Does stress cause a low testosterone level?
There is a significant link between stress and hormone levels, in particular, testosterone. If cortisol levels go up because you are constantly under stress, testosterone tends to fall significantly. Problems arise when your cortisol is too high for too long, and this is when it interferes with other hormones causing health issues such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and even diabetes type 2.
What does cortisol do?
Cortisol plays an essential role in many bodily functions. Benefits include;
- Improved memory
- Regulated sleep cycle
- Reduced inflammation
- Regulated blood pressure
- Manages your body’s use of fats, carbohydrates, and protein
- Boost to alertness in stressful situations and calms you down afterward
- Regulated glucose level
Cortisol levels and stress
What is the stress hormone?
The ‘stress hormone’ cortisol is a steroid hormone made in the adrenal glands and then released into the blood when stressed or scared. Most cells have receptors for this hormone, which work in your body in several ways. Cortisol helps control your body’s blood sugar levels and metabolism and influences water and salt balance, blood pressure, memory, and the ability to fight infection. Like many other hormones, cortisol affects the circadian rhythm (sleep and wake cycle), with the highest levels in the morning and lowest around midnight.
What are the effects of cortisol on the body?
When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release cortisol into your bloodstream. Your body automatically produces a surge of glucose into your larger muscles enabling you to jump into action. While narrowing your arteries, your body produces another hormone called epinephrine (adrenaline), which increases your heart rate, so you are ready to take action when needed.
Cortisol also slows the metabolism and shuts down unnecessary bodily functions during heightened moments of stress, such as the reproductive system, digestion, growth, and, importantly, your immune system. This shutdown is one of the main reasons why stress makes people more susceptible to catching colds, the flu, or other illnesses.
Take our free hormone assessment to test your cortisol levels.
How does cortisol affect testosterone?
Constantly elevated cortisol can cause hormone deficiency and disrupt glucose levels causing insulin resistance in an adverse chain reaction:
- When cortisol rises, it pushes down thyroid and testosterone levels.
- Excess cortisol increases insulin levels in the blood.
- Insulin is basically ‘the fat producer’ and facilitates the storage of fat as visceral fat in the abdominal cavity.
- Visceral fat increases estradiol, which also drags down testosterone levels further, making it harder to build muscle and burn fat.
Insulin resistance is when your cells don’t respond appropriately to the hormone insulin. Insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and prediabetes. Under normal circumstances, cortisol counterbalances the action of insulin. If you are constantly stressed, cortisol levels become elevated, and you can become insulin resistant, putting you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus.
The relationship between levels of testosterone and cortisol
Typically, stressors will reduce your testosterone and thyroid levels. This in turn reduces your healthy estradiol levels, leaving you with a hormone imbalance. This imbalance can lead to many symptoms and diseases that can affect your quality and length of life.
How hormone replacement lowers cortisol levels
If you are constantly stressed, it causes testosterone and thyroid levels to fall. Since testosterone and thyroid control how your body burns fat, builds muscle, and creates energy; as your levels decline, your weight and energy levels will be affected.
Testosterone and thyroid hormones help to moderate cortisol.
Stress is an essential part of life. It helps people adapt to stressors and cope in difficult situations. The problem arises when cortisol levels are constantly high and it becomes a chronic problem. High cortisol over long periods can increase the risk of chronic long-term diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Because cortisol also inhibits testosterone production, its increase can be damaging to your health.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is effective in combatting stress. Because cortisol reduces testosterone, by replacing the lost hormones, you will restore the balance and the benefits these hormones have on your body. Testosterone and thyroid hormones rebalance your metabolism, builds muscle, and reduces the dangerous visceral fat, which can cause many health issues.
BHRT safely and effectively restores hormone levels to promote the production of the mood hormones serotonin and dopamine without causing the health issues associated with synthetic hormones. Men experiencing andropause will find relief from other symptoms like headaches, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, lack of stamina, low libido, and erectile dysfunction while undergoing BHRT.
How DHEA lowers cortisol levels
One of the most influential hormones for dealing with stress is dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its derivative dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). Studies show that stress at work reduces DHEAs significantly, stating:
“This study indicates that stressed individuals have markedly lower levels of DHEA-S. Given the important and beneficial functions of DHEA and DHEA-S, lower levels of DHEA-S may constitute one link between psychosocial stress, ill-health, and accelerated aging.” Lennartsson AK, Theorell T, Rockwood AL, Kushnir MM, Jonsdottir IH. 2013 Aug 28
DHEA comes from the same place as cortisol, the adrenal glands. As cortisol goes up, DHEA goes down, and as DHEA goes up, cortisol goes down. For this reason, our medical providers recommend supplementing our BHRT treatment program with DHEA for men who suffer from stress.
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Studies and References:
Lennartsson AK, Theorell T, Rockwood AL, Kushnir MM, Jonsdottir IH. Perceived stress at work is associated with lower levels of DHEA-S. PLoS One. 2013;8(8):e72460. Published 2013 Aug 28. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072460