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Low Testosterone: Yet Another Reason to Manage Weight and Stress.

Love handles, spare tire, muffin top – you’ve heard these terms before. I’m sure you haven’t heard that this extra belly fat we carry can lead to hormonal problems, particularly low testosterone. The perpetual stress we carry in our lives also leads to hormonal imbalances. The main perpetrator to low testosterone centers around cortisol, our stress hormone. This hormone is one of many hormones secreted by our adrenal glands, tiny glands that sit on top of our kidneys. But when cortisol runs amok – when certain situations make cortisol run perpetually high – this eventually leads to low testosterone. The situations I’m talking about are obesity and stress, my two favorite topics because it seems we as a society just can’t get a handle on it.

The belly fat and testosterone link:

Testosterone typically starts to slowly decline after age 30 in men and women. Any drop in levels commonly contributes to low sex drive, and a loss of energy and vitality. Those with low levels could also
experience muscle weakness, depression, and weight gain, typically around the waist.

Here’s how the belly and testosterone link works: A drop in testosterone leads to a loss of muscle tissue, which in turn slows down the body’s metabolism. A slower metabolism allows the body to gain fat, which is usually in the belly area. There are a ton of cortisol receptors in our belly fat.

Also, being obese encourages the body to produce more of an enzyme called aromatase, which is not such a good enzyme. It basically increases testosterone’s conversion into estrogen, meaning less testosterone and more estrogen!

The stress and testosterone link:
The chronic stress we face in work, home and relationships, play a toll on our testosterone levels as well. High stress (high cortisol) isn’t necessarily the causative agent for low testosterone, but there is definitely an association with high stress and low testosterone. Patients who come to me stressed and “burned out” rarely tell me their sex drive is great. Libido is usually nonexistent. And when I do check testosterone levels, it usually is tanked. Cortisol works against testosterone, essentially inhibiting testosterone. Link

We know that testosterone declines with age, so here are some keys to slow down the drop:

  1. Reduce stress: America leads the world in stress with our long work hours and busy lifestyles, so we need to improve the way we handle stress. Here are two ways: a) Learn to say no. We tend to take on too much and live up to other’s expectations and rarely our own. Stress is good when it drives us to improve ourselves. But when stress takes over our lives, you must learn to say no and ask for help. b) Remember to laugh. The laughter is indeed the best medicine. Research has proven it and it’s free! So take time to watch a funny movie or have fun with friends. It really makes a difference to alleviate stress.
  2. Weight loss: With the obesity epidemic where 1 in 3 Americans are now clinically obese, our weight loss techniques just aren’t working. Patients often tell me, “I know what I need to do to lose weight, but just can’t do it.” Food addiction is a big player, where many eat to relieve stress, but that is another topic for another time. Here are three basic weight loss tips to try in the meantime: a) Journal your diet and exercise routine one day a week, b) start walking 10 minutes a day, and c) do 10 pushups a day. Doesn’t seem like much, but the goal is to change your habits. Everyone has time to do these three tips, so no excuses allowed! The reason why New Year’s resolutions don’t hold is that we set unattainable goals and we don’t track our habits.

If your mood, energy level and sex drive have dropped, I recommend you get your testosterone levels checked. If you have a high stress life and can’t seem to lose weight, your testosterone levels are probably tanking fast. Remember, testosterone starts to decline at age 30 for both men and women, but that doesn’t mean it has to drop as rapidly as it has been for many. Try to modify your daily routine, but if this doesn’t help, there are other additional treatment options. Talk to your health care provider about checking hormone levels and treatments like bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, herbal remedies, nutritional supplements and even specific workout routines.

Michael Corsilles, ND, PA-C

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