THE TRUTH ABOUT
Testosterone has been used by athletes for decades. Bodybuilders, football players, swimmers, baseball players, and even golfers have used steroids to gain a competitive edge. Don't kid yourself --- these drugs work (can anyone say Barry 'Bison Head' Bonds?). Synthetic forms of Testosterone increase both strength and muscle mass while helping drop body fat. On top of that, they dramatically aid in recovery and healing times. And I don't suppose I need to mention the fact that supplemental Testosterone has that almost magical quality of being able to bring back a man's ability to perform the bedroom heroics of his youth. Thus, it's not surprising that Testosterone is Ponce de León's elusive "Fountain of Youth". But not surprisingly, there's a dark side to this class of drug.
SIDE EFFECTS OF EXOGENOUS TESTOSTERONE
We have known about the side effects of supplemental (exogenous) Testosterone for decades. Once again, most of this knowledge comes from the field of athletics. According to the article in Time, there are 7.5 million American men taking exogenous Testosterone. Every single one of the bullet points below comes straight from the peer-reviewed scientific literature. I must, however, warn you that the studies on Testosterone are all over the place. Von Drehle writes that, "no matter what you think of testosterone therapy, some scientist somewhere has data to back you up.... Trusting testosterone to relieve men of aging amounts to a massive science experiment. There is so little agreement about T therapy that doctors dispute even the most basic concepts... A treatment that is benign when used briefly might become toxic with long use." Ah, the joys of EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE.
- HEART ATTACK / STROKE / BLOOD CLOTS / HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE / CHOLESTEROL ISSUES: Some of this is due to the fact that steroids cause increased red blood cell production (polycythemia), which can thicken the blood. You can find more information on CHOLESTEROL and BLOOD PRESSURE by simply following the links.
- PROSTATE CANCER: Far more common than CANCER are symptoms of Prostate Inflammation --- the feeling like you constantly have to go pee even though your bladder is not even close to full. You dribble and then go back and do it again in 20 minutes.
- SLEEP APNEA: HERE is more information on Sleep Apnea.
- FEMALE BREASTS: Athletes and bodybuilders call these "bitch tits", although the official name of the problem is gynomastia.
- ACNE: This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to skin problems, as Testosterone is notorious for causing SKIN CONDITIONS of all kinds. Interesting article on ACNE.
- DIZZINESS / LIGHTHEADEDNESS:
- MOOD SWINGS / RAGE / DEPRESSION / ANXIETY / PARANOIA: Having been a weightlifter for three decades, I can assure you that with those on Testosterone, these are seen as "normal". HERE is some good information on Depression.
- BALDNESS: Too many of us men are already fighting this problem. Is it really worth it?
- GENERALIZED HORMONAL DISRUPTION: One of the most common is that taking Testosterone short circuits your body's negative feed back loop. Allow me to explain.
From the final bullet point above, you'll notice that taking exogenous Testosterone throws a monkey wrench in the feedback loop that regulates your own body's Testosterone production. A commonly known side effect of athletes who take steroids is that their testicles shrink / shrivel / atrophy. This is because when you take exogenous Testosterone, your body senses it has plenty of it, and shuts down its own (endogenous) production. In other words, your body tells its testicles to stop making sex hormone because it already has plenty. This means that the longer you take Testosterone, or the more Testosterone you take, the less your own body is going to produce. It's one of the body's numerous "Negative Feedback Loops". Bodybuilders and athletes have "tricks" to restart endogenous Testosterone production (the one I am most familiar with is injectable HCG --- remember the HCG diet from a few years back?). Trust me when I tell you that going this route involves putting substances into your body that could in no ways be described as 'harmless'.
WHAT CAUSES LOW T TO BEGIN WITH?
As usual, everyone (both doctors and patients) wants to deal with the symptom (Low T) and forget about the underlying cause(s). That's right; even though men are usually told that their low Testosterone levels are due to the number of birthdays they've had or BAD GENETICS, this is simply not true in most cases. Some of the most common causes of Low T are intimately related to each other.
- EXPOSURE TO ESTROGEN-MIMICKING HORMONES: There are a wide array of chemicals which are known as XENOHORMONES because they have the ability to act as Estrogen in both women and men (HERE).
- HYPOGONADISM: Although there are many different diseases that could cause a person to fall into this category, the numbers are minor compared to the next three.
- PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: HERE'S the link. Enough said.
- BELLY FAT: I have previously informed you just how nasty a problem BELLY FAT is (HERE also), and is intimately related to the next bullet point.
- BLOOD SUGAR METABOLISM ABNORMALITIES: When you're living THE HIGH CARB LIFESTYLE, it not only puts you at risk for health issues like Belly Fat and DIABETES, it puts you at risk for almost every health problem you can imagine --- particularly those of a hormonal nature like "Low T". And guess what boys and girls --- sugar is what turns men into women and women into men (HERE).
Interestingly enough, these last two points are not only arguably the top two causes of not only Male Sexual Dysfunction, but Female Dysfunction as well (HERE). The cool thing is, once you understand how it all works together, you are going to attack it like almost any other health problem (HERE). You can choose to deal with the symptom ("Low T") and take exogenous Testosterone in the form of creams, injections, pills, etc. Or you can deal with the underlying cause of your Low T, and get healthy in the process.