Sven Wombwell
Article by: Sven Wombwell
Estimated 8 minutes read
Quick summary
Whether testosterone helps fight viruses or not is a complex question. When you are ill, testosterone levels naturally decline to facilitate immune response. However, low testosterone can make illnesses like COVID-19 worse, increasing the risk of severe symptoms and death. The key is hormone balance. If hormones are optimal, your immune system will likely be too.

Testosterone plays a significant role in men's health. It's responsible for growth during puberty through increased muscle and strength, the deepening of the voice, body hair, sexual function and libido. It regulates so many bodily functions, but does testosterone help fight viruses? The answer may surprise you.

The immune system is vital in keeping us healthy by fighting off infection and illness without much thought. But when it's not running smoothly, it can become weak, which makes you more susceptible to infections such as the common cold, flu, body aches and other illnesses.

One thing that can interfere with immunity is our hormones. Hormones are responsible for sending messages throughout the body so they can function correctly. Hormones are essential for overall health and well-being. They control various bodily processes that include: (1)

  • Homeostasis (Your body's natural balance-keeping system. It works to keep everything inside you just the way it needs to be, like a built-in regulator)
  • Sexual health and function
  • Metabolism
  • Mood
  • Growth and development
  • Reproduction
  • Sleep

The connection between immunity and hormones becomes evident when you're not feeling healthy. The immune system becomes compromised when your hormone levels are out of balance. Hormonal imbalances can occur when you have too little (testosterone deficiency) or too much of one or more hormones. 

The endocrine system works with your organs and glands to secrete hormones that impact mood, stress, sexual function, metabolism and other bodily functions. When a hormone is secreted into the body, it stimulates the production or release of other hormones, sometimes creating a domino effect that can cause an imbalance. (2)

It doesn't take much to experience bodily changes that can significantly affect the quality of life. Not all hormonal issues are serious, but for those that are, you may need to seek treatment from a medical professional.

The Role of Testosterone and How It May Help to Fight Viruses

We tend to equate high testosterone levels with masculinity and strength, concluding that it keeps men healthier overall. So it may be surprising that according to some studies, (3) men with high testosterone levels can be more vulnerable to infections.

However, it may be the opposite for those with low testosterone.

A German study (4) involving 221 men found that Covid-19 can lower testosterone levels in the blood. Additionally, individuals with low testosterone levels were more likely to experience severe complications from the illness. Interestingly, more than half of the male patients examined in the study had testosterone levels below the normal range.

So, it's possible to conclude that having optimal testosterone balance may be vital to help fight viruses and avoid certain health problems.

What is Testosterone?

Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone responsible for several body functions, including sex drive, sperm production, muscle mass and strength, deepening of the voice, fat distribution, bone mass, and the production of red blood cells.

It's also responsible for increasing confidence levels, motivation, and drive. It is essential to prevent long-term health issues and maintain good mental and physical health. 

Two types of testosterone include total and free testosterone. Most testosterone binds to the protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). The protein that doesn't bind is called free testosterone, which helps maintain metabolism and spark various cellular functions. 

Total testosterone is all the testosterone in the body and includes both bound and free testosterone. 

When you reach your mid 30's, testosterone levels can begin to drop at about 1% per year, leading to symptoms of low T. Those symptoms can include:

  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Low sex drive
  • Increased fat
  • Feelings of depression
  • Trouble concentrating

The symptoms can make it difficult to enjoy a quality of life, and although you can increase testosterone levels with exercise and a good diet, it may not be enough, and you may want to consider testosterone replacement therapy.

The Role of Testosterone in the Immune System

Testosterone is responsible for many significant systems in the body. Still, when it comes to the immune system, its effects are complicated. According to studies, high testosterone can lower the immune system. (5)

Studies have shown that the primary female hormone estrogen increases the immune system, resulting in fewer infections and illnesses and stronger immune responses to vaccines. In contrast, testosterone, the male hormone, responds less efficiently, leading to more significant infections and viruses among men. (6)

What's more surprising is that the higher a man's testosterone levels, the more his immunity is weakened. (7) This seems counterintuitive to the image of strength and vitality testosterone provides for men.

Testosterone and Viral Infections

Although Covid isn't at the forefront of every news report anymore, many studies were conducted when men were contracting it more than women. (8) The immune system comprises cells, organs, and tissue that synchronize an immune response to viruses. It's a complex system that requires a delicate balance.

It seems women's hormones protect against viral infections more so than men's. (9) Various studies found that testosterone suppressed the immune system in two categories: adaptive immunity and innate immunity. 

Innate immunity is fast-acting and is the front line of defense that focuses on general invaders to slow the infection process until adaptive immunity kicks in. 

Adaptive immunity is more complicated and can take much longer to identify the foreign substances and develop antibodies targeting that specific infection. While innate immunity jumps into action, adaptive immunity targets specific invaders and protects the body from invasion. Once the threat is gone, it's added to a memory bank for a faster response the next time. 

Because of the specific nature of protection, it can be more taxing on the body. Since testosterone uses energy for building and maintaining muscle, libido, and several other functions, the thought is that it doesn't leave much energy for fighting viruses and immunity. (10) This can equate to energy being turned on or off for various immune functions. However, more research is needed to clearly understand the depth of how testosterone affects viral infections. 

How Testosterone Replacement Therapy Can Help

Testosterone replacement therapy is a treatment provided under the supervision of a medical professional that involves utilizing various testosterone medications to increase the level of testosterone in the body.

Symptoms of low testosterone can affect men in various ways, including low energy, loss of muscle and strength, weight gain, erectile dysfunction, low libido, and depression. Testosterone treatment comes in creams, injections, pellets, patches, and gels and can help alleviate the symptoms of low T and restore quality of life.

But can it improve the immune system? Anytime you can balance your hormones, your body can work more efficiently to regulate your body's processes, including mood, blood pressure, sex drive, energy, physical health, and immune system. Because of this, hormones play an important role in health and well-being. (11)(12)

A hormonal imbalance can disrupt your body's processes and weaken your immune system, zapping energy and making it more challenging to stay healthy. Boosting your diet with whole foods and working out can help boost immune health, but when hormones are out of whack, it can be challenging to balance them without help. 

So, it's vital to have a medical consultation with a healthcare provider so they can offer solutions that can balance hormones and improve immunity. Some things that may help may include hormone replacement or testosterone replacement therapy.

Other Factors Affecting Immune Response

Every day, you expose yourself to factors that can impact the immune system. Some factors that are more difficult to control are air quality, medications, and allergies. Still, some we have a lot of control over. Those include:

Keeping the immune system balanced is vital for fighting viruses and other illnesses. Managing lifestyle choices effectively and paying attention to how you feel is crucial. Testosterone therapy, lifestyle, medical conditions and nutrition all come into play. Healthy aging and avoiding illness are supported by hormone health.

Conclusion: Does Testosterone Help Fight Viruses

To keep your body running efficiently and reduce the possibility of viral infections, lifestyle factors and hormones can make a significant impact. When your body can efficiently regulate your body's processes, you have a better chance of reducing infections. For men, TRT and hormone replacement therapy may help.

Man stretching leg after a run.

Hormones and healthy aging. Check your levels today

From better bone health to increased energy, see if optimizing your hormones could be the key.

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