Testosterone is a hormone that plays an important role in men’s health. It’s responsible for maintaining sex drive, as well as muscle and bone strength. Testosterone levels peak during early adulthood, and then begin to drop as a part of the natural aging process.
If your testosterone levels fall below the normal range, you may have a condition called hypogonadism. Hypogonadism can result from any number of treatable medical conditions. It may be as simple as a nutritional deficiency in zinc.
Contact your doctor for a physical exam and a hormone level test if you suspect that you have low testosterone.
Causes and Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Testosterone levels naturally decrease as you age, but testosterone also can be reduced by:
- certain genetic disorders
- cancer treatment
- injury to your testicles
- conditions that affect your pituitary or hypothalamus glands
- inflammatory diseases
- gland disorders
- taking certain medications
If an underlying condition is causing your low testosterone, treating the cause could improve this symptom.
Regardless of its cause, hypogonadism can make you feel fatigued. It can reduce your muscle mass significantly and lower your sex drive. It also can cause erectile dysfunction, give you hot flashes, and make it difficult to concentrate. Talk to your doctor about treatment options if any of these symptoms are disrupting your life.
Zinc and Hypogonadism
Zinc is an essential dietary mineral. You need zinc for your immune system to function properly and for cell division. Zinc helps enzymes break down food and other nutrients. It also plays an important role in enzymes that build proteins. It can be found in certain foods, but it’s also available in supplements and even certain cold medications.
Having a zinc deficiency can lead to low testosterone. Exactly why a lack of zinc impacts testosterone levels is not fully understood. The mineral may affect the cells in the testes that produce testosterone (as opposed to testosterone-producing glands).Can Zinc Treat Hypogonadism?
Research into the effectiveness of zinc for hypogonadism is limited. But guided and appropriate supplementation may help raise your testosterone levels. One study researched the effects of a magnesium and zinc supplement. It found that men who received 30 milligrams of zinc per day showed increased levels of free testosterone in their bodies.
Using a supplement may not be necessary. Another study demonstrated that using a zinc supplement will not raise your testosterone levels if you’re already getting enough of the mineral. Participants included men whose daily diets included the recommended amounts of zinc. Giving these men zinc supplements didn’t increase their testosterone levels.
Are You Deficient?
Because your body can’t store zinc, you need to take it in every day. For men over the age of 19, the recommended daily amount of zinc is 11 milligrams.
Foods that have significant amounts of zinc include:
- fortified cereals and breads
- dietary supplements
Zinc deficiency in the United States is uncommon, but it is possible. Those at risk for a deficiency include people with gastrointestinal disorders, vegetarians, vegans, and alcoholics. People with sickle cell anemia and older adults who are undernourished are also at risk.
An Important First Step
See your doctor for a proper diagnosis before trying to treat what you suspect is low testosterone with zinc supplements. An underlying condition that needs treatment could be the cause, rather than a zinc deficiency.
It’s possible to take too much zinc, which could be harmful. Toxicity can occur in adult men who take more than 40 milligrams per day. Symptoms of zinc toxicity include:
- abdominal cramps