big difference. Many people are deficient in this essential vitamin. I recommend Global Healing Global Healing's Vitamin D3, a lichen-derived source of the sunshine vitamin.
For more ideas, check out our article, How to Increase Testosterone: Natural Hacks that Work.
Points to Remember
From triggering male characteristics from puberty through to adulthood to passing on one's genes, testosterone is central to men's health. Testosterone naturally declines with age in men and is a normal part of aging, but it doesn’t have to affect your quality of life.
Low testosterone symptoms include lowered libido, energy, mood, and strength. Some men experience erectile dysfunction in connection with lower testosterone. Also, mood and cognition can be affected by testosterone.
When testosterone declines, whether as a normal part of aging, or earlier in life due to stress, lack of exercise, or other factors, you can try natural therapies to rev the engines. Conventional testosterone treatments, like testosterone therapy, have side effects and safety concerns.
For a natural way to boost testosterone, get more exercise! Physical activity is known to raise testosterone levels in men. Reduce stress and get healthier, and you will see results. Supplements linked to normal testosterone levels include vitamin D and zinc.
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- Drug Safety and Availability - FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA Cautions about Using Testosterone Products for Low Testosterone Due to Aging; Requires Labeling Change to Inform of Possible Increased Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke with Use. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, US Food and Drug Administration. Updated 26 Feb 2018. Accessed 1 Aug 2019.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.