Testosterone is a hormone. It’s made by the bodies of both men and women. It plays a role in puberty and fertility. It also affects sexual desire. In men, most testosterone is made in the testes. In women, most testosterone is made in the ovaries.
Men have higher levels of testosterone than women. It’s thought that testosterone greatly influences the development of many characteristics considered to be male traits. It helps increase muscle bulk, bone mass, physical strength, and the amount of body hair.
The levels of testosterone in your body are constantly changing in response to your body’s needs. However, the overall level of testosterone in your body changes throughout your lifetime as well. It usually decreases, particularly for men aged 30 years and older. For some men, these levels can become too low and cause unwanted effects that have them looking for ways to increase their testosterone levels.
There may be certain lifestyle changes to help increase testosterone levels. Adding resistance exercise and losing weight are two changes that can have an effect.
Research has indicated that resistance exercise, such as lifting weights, is related to temporary increases in testosterone levels. However, those increases are typically much higher in younger men than older men and don’t appear to greatly increase the overall level of testosterone.
Most exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, can contribute to the loss of excessive weight, which can help to increase levels of testosterone. This is particularly true for people who are obese.
Some types of herbal supplements claim to be “testosterone boosters.” The makers of these products claim that the ingredients help to increase levels of testosterone. However, there isn’t enough research to support their effectiveness. Additionally, these products are not closely regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You may find there are more natural steps that may help to boost your testosterone level.
Some foods may play a role in helping your body moderate your testosterone levels. Making sure you get enough foods that are rich in zinc and vitamin D may help to keep your testosterone at a normal level. Here are eight testosterone-boosting foods that could help you get the vitamins and minerals you need to keep your testosterone levels healthy.
Garlic has also been credited for increased testosterone levels. Results of one study in rats fed diets that were supplemented with garlic or a compound found in garlic noted an increase in testosterone levels in the testicles.
Testosterone replacement therapy is used to help treat people with abnormally low levels of testosterone. These abnormally low levels usually affect normal body functions, which can contribute to decreased muscle mass and a lower sex drive, among other effects.
For this treatment, testosterone medication is prescribed. This medication is testosterone in pills, patches, and gel that you apply to your skin, and liquid that you inject into your body. It helps to increase your body’s overall testosterone level and eliminate or decrease certain symptoms of low testosterone.
Testosterone injections are one of the more common forms of testosterone replacement therapy. They are typically given by a doctor. You need them less frequently than other forms.
If you have testosterone replacement therapy, you will need frequent blood tests to check your testosterone levels and to check for side effects. Side effects can include an increased number of red blood cells and rarely, blood clots. You also may experience acne and breast enlargement.
In order to know whether testosterone levels are too low, a normal level has to be established. This has been a challenge for clinicians. However, according to a press release from the Endocrine Society in January 2017, results from a recent study have helped to refine the definition of normal ranges for testosterone levels in men. This range is for men between the ages of 19 years and 39 years who aren’t obese. The range is 264–916 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).
Testosterone levels in men usually peak around the age of 19 years. After the age of 30 years, these levels begin to naturally decrease in all men. However, for some men these levels become abnormally low. According to one study, almost 40% of men older than 45 years have abnormally low levels of testosterone. These abnormally low levels can cause symptoms.
Symptoms of abnormally low testosterone can be bothersome. Some symptoms can have an impact on your quality of life. These symptoms can include:
- decreased body hair
- decreased muscle mass
- low sex drive
- erectile dysfunction
- growth of breast tissue
If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms and don’t believe they’re caused by something else, talk to your doctor. If your doctor thinks your symptoms are related to abnormally low testosterone levels, they can test your levels.
A testosterone test measures the amount of testosterone in your blood. If your doctor wants to test the hormone levels in your blood, they will most likely specify a time of day for your test. Hormone levels are highest in the morning. Therefore, this test is often performed in the morning between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Your doctor may have your levels tested more than once.
Your doctor may ask you to stop certain drugs before your test. Certain drugs can affect your testosterone levels. Therefore, it’s important to tell your doctor about all medications you’re taking. Include both over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
Causes in men
Causes of low testosterone levels include:
- delayed puberty
- testicular damage (caused by trauma, alcoholism, or mumps)
- hypothalamic disease
- pituitary disease
- noncancerous pituitary tumor
A number of genetic diseases can also affect testosterone levels, including:
- Klinefelter syndrome
- Kallmann syndrome
- myotonic dystrophy
Testosterone in women
Testosterone plays an important role in women. However, levels are naturally lower in women than in men. Usually, low levels of testosterone in women isn’t problematic. However, levels that are too high may cause unwanted symptoms. These include:
- irregular or absent menstrual periods
- development of facial and body hair
- deepened voice
High testosterone levels in women may be caused by:
Testosterone levels in men decrease a little naturally with age. However, in some men, these levels can be too low and cause unwanted symptoms. Treatment is available, but it’s important for your doctor to confirm your low testosterone levels with one or more blood tests. Your doctor may also do other tests to help determine what’s causing your low testosterone.
For women, levels of testosterone that are too high, rather than too low, are more concerning. Symptoms of high testosterone in women may be an indication of an underlying condition that needs to be treated.