The Tea with T(testosterone)

Testosterone, or known as T, is the main sex hormone found in males. Contrary to popular belief, the hormone can also be found in females but in far fewer quantities than that in their male counterparts.

Testosterone is made in the testicles of men. Itis also produced in the ovaries of women though, once again, in very small amounts. The adrenal glands are also thought to produce testosterone for both sexes.

For guys, testosterone plays quite a several important roles in their development. Puberty is the time when testosterone gets down to business. The hormone is primarily responsible for the maturation of the penis and the testes. Other signs of puberty in males, such as deepening of the voice, growth of facial and pubic hair, and increase in height, are also triggered by testosterone.

Testosterone also has roles aside from making male characteristics appear.

Beyond puberty, testosterone is essential in the development of the muscles and the bones of an individual. Fat distribution in the body is also affected by testosterone. Libido, or sex drive, increases with T. Furthermore, the hormone drives healthy sperm production needed to conceive a child.

There is also research trying to make a connection between testosterone and mental health. It is believed that the hormone also maintains the mood. Low levels of testosterone have been linked to irritability and depression in men. Further studies are being conducted to prove this and a multitude of other claims of what the hormone can and can not do.

Men are not the only ones who use testosterone.

The proper balance of testosterone, along with other androgens (male hormones), and estrogen in women is important to maintain normal ovarian function. Just like in males, the hormone also helps develop bone strength in females. It is also believed to be vital in maintaining normal brain function.

How T is made

Most, about 95 percent, of the testosterone in the body is made in the testes. The remaining are produced in the adrenal glands.

The process of making T starts in the brain. Once the hypothalamus detects that the body needs the hormone, it secretes the gonadotropin-releasing hormone. This makes its way to the pituitary gland.

The pituitary, also referred to as the ‘master gland’ due to its overall control of the body’s hormonal activity, releases two hormones once it detects gonadotropin-releasing hormone: follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Both the FSH and LH enter the bloodstream and make their way to the testicles.

Upon arrival, FSH and LH tell the testes to do two different things. The FSH kickstarts the production of sperm cells, while LH stimulates the Leydig cells in the testes to create testosterone.

Here is a fun fact: testosterone is synthesized from cholesterol.

Then, the magic of turning cholesterol to T begins. The complex process in the Leydig cells makes testosterone. The finished product then gets released in the bloodstream.

From here, the testosterone becomes one of three types.

Free testosterone is the hormone in its purest form. It is called free because there are no proteins attached to it. Due to its nature, free T can freely enter cells and do what testosterone does. However, the stuff only makes up two to three percent of total testosterone levels in the body.

Most of the T the testes produce become either SHBG-bound or albumin-bound.

Sex hormone-binding-globulin (SHBG) is produced in the liver and has a vital role in regulating the amount of free testosterone in the body. SHBG-bound testosterone can not be utilized by the body’s cells because it is biologically inactive. This will not make teen boys taller or their muscles bigger. Unfortunately for men, this type makes up 40-50 percent of total testosterone in the body.

SHBG is not bad, but too much of it may lead to testosterone deficiency. Too much SHBG is the reason behind high total testosterone levels yet there is testosterone deficiency. Experts suggest that lifestyle modification may bring down SHBG levels, which in turn, could free up more T for the body.

Albumin-bound testosterone is the third type of T. The liver produces protein albumin and is used to stabilize extracellular fluid volumes. It is also biologically inactive. However, unlike SHBG-bound T, the bond between albumin and testosterone is weak. It is easily broken to create more free testosterone when needed.

The good

Testosterone has a multitude of benefits.

For one, it helps the blood and may be beneficial for the heart.

T helps in the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. Low testosterone levels are linked to risks in cardiovascular health.

However, further research is needed as the current literature points to a mixed bag of conclusions.

In small studies in the early 2000s, men with heart disease who underwent testosterone therapy had only slight improvements in their overall health. The therapy enabled the patients to walk longer, while another study found that T therapy only widened healthy arteries without a profound effect on angina pain.

A larger study of 83,000 men found out that those who had testosterone levels returned to normal were 24 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack and 36 percent less likely to have a stroke.

For men with low T, going through hormone treatment has shown a marked increase in muscle mass. However, this is not in direct correlation with muscle strength. Most likely, hormone treatment can be paired with exercise and strength training to achieve better results when it comes to improving body composition.

Aside from developing muscles, it has been mentioned that testosterone keeps bones strong. As men age, bone density decreases and their T levels drop. This increases their risk of weak bones and having osteoporosis.

Clinical trials have found that the hormone may help in increasing the density of the bones in the spine and the hip. However, the dosage must be kept high enough for this to be effective. Bone density of females transitioning into males also increased when they started hormone therapy.

Furthermore, T may help decrease body fat. Decreasing testosterone levels hamper the body’s ability to regulate insulin and glucose, and metabolize fat. Fat then builds up in the body, which adversely affects testosterone as it turns the hormone to estrogen.

Aside from making your bones and muscles stronger, testosterone also helps you think better.

There is strong evidence that testosterone levels affect thinking abilities like verbal memory and faster processing speed. T treatment for men 35 to 70 years old showed results improvement in spatial memory in the subjects.

Furthermore, preliminary research has shown that some men suffering from depression report improvement in their overall mood after having doctor-directed testosterone treatments. However, this may only hold for older patients, those living with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) or those who have hypogonadism.

And testosterone may be key to holding off Alzheimer’s. Several studies show that low T in the body may increase someone’s risk of having said chronic illness.

As a sex hormone, testosterone increases sex drive.

Men with higher levels of the stuff usually perform better in the bedroom. Older men need testosterone for libido and erectile function. Studies show that hormone therapy helps in being good in the sack, yet the effect tapers off once a maximum level is reached.

The stuff might help you get a partner. It’s not only true in animals because higher testosterone helps men to get to the ladies. In a study, a man’s assertiveness, ability to control the conversation, and their chances of having the woman say she “clicked” with the most, is positively related to their testosterone levels before the start of the study.

T does a lot for men more than making their junk and muscles bigger. The next part explores what happens when there is too little or too much testosterone

When there is too little T

Growing boys with too little testosterone may not develop normal masculine characteristics during puberty. Their genitals may not enlarge, their facial and pubic hair may not thicken, and their voice may not deepen.

Low levels of testosterone (or low-T) can be the result of obesity, type 2 diabetes, other chronic medical conditions (especially those of the liver and kidney), hormonal disorders, infections and medications, like narcotics and chemotherapy agents.

The diagnosis of low-T is characterized by a low blood level of testosterone (300 ng/dl or below) with symptoms.

Men with low-T may have difficulty sleeping or could experience changes in their sleep patterns. The manifestation of the condition may be physical, such as increased body fat and reduced muscle mass. They may also experience a lack of sexual desires, or may even be infertile. Their emotions are also adversely affected.

Low-T may also cause type 2 diabetes in hypogonadal men due to insulin resistance from lower testosterone levels.

Low-T levels in pregnant women may affect the development of the male characteristics of the developing male fetus.

Too much T is also not good

Too much testosterone may cause, in young children, a false growth spurt. This may also cause early signs of puberty to manifest. Young girls may experience abnormal changes in their genitalia owing to a high level of testosterone in the blood. In both sexes, elevated levels of the hormone may lead to precocious puberty and result in infertility

For women, high levels of T may be indicative of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Symptoms of PCOS include increased acne, body and facial hair (called hirsutism), balding at the front of the hairline, increased muscle bulk and a deepening voice.

Other medical conditions may cause an increase in testosterone levels. Some of these are androgen resistance, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and ovarian cancer.

Using anabolic steroids to increase T shuts down the release of the luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone secretion from the pituitary gland, which negatively affects sperm and testosterone production in the testes. Prolonged exposure to these substances may lead to infertility, decreased libido, shrinking of the testes and even breast development.

Women who also take steroids regularly can have symptoms of masculinization.

Increase your T!

The following food choices are recommended if you want to increase your testosterone levels naturally.

Onions and garlic not only make your meals delicious, but they may also make sexy time in the bedroom more flavorful. These vegetables raise a level of hormone in your body that jumpstarts the production of testosterone. Remember the testes’ luteinizing hormone? Onions and garlic contain diallyl disulfide, a compound that ramps up production of luteinizing hormones which help increase the production of testosterone. These also promote healthy sperm production through their flavonoid content.

Protein-rich foods, like lean beef, chicken, fish, and eggs may also help you increase T. These foods help the body make substances that bind with testosterone.

Fish, in particular, contain fatty oils that help in the production and synthesis of testosterone. These also contain vitamin D which has been linked to better production of T. Tuna is a popular choice to fulfill vitamin D needs for healthier testes. Not a fan of tuna? Salmon, sardines, and cod are other solid options for one’s fishy testicular needs.

Eggs, aside from being a rich protein source, is also full of vitamin D. Furthermore, eggs can give you your daily zinc boost. Zinc has a huge role in regulating and balancing the production of testosterone in the body. The mineral is also known to maintain healthy sperm and reproductive functions. It also affects learning and memory, which are tied to normal testosterone levels as well.

Oysters’ rep for being an aphrodisiac may have a basis after all. This shellfish is rich in zinc as well. The same goes for other shellfish like crab and lobster.

Beef may have its downsides, but the cow’s meat is rich in vitamin D and zinc. Keep in mind though that the liver of the cow is rich in vitamin D, while some of the cuts are full of zinc.

Zinc may also prevent chronic diseases down the road. One of these ailments is hypogonadism, which hinders the body’s production of testosterone. As a bonus, zinc boosts immune function as well.

Magnesium is another mineral that can help with men’s T problems. It hinders a protein from binding with your testosterone, thus letting more of its free version float around to be used by the body. The mineral is a great testosterone booster in this regard. Popeye’s muscles may have something to do with his testosterone levels, as spinach has been shown to have high levels of magnesium. Other sources of the mineral include almonds, cashews, peanuts, chickpeas, and Brussel sprouts.

Pomegranates may help reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol, which helps raise levels of testosterone in the body. Not only will you be in a better mood, but you might also be in the mood for some love-making afterward.

Milk is a great source of protein and calcium. Milk fortified with vitamin D helps keep bones strong and keep the level of T in the body in the healthy range.

Certain cereals are fortified with vitamin D and other heart-healthy nutrients. These may also help with testosterone production.

Beans are also beneficial to overall health and can help you get that testosterone level up because of their vitamin D and zinc content.

Dark chocolate, in moderation, has a myriad of health benefits. It is also rich in zinc and magnesium, among other things. Furthermore, dark chocolate has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by managing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol in the body. This also positively affects T production.

An herb called Ashwagandha is touted to have testosterone-boosting properties. The plant, which is a kind of ginseng, has been shown to relieve symptoms of stress, promote healthy adrenal glands, increase stamina, improve symptoms related to uterine fibroids, and prevent memory degeneration.

It is believed that it has anti-inflammatory properties and helps alleviate arthritis as well. Its effect on the adrenal glands makes it a viable candidate in promoting and maintaining healthy levels of testosterone in the body. The root can be taken as a tablet or can be incorporated into one’s daily diet.

There is also a list of foods that one should avoid to keep a healthy level of T in the body.

Men who fancy a pint of beer now and then may need to kick off their pub habit, as beer and alcohol have been shown to mess up the body’s hormone system. Five days of regular drinking is all it takes for testosterone levels to drop. Heavy drinkers are more likely to have shrunken testes, thin chest and beard hair, and tend to have higher levels of the female hormone estrogen. Drug use also adversely affects testosterone production.

Where food is stored can also be a factor in testosterone production. Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical found in some plastics, cans and other food packaging may wreak havoc in the body’s endocrine system. Constant exposure to BPA lowers testosterone levels.

There are also practices beyond the kitchen that could help increase levels of T in the body.

Building strength through exercise and training helps your body make more of the man-stuff. One might want to stick with lifting weights and using machines though, as cardio may not have the same effect on T as pumping iron. Word of caution: do not overdo exercise as this may send your T plummeting.

Getting enough sleep is just as important as staying active in pursuit of higher testosterone levels. The hormone works best while asleep, and peaks when you start dreaming. Keep in mind that T levels during the day after a night of five hours of shuteye drop to 15 percent, hence proper sleep planning, a good 7-8 hours, is key to maximize benefits.