Many people experience stress and see how negatively it affects their life.
Fatigue, altered mood, anti-social behavior, disrupted sleep and decreased concentration are all common ways that stress impacts one’s life.
What most people do not realize is that stress actually has a physiological effect on the body.
The main glands responsible for helping our body deal with stress are the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys.
The two most commonly mentioned substances secreted by the adrenals in times of stress are glucocorticoids (ex. cortisol) and catecholamines (ex. epinephrine).
The body will react differently depending on the severity and duration of the stress.
During short periods, the body secretes both cortisol and epinephrine to help decrease inflammation and improve the reaction time of the nervous system so one can respond quickly both mentally and physically to stress.
When these molecules are secreted over longer periods, they actually break the body down leading to chronic conditions, increased frequency of infections, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, osteoporosis and even dementia.
Chronically elevated stress may also decrease testosterone levels in men.
An area of the brain called the pituitary gland is responsible for telling the adrenal glands to make cortisol, and telling the testes to make testosterone.
When the pituitary gland senses elevated levels of cortisol, it starts to shift its priorities to producing more cortisol and less testosterone as the body perceives managing stress to be of more importance than supporting reproductive health.
Symptoms of low testosterone can be broken down into two categories: brain function and body composition.
- Changes in brain function may include low libido and erectile dysfunction, decreased energy, cognitive function and sleep quality, irritability and depressed moon.
- Changes in body composition may include decreased muscle mass and increased fat mass, decreased bone mineral density, lower hair density and skin thickness.
The two best measures of testosterone levels are total testosterone and free testosterone.
As the name suggests, total testosterone measures all of the testosterone in the blood.
Free testosterone measures the amount of testosterone in the blood not bound to protein, which makes it easier for your body to utilize.
Measuring both forms of testosterone gives a more complete picture of why one may be experiencing low testosterone. For example, someone may have a high measure of total testosterone but have low free testosterone, leading to symptoms of low testosterone.
If the person only has their total testosterone tested, then the cause of their symptoms may be overlooked.
There are many different approaches to supporting testosterone levels.
For those individuals who suspect their testosterone is low due to stress, finding ways to manage stress is the best way to treat the cause.
Diaphragmatic breathing, different types of meditation and acupuncture are great methods for tipping the stress scale in your favor.
There are also herbs that have been shown to support testosterone:
Last but not least, for those individuals looking for immediate results, you may consider testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to improve testosterone levels.
The two most common forms of TRT are creams and injections.