Hormones are largely responsible for many of the day-to-day functions in our bodies. This can mean everything from reproductive functions to simple energy and mood levels, so it’s critical to understand the basics of how they work and why they should be balanced.
While hormones tend to behave differently for men and women due to their differences in sex characteristics and reproductive functions, one incredibly important hormone for both would be testosterone.
This may surprise some people since it is largely associated with men, male reproductive traits and masculinity, but it’s actually central to many common functions. To help give you a better understanding, here is an in-depth look at the benefits of testosterone and why it is important to have balanced levels.
What is Testosterone?
Hormones are the chemical messengers in the brain that are responsible for triggering necessary changes in your body, whether they be day-to-day needs or at periods of growth/development in your life.
Sex hormones like testosterone are particularly significant when it comes to these bigger milestones. They play the main roles in things like puberty, menopause, reproductive needs, growth and more.
Testosterone is a type of androgen. In men (where testosterone levels are naturally much higher), it is primarily produced by the testicles in Leydig cells. In both men and women, the brain and pituitary gland control testosterone levels, triggering production and distribution through the bloodstream to carry out its respective functions.
Dr. Sarah Bennett, a naturopathic doctor at Natural Med Doc, “Understanding sex hormones is critical to way more than just reproductive concerns or significant milestones like puberty, menopause or aging. I’d argue that testosterone is one of the most important for both men and women, especially since imbalances can be so common. Sex hormone levels are some of the very first things I look at when patients complain of frustrations in their lives that don’t seem to have any known origin or solution, and it’s often the right answer!”
To better understand the importance of testosterone, it’s good to look into the main things it is responsible for (aside from the functions that may seem more obvious to some).
What does it do?
When people think of “testosterone” it’s likely they will either imagine teenage boys with high libido and difficult acne or they’ll picture tough, muscular, hairy men with deep voices. What people may not always realize is that women have (and need) testosterone as well.
While testosterone does contribute to building muscle mass, stimulating hair growth and boosting libido, it is also responsible for things like cognition, insulin sensitivity, energy levels, assertiveness and even pain management.
As you may have noticed, most of these functions are universal and not confined simply to men or male puberty. Furthermore, testosterone will often convert to estrogen for certain processes, so it’s even critical in terms of proper estrogen levels.
All this said, it is possible to have too much (or too little) testosterone, and women especially can experience discomfort and frustrating symptoms from excessive amounts. This leads us into the next topic which is hormonal imbalance, something that often involves sex hormone levels (especially testosterone).
What could indicate an imbalance?
Since testosterone is responsible for so many different critical functions, it’s no wonder that it is one of the most common reasons that people seek out hormone therapy. Plus, it is standard for both men and women to start experiencing declines in testosterone levels starting as early as their late twenties.
The worst part of this typical decline (especially as people reach their senior years) is that it is often left untreated, especially in women. Lab references will often set the lower limit at 0.0 for women, so no one would even mark deficiencies in their results! This could leave the typical side effects of low testosterone unaddressed and even increase the risk of diabetes, dementia and cardiovascular disease.
Some of the side effects to look out for with low testosterone include:
That said, excess testosterone can also be a cause for concern, especially for women. High testosterone levels are one of the most commonly seen symptoms in women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) which is far more common than you may think.
Some of the signs that could indicate high testosterone levels include:
The good news is that – in addition to hormone replacement therapy – there are a number of natural solutions to hormonal imbalances that can be taken. The best way to approach it is to make sure you listen to your body and have in-depth conversations with a doctor who may be able to advise you and point you in the right direction for your unique concerns.
Testosterone is just one of many hormones that keeps your body running smoothly, but it’s definitely an important one in many different areas!
Since sex hormones like testosterone are related to more than just reproduction (energy, mood, growth, etc.), it’s important to make sure your body has the right amount to run smoothly. Not only will it deeply impact a lot of major areas, it will also help you live a more fulfilling life on a daily basis.
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With huge thanks to Tori for sharing this blog with us.
Katherine (Tori) Lutz, Freelance Writer, Editor & Social Media Strategist