Testosterone is loosely referred to as the male sex hormone but its importance and function stretches beyond this. The hormone has several important roles including aiding penile growth, the development of male reproductive system, the male sex drive and the development of the male features (like facial features, hair and voice). It aids muscle and bone development, psychology, prevention of heart disease and overall health. The hormone is also present in women but the levels in men are often ten times higher.
Causes for decreased testosterone:
- A natural or normal decrease in testosterone is referred to as “Hypogonadism“. There are three categories of Hypogonadism:
- Primary hypogonadism occurs when the organ responsible for the hormones production fails to produce normal levels. The testes and ovaries both produce the hormone.
- Secondary hypogonadism is caused when the pituitary gland is unable to produce the right amounts whether because of hormonal reasons or damage to the gland.
- Tertiary hypogonadism results from damage to the hypothalamus or abnormal levels of hormonal secretions from the gland.
- Both secondary and tertiary hypogonadism can occur when the hormones needed to stimulate the glands are under produced.
What are testosterone supplements?
Supplements are used as an alternative to hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) methods which can be in the form of biweekly intramuscular injections, skin patch or gel and putty used on the gum. Supplements usually come in the forms of pills, capsules, liquids, powders and herbs.
Just like HRT methods, supplements have their benefits and risks so this should be taken into consideration before using any. Except for ZMA, a supplement containing minerals and vitamins, supplements are considered unsafe for teenagers. In fact, most persons recommend that usage be avoided until the intended user is 25 years of age or more since this is the time that natural decrease normally starts.
Testosterone supplements have been used to dramatically increase muscle mass in men, enhance the male sex drive by increasing libido and addressing erectile dysfunction, aid mental capacity and help prevent health risks that a low testosterone level can contribute to.
Reasons for use of supplements
The main use of the hormonal supplements is medical. As men age, testosterone levels naturally decrease contributing to health issues and a drop in sexual performance for some. These supplements are often seen as a form of hormonal therapy to combat the effects of the decreased productions.
Some users of testosterone supplements rely on them for physical enhancement and endurance. It is often used in bodybuilding whether professionally or recreationally since the hormone is available without a prescription and is now considered “user friendly“.
Tips for taking supplements
- Since there is no way of telling exactly how a supplement will affect you, it’s best to understand all risks and benefits before starting use. Consult a doctor or seek professional advice about what to expect, the options and what approach to take.
- Follow dosage instructions carefully.
- Stick to the exercise and diet regime you are placed on to ensure optimum results and safety.
- The study of testosterone supplements is still relatively young so much remains unknown.
- They can cause growth in metastatic prostate and breast cancers so these patients should avoid using.
- Erythrocytosis (high count in red blood cell), severe congestive heart failure, sleep apnea and severe benign prostatic hypertrophy are all conditions that can be worsened though more so through HRT.