Testosterone & Men’s minds – what must i know to be happy?
What do I need to know about Testosterone & Men’s Minds?
I’m on my way to my clinic to help men with low #Testosterone this morning. This is quite a popular topic online at the moment, but the role of Testosterone and Men’s Minds and theire mental health is often overlooked. Here’s my attempt to fill in the gaps.
What are the symptoms of low Testosterone and Men’s Minds?
The most common symptoms of low testosterone for men are usually sexual ones – low or absent libido and difficulty getting an erection.
But not all men report this, some just report things like reduced energy, difficulty sleeping, being easily irritable, being unable to concentrate at work.
If we dig a bit deeper men also report symptoms of Testosterone and Men’s MInds – persistent low mood, hopelessness and even suicidality which can be clinical #depression or feeling persistently on edge, angry – #anxiety
Role of Testosterone and Men’s Minds including mental health
I often explain the role of testosterone as the hormone which changes a boy to a man – growth in height and muscle, sexual development etc.
But also what can go unnoticed is increased cognitive functioning – concentration, calmness (although this can come in fits and starts). And in its absence we see Depression in men [further information here]. Similarly Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is associated with low Testosterone
Testosterone is also involved in our sleep cycle – helping maintain it so we wake up refreshed
I thought testosterone made men aggressive and angry? Isn’t it?
There’s a stereotype that Testosterone is the male hormone, and therefore this explains all male behaviour, particularly visual elements like fights or agression.
But we know that certain things boost Testosterone – Winning events (sports games, challenges). And certain things drop it, particularly in the short term – Losing, Loss of status, Alcohol, Drugs. When it’s lower our stress hormones – Adrenaline, particularly, kick in. And these are much more responsible for the things we associate with negative male behaviour – fights in bars, threatening people, manipulative behaviours.
Testosterone seems to be linked with pro-social behaviour as well (for example cooperation in a game)
In a sense they’re manipulations to make us try and feel better about ourselves, to regain some sense of control or power. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily helpful and we can learn the lesson that we can manipulate people to achieve what we want or need.
How Testosterone works
Testosterone is produced by the testicles & the body naturally tries to keep levels healthy via a series of feedback mechanisms.
It binds onto various part of the body – muscle & bone for growth, genital area for sexual function and brain for concentration, mood control. Testosterone and Men’s MInds are very much linked.
How is it diagnosed?
Typically at the clinic I’ll do two things – I’ll run through the symptoms the men are experiencing, and also try and identify the agrevating factors which they may be able to change.
We’ll also do some blood tests – I won’t go into the full complexity of this here, but you can order a Testosterone. For most men this should be over 12nmol/L.
If you’re experiencing low testosterone with symptoms and a blood test result, you have a diagnosis of Tesosterone Deficiency Syndrome and are likely to benefit from improving your levels.
Why men experience low Testosterone
Age – We live longer than we used to (mean life expectancy 80y compared to ~50y 100yr ago), and there is possibly a slight decline with age. SO we may notice the symptoms more as we age. However, this isn’t the mainissue
The biggest unifying issue is probably persistent high stress – this is a constant for all men in the clinic. High work pressures, and always on culture, much higher exepectations of what can be done in life are all key factors.
Often men find it hard to ‘let go’ of issues and unwind, being persistently in a state of high stress.
There’s multiple Lifestyle elements – they include:
Substances – smoking, vaping, illicit drug use (cocaine & cannabis most commonly), alcohol all play a role in lowering Testosterone
Diet – Processed or Ultra-processed food, Fried food and largely carbohydrate diets all play a role in lowering testosterone
Pollutants – plastic packaging usually contains BPA (Bisphosphyl-A) which accumulates in our body and lowers testosterone
Medications for long term conditions – Common ones including Statins & Antidepressants. Epiliepsy medications & opioids also have some effect.
Injury to testicles or having had mumps which has limited the ability
Low Vit D though living an indoor lifestyle.
Low control in life – being told what to do all the time at work, at home
Persistent ‘losses’ – being bottom of the pile in life.
Treatment approaches – Lifestyle & environement
In a sense a lot of the above things are ammeable to change
Substances – ideally cut everything out! I’m aware this can feel like a big ask, but people often feel a lot better within a couple of weeks after making changes. With alcohol some folks may feel more comfortable initially having days off, or keeping within the UK guidance (<14 units/week – roughly 1 bottle of wine, or 4-5 pints of beer per week)
Diet – wholefoods (those which look like, or are, the original food product e.g. fruits, vegetable, meats, fish, wholegrains), lots of fibre, healthy fats (olive oil, fats from nuts, seeds, oily fish like salmon).
Pollutants – avoid plastic packaging where possible on food, store your food in glass/metal containers
Medications – Consider the need for those medications, are there other lifestyle approaches
Movement – aim to exercise regularly & have cardiovascular (150min/week x3-5 sessions & x2 strength building sessions are the UK guidance currently)
Vitamin D – Ideally get 30mins/day of sun exposure to arms and legs, and /or supplement with Vitamin D3 1-2,000 IU (25-50mcg/day)
Letting go & acceptance – Mindfulness meditation can be very powerful for this – tools like Headspace and Calm can help you learn these skills. I’ve even started making my own: **link to insight timer**
Look at your life – what is in your control – what can you change. DO you have autonomy or ealthy challenge at work or home. How can you change things?
Treatment approaches – Medical
Ultimately some men prefer to use medical means to try and correct their levels.
There’s two main methods available in the UK
Cream forms – Testogel is the most commonly used which are applied daily
Long acting injections – Nebido is a 3 month injection into the buttock muscle
Short acting injections – Cypionate (every 2-3 days) or Sustanon (2-3 weekly)
Whilst there is no quick fix (it often takes 6 months to see a good effect), and there are several important considerations (expense, lifelong commitment, effort of undertaking these changes, reduced or absent fertility) this works well for most men who use it who have low testosterone.
I think I have low testosterone, what should I do?
Ultimately, it’s up to you. Try filling in a questionnaire – link – to see if you have sympotoms. Blood testing can be requested through your GP in the UK, although you will have to be insistant about this as some may not wish to do it.
I’d suggest trying to make a change to your life as I’ve described above. Even a small change can be quite empowering. Once one is made, it often becomes easier to undertake more changes.
Ultimately if you want to try the medical replacement approach, there’s lots of companies out there providing this service. I work here – please mention my name and this blog if you make contact. Or if you want to speak to me further free of charge to learn more, please reach out
Let me know below your thoughts about this important area.