Can Low Testosterone Levels Effect Energy Levels & Libido in both Men and Women?
Hormonal changes in men and women is very real and a regular contributor to health associated problems as we are constantly exposed to the ever growing list of chemicals in our environment.
In effect healthy Testosterone levels in men and women is responsible for:
- Increasing energy levels
- Motivation and a “get up and go attitude”
- The urge to bond with our mates
- Igniting and fuelling sexual desires
- Building muscle, burning fat
- Improving circulation
- Stronger bones
As men and women age, it is very important to re-establish the proper levels of Testosterone and adrenal hormones in the body.
We all know that men need and produce testosterone, but so do women in differing amounts. In men levels drop as much as 40% and if there is a lot of stress, depression or medications, can drop even more.
Women on the other hand can have increased levels of oestrogen which has the physiological effect of lowering testosterone causing low libido and no get up and go! There are many reasons for the increase in oestrogen, but the main culprits are the pill, hormone replacement therapy, low progesterone and xenoestrogens (manmade chemicals in the environment that mimic oestrogen and act as endocrine disruptors even at minute concentrations). Some common examples of xenoestrogens are:
- Oestrogenic drugs used in livestock to fatten them up
- Petro-chemically derived pesticides, herbicides and fungicides
- The chemical Bisphenol A used in plastic bottles known as BPA
- Emulsifiers found in soaps and cosmetics
- Industrial wastes
Hormonal changes in men and women can cause the following:
- Decreased energy, no motivation
- Increase in body fat and a subsequent decrease in muscle mass
- Decreased libido
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Enlarging prostates
Although Testosterone decreases with age, it’s the amount of free circulating or bioavailable testosterone that actually decreases due to a natural substance called SHBG (sex-hormone-binding globulin).
It then makes sense to worry about this SHBG, since adequate levels keep normal testosterone levels. So what effects SHBG?
This SHGB or glycoprotein is made in the liver and is released in the blood stream and is effected by:
- Obesity which leads to increase in oestrogen
- High blood sugar
- Chemical oestrogens in the environment
- Too many oestrogens in the diet
- Extreme weight loss
- Low protein diets
- Liver damage, from alcohol, heavy metals and diet
- Excessive conversion of testosterone to oestrogen
So you can see that if these factors are present your testosterone or free bioavailable testosterone will be affected by high or low SHBG. The aging part is a constant, but diet and blood sugar, liver function should be optimized to have normal levels of SHBG and therefore normal levels of testosterone. Also if the body produces too little SHBG you will get too much testosterone which can lead to conditions associated with heart disease, diabetes and prostate enlargement. If the body produces too much SHBG you then get low testosterone which can be associated with conditions such as Osteoporosis and low sex drive.
In women who naturally have less testosterone than men, when this small amount gets bound by high SHBG due to the above factors, they will have even less testosterone causing
- Loss of energy
- No motivation and lowered mood
- Low libido
- Increase in body fat and a decrease in muscle mass
- Increase risk of breast cancer
There is another important connection to testosterone levels…….the connection between testosterone and adrenal function. In todays fast paced world, people are under constant stresses that often are not properly dealt with or resolved. This continuous stress, causes more depletion of adrenal hormones and testosterone leading to high blood pressure, poor immune function, digestive problems and chronic fatigue.
Therefore a good health practitioner pays attention to adrenal function when looking at balancing testosterone in men and women. Using adaptogenic herbs, help the system adapt and cope with stress and this can restore hormonal balance. Herbs such as the Ginsengs are powerful adaptogens.
Other herbs used to improve testosterone are Saw Palmetto, Wild Oats and Nettles and they have shown to increase free testosterone levels by 105% and also repair and rebuild adrenal function. Naturally you would seek the advise from a trained professional who has your full health history and blood hormone results before any decisions were made.
Improving testosterone is not simply a matter of accepting synthetic hormones manufactured by drug companies as these have unwanted side effects, but more importantly, taking care of your body through high quality nutrition, regularly flushing out accumulated toxins, taking prescribed supplements/herbs until normal testosterone levels are reached then a careful eye to ensure these levels are maintained. A more successful lifestyle would require less intervention, so ultimately you can determine how much and how long you would require professional assistance.
So what lifestyle changes can you introduce to improve testosterone naturally?
- Limit or eliminate Sugar from your diet. Sugar increases Insulin which decreases testosterone.
- If you are overweight, lose weight. Again, limiting high carbohydrate diet will control insulin and therefore improve testosterone, not to mention lose weight as well.
- Supplement with Zinc if low. Studies have shown supplementing with Zinc for 6 weeks to markedly increase levels of testosterone.
- Improve your Vitamin D status. The best way is to get some sun but if you need to supplement studies have shown that a minimum of 8000IU is needed to improve vitamin D status and increase testosterone.
- Reduce Stress. Constant stress depletes adrenals which lowers testosterone. Constant stress needs support from adaptogenic herbs.
- Exercise especially strength training increases testosterone.
- Avoid synthetic hormones such a the pill, HRT.
- Eat organic meats and dairy as they haven’t been ‘fattened up’ by hormones.
- Decrease conventional pesticides, lawn and garden chemicals.
- Drink filtered water.
Yours in health
Domenic Pisanelli Naturopath
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