Testosterone is a steroid sex hormone that belongs to the group of androgens and is the primary hormone of the male sex. It is produced in the testicles mainly (specifically by Leydig cells) and, to a lesser extent, in the adrenal glands.
Contrary to popular belief, women also have testosterone in their bodies. In this case, it is produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands, fulfilling specific and essential functions in the female sex, like fighting stress and increasing daily energy.
On the other hand, testosterone regulation in the human body depends on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. These two brain structures gather information through the bloodstream and control segregation.
It is important to note that testosterone values vary according to sex. In women, they are between 15-70 ng/dL, and in men, from 300 up to 1,000 ng/dL. As a result, men produce at least 20 times more testosterone than women, and it’s considered normal.
What function does testosterone play in men?
Testosterone is present even before birth (during the fetal period) and contributes to forming the male genitalia. It then influences the development of the first male sexual characteristics and gives way to puberty.
Its levels begin to increase at approximately 12 years of age and are maintained throughout adulthood, where they fulfill primary growing functions. Finally, at 40-50 years old, its levels decrease gradually and naturally without causing problems due to aging.
- It contributes to the formation, development, and growth of the penis, testicles, scrotum, and sex secret glands.
- It is responsible for the appearance of secondary male sexual characteristics such as the growth of body hair, deepening of the voice, and growth of Adam’s apple.
- Determinant in male fertility. It stimulates spermatogenesis (sperm production) in the seminiferous tubules.
- Stimulates the formation of semen.
- Develops bone growth.
- Promotes the increase of muscle mass.
- Increases libido or sexual drive.
- Participates in the control of emotions and mood.
What role does testosterone play in women?
Despite low levels, testosterone and other androgens influence proper ovarian function and follicular development. They also have an essential role in bone metabolism and sexual and cognitive function. Other roles are:
- Promotes libido and sexual desire.
- Decreases vaginal atrophy.
- Prevents loss of bone density.
- Increases muscle mass.
What if testosterone levels drop?
Over time, both men and women have low testosterone levels, which is typical of the aging organism. However, certain circumstances in which these levels fall too low bring adverse effects on your body. In the case of men:
- Decreased sexual desire.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Loss of bone mass.
- Reduction of muscle mass.
- Increased body fat.
- Mood swings.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Difficulty falling asleep.
In the case of women:
- Vaginal dryness.
- Sleep disorders.
- Loss of bone density.
- Accumulation of body fat.
- Tiredness and fatigue, slowness and lethargy.
- Thinning hair and dry skin.
- Alterations in the menstrual cycle.
How can I increase testosterone levels naturally?
It has been proven that there are natural ways to increase the levels of this hormone. Small changes in lifestyle and new ways of doing things can favor testosterone production quickly. Some of them:
- Exercise. It is proven that exercising is one of the best ways to increase and maintain adequate testosterone levels. Daily exercising helps prevent multiple diseases and contributes to maintaining adequate weight. Resistance training, which includes weights and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is the most recommended for increasing testosterone levels. However, any exercise or sport is flattering for this purpose. Choosing the one that best suits you and you like the most is an excellent way to start.
- Nutrition. A balanced and healthy diet that includes all three major food groups helps maintain hormone levels within normal limits. Consuming enough protein, healthy fats, and whole-grain carbohydrates favor hormonal balance. Some ideal foods to increase testosterone levels are:
- Garlic and onion. Both improve sexual function by increasing the body’s nitric oxide (NO). The ON is a significant vasodilator (which opens up your blood vessels) that promotes blood flow and lowers blood pressure. In addition, garlic and onion improve testosterone availability in the body.
- Spinach for its high magnesium content.
- Avocado. This food contains large amounts of healthy fats and vitamin E, essential to produce testosterone.
- Its high zinc content helps maintain testosterone levels and improves sperm quality and production.
- In addition to having an incredible taste, it contains large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A glass of juice a day increases testosterone levels by 16% to 30%.
- Olive oil. Several studies reported an increase in testosterone levels of approximately 18% in those who consume it regularly.
- They are high in polysaccharides and exert an anti-estrogenic effect.
- They contain antioxidants and boron. The latter mineral favors the increase of testosterone.
- Honey, like raisins, contains boron.
- It is high in healthy fats, amino acids, and vitamin E.
- Cashews, almonds, and peanuts.
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, for their high vitamin D content, interferes with the production of hormones, specifically testosterone.
- Coconut oil.
- Beans and whole grains.
In addition, it is recommended to store food in glass containers and discard those made of plastic since bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical found in some plastics that can interfere with the hormone production process, including testosterone. On the other hand, avoiding or decreasing the intake of tobacco and alcohol is crucial to favor and maintain adequate testosterone levels.
3. Sleep. Getting enough rest is essential for the proper functioning of the entire body, including testosterone and hormonal balance. Several studies prove that sleeping less than 5 hours decreases up to 15% of testosterone levels. At least 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep are recommended.
4. Vitamin D. Taking a few minutes of sun a day or using vitamin D supplements also favors testosterone production.
5. Cortisol. Lowering cortisol levels (stress hormone) promotes testosterone increase. When people are exposed to long periods of stress, testosterone production decreases because the body prioritizes releasing other hormones, such as cortisol, which are more useful in situations of stress or danger. Using relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation and leading a calm lifestyle is of great help when it comes to decreasing stress.
When natural means are not enough and testosterone levels remain low, replacement therapies come into play. Both men and women who use these therapies under medical indication and supervision have had excellent results. Several methods adapt to each person. Some of them are:
It is one of the most common therapies, powerful and affordable. It can be short-acting or long-acting, depending on the needs of each patient. Also, you can go to the office and have the health team administer it, or you can do it yourself at home.
The administration area will depend on the therapy indicated. Long-acting ones are usually administered intramuscularly and in the buttocks. Short-acting drugs are administered under the skin (subcutaneously) in the abdomen, except for the navel and sensitive areas, such as tattooed ones, scars, or stretch marks. In the case of women, therapy may be indicated alone or combined with estrogen, depending on each patient.
This oral tablet form is easy to administer but more expensive. Previously it was not recommended since it produced liver damage (due to its hepatic metabolism), and the dose had to be very high to achieve the desired effects.
However, changes have been introduced in the therapy, making it safer and effective, as the liver already metabolizes the new drug, preventing toxicity. The new oral testosterone formulations encapsulate a self-emulsifying drug delivery system containing, among other combinations, long-chain fatty acids, allowing food-free absorption and improving efficacy and delivery. The dosage depends on each patient, male or female, and the medical indication. Typically, one tablet a day is recommended.
Testosterone in patches
They are applied inside the mouth (on the cheeks or gums), last for 12 hours, and can irritate the oral mucosa. They contain 30 mg of testosterone, and the frequency of use depends on each patient and their needs. For better adhesion, some patches are placed on other areas of the body, preferably those without hair. This method is unsightly, so it is not among the most popular among patients.
Transdermal testosterone gel
It allows for the maintenance of the most stable levels in the blood, and its duration is 24 hours. It is applied to the skin or external genitalia of men and women. It is essential to let it dry well and avoid contact with other people while this is happening.
Testosterone implants or granules
The physician inserts these in his office under the skin of the patient’s hips or buttocks. Local anesthesia is used to perform the procedure. They last from 3 to 6 months, and the dose varies according to the needs of each patient.
It consists of applying an intranasal gel frequently 3 or 4 times a day, always trying to do it simultaneously. Despite being a practically invisible method, it can cause irritation and bleeding. It is crucial to keep in mind that all these replacement therapies should be performed under medical supervision, monitoring each month the blood values and reactions of each patient.
HRT Doctors is a nationwide Telemedicine Clinical Practice specializing in Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
If you are looking for expert advice and support for hormone replacement therapy? Contact us today to schedule your virtual appointment and start your journey towards optimal hormone balance.
Dr. Jenell Ruth Decker
Dr. Decker graduated from the Marshall University Joan C Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University in 1996. She works in Pullman, WA and 3 other locations and specializes in Family Medicine. Dr. Decker is affiliated with Pullman Regional Hospital.
Education & Training
- Vidant Medical Center/East Carolina University Vidant Medical Center/East Carolina University – Internship, Family Medicine, 1997 – 1999
- Marshall University School of Medicine Marshall University School of Medicine – Internship, Transitional Year, 1996 – 1997
- Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine – Class of 1996