Hormones: Testosterone

Free Book Excerpt: Your Blood Never Lies by James LaValle
August 1, 2016 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
James LaValle

An excerpt from the book, “Your Blood Never Lies: How to Read a Blood Test for a Longer, Healthier Life” by James B. LaValle, RPh, CCN, ND. Read additional excerpts or buy the whole book.

Although both males and females produce testosterone, this hormone is ten times more abundant in men. It is primarily associated with male sexual development, but also plays a role in the brain function, muscle mass, fat distribution, and energy levels of both sexes. Testosterone is typically attached to a protein in the bloodstream known as bound testosterone. When this hormone is unattached, it is known as free testosterone, which is the form that is most available for use by the body. Generally, a blood test will measure the combination of both types of testosterone, called total testosterone. If the reading appears problematic, your doctor will likely follow up with a free testosterone count, which typically gives more accurate clues for diagnosis. Total testosterone ranges are listed in the table below.

REFERENCE RANGES FOR TOTAL TESTOSTERONE
Category Total Testosterone Normal Range (ng/mL)
Men (13 to 17 years old) 28 to 1110
Men (over 18 years old) 280 to 800
Women (under 18 years old) 6 to 82

If your doctor requests a reading of free testosterone levels, you can match your results to the ranges below.

REFERENCE RANGES FOR FREE TESTOSTERONE
Category Free Testosterone Normal Range (pg/mL)
Men (20 to 29 years old) 9.3 to 26.5
Men (30 to 39 years old) 8.7 to 25.1
Men (40 to 49 years old) 7.2 to 24
Men (50 to 59 years old) 6.8 to 21.5
Men (older than 59 years old) 6.6 to 18.1
Women (20 to 59 years old) 0 to 2.2
Women (older than 59 years old) 0 to 1.8

While testosterone levels can vary, a consistently low or high reading will need to be addressed by your physician.

WHAT CAUSES HIGH TESTOSTERONE?

Testosterone levels may be elevated for a number of reasons, some of which are more serious conditions than others. The list below details the causes behind this issue.

  • Environmental contaminants like lead, mercury, plastics, and pesticides
  • Excessive exercise
  • High DHEA levels
  • Medications, including anabolic steroids, androgen replacement therapy; anticonvulsants, including phenytoin (Dilantin),  and barbiturates

In addition to these factors, women have their own causes of high testosterone, including:

  • Acromegaly
  • Adrenal neoplasm disorders
  • Androgen-producing adrenal or ovarian tumor
  • Certain oral contraceptives
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Dwarfism
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasm 1 and 2
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Thyroid disorders

While women can have elevated amounts of testosterone in the blood, most of the conditions that lead to this result are still quite rare.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HIGH TESTOSTERONE?

Symptoms of high testosterone levels in men include acne, testicular shrinkage, reduced fertility, receding hair line, anger, aggressiveness, and enlarged prostate gland. These signs are particularly important to acknowledge, since elevated testosterone has been associated with prostate cancer. Symptoms of high testosterone in women include hirsutism (excessive body and facial hair), male pattern baldness, deepening of the voice, redistribution of body fat, increased perspiration, raised libido, and cessation of menstruation.

HOW IS HIGH TESTOSTERONE TREATED?

Depending on the severity of high testosterone levels in the blood, medical intervention may be recommended. In extremely  serious cases such as advanced prostate cancer, an orchiectomy, or removal of the testicles, may be suggested. This procedure stops most testosterone production and increases the chance of survival. However, both drugs and lifestyle change can promote healthy testosterone levels.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

There are also a few lifestyle adjustments that may help alleviate high testosterone. Because inflammatory foods can lead to imbalances in testosterone levels, try to decrease the consumption of these troublesome edibles, which include high-carbohydate or high-sugar items, products made with high fructose corn syrup, fried foods, lunch meats, and fast food in general. Avoid chemical additives, preservatives, dyes, and artificial sweeteners, and buy organic meats, which are raised without antibiotics or hormones. Instead, eat more antioxidant-rich foods, such as yellow and red peppers, squash, tomatoes, leafy greens, garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. In addition to dietary changes, make sure to get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night, stop smoking, and engage in physicalactivities like yoga or pilates.

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WHAT CAUSES LOW TESTOSTERONE?

While a descrease in testosterone levels is a normal part of aging, it can also be caused by other factors, including:

  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Chronic stress
  • Drugs such as Minoxidil (Rogaine), opiate pain medications, including meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (Oxycontin), and
    morphine; and steroids, including prednisone (Deltasone) and dexamethasone (Decadron)
  • Environmental contaminants like lead, mercury, plastics, and pesticides
  • Head trauma
  • Obesity
  • Ovary problems in women
  • Scrotal injury

Low testosterone levels have been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and a higher death rate in men, so listen to your body and pay attention to any symptoms you might experience.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF LOW TESTOSTERONE?

Decreased amounts of testosterone may result in symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, changes in mood, fatigue, sleep disturbances, high blood pressure, low libido, muscle atrophy, joint aches and pains, increased body fat (particularly belly fat), loss of body hair, poor concentration, and blood sugar imbalances.

HOW CAN LOW TESTOSTERONE BE TREATED?

Testosterone replacement therapy—administered as injections, patches, or a gel—may be recommended for men with low testosterone counts, although it is not approved for women at this time. Both men and women, however, can support balanced testosterone with supplements, dietary measures, and general lifestyle changes. While all of these methods may be helpful, the treatment you use will depend upon your particular situation and the advice of your doctor.

SUPPLEMENTS

Supplements that may benefit people with low testosterone levels are listed below. Be sure to speak to your doctor before beginning a regimen, as some supplements are contraindicated by certain medications.

SUPPLEMENTS FOR LOW TESTOSTERONE
Supplement Dosage Considerations
Saw palmetto standardized to at least 85-percent fatty acids and astaxanthin) 400 mg three times a day. May be used by men to treat low testosterone and improve overall prostate health. Consult your physician before using.
Tongkat ali 300 mg twice a day. May be used by men to treat low testosterone. Avoid if you have a prostate condition such as BPH or prostate cancer.
Zinc 50 mg once a day. Zinc is important in immunity and acts as an antioxidant. It is also reported to help regulate blood sugar. May also be used by men to treat low testosterone and support prostate health. Take zinc in the form of an amino acid chelate or citrate. Check with your doctor before using.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

Diet and lifestyle are key factors in raising low testosterone. First, increase your intake of quality protein, including organic turkey, beef, or bison. Add coldwater fish like wild salmon and wild halibut to your meals, and eat more antioxidant-rich produce, including yellow and red peppers, squash, tomatoes, leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garlic, and onions. Because zinc and selenium benefit reproductive health, opt for lean meats, liver, eggs, high-quality seafood (especially oysters), garlic, cabbage, cucumbers, and radishes.

Aside from dietary adjustments, get at least seven hours of sleep every night, as lack of sleep and sleep distruptions have been shown to lower tesosterone. Drink two to three liters of filtered water every day and restrict alcohol use as well. Additionally, exercise for thirty minutes a day three to four times a week. Try yoga, pilates, or simply walking.


 

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