Understanding the Root Causes of Low Testosterone
Part of the increased attention being paid to the symptoms of low testosterone ( which you can find here) in men is the reclassification my medical professionals of the root cause of the symptoms. Previously, many of the symptoms now being thought of as the result of low testosterone were seen as the result of chronic disease, such as diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. When the focus changed to see the symptoms as being associated more with testosterone levels than with chronic illness, there resulted a bloom in attention to testosterone (it is also important to mention the financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies to also push this, as the main treatment for low testosterone is pharmaceutical).
In addition to the normal effects of aging, certain conditions can result in low testosterone (medically defined as falling below the 300 ng/dl threshold, though some would disagree with this cut-off). These conditions are ( WebMD, UCLA):
- Endocrine disorders (including pituitary adenomas/tumors);
- HIV infection or AIDS;
- Infection; Kidney disease;
- Liver disease;
- Testicular cancer and its treatment (and any testicular injury);
- Type 2 diabetes.
Furthermore, low testosterone has been implicated in actually contributing several diseases, including:
- Endothelial dysfunction;
- Impaired left ventricular function;
- Increased blood pressure;
A New York Times article, in referencing the relationship between high estrogen levels in men and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, writes that:
“Estrogen, the female sex hormone, turns out to play a much bigger role in men’s bodies than previously thought, and falling levels contribute to their expanding waistlines just as they do in women’s. The discovery of the role of estrogen in men is 'a major advance,' said Dr. Peter J. Snyder, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who is leading a big new research project on hormone therapy for men 65 and over. Until recently, testosterone deficiency was considered nearly the sole reason that men undergo the familiar physical complaints of midlife."
Stress, Inflammation, and Hypogonadism
To this list I personally would add chronic stress and inflammation. Chronic stress and inflammation is the underlying cause of many common chronic diseases and it works cyclically to exacerbate disease. Stress and inflammation have a very damaging effect on the body, and I believe hypogonadism (low testosterone) to be one of the symptoms of ongoing, constant stress (and inflammation) in the body.
While I tend to focus on the wide spectrum of nutrients--amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and the like--found in Pine Pollen. The majority of attention paid to this herb is because of its androgenic effects: the phyto-testosterone it contains and its other phyto-androgens). Throughout the history of Chinese medicine, Pine Pollen has been used as an addition to the diet as people age, because of its anti-aging qualities. Today we are learning both that some of those anti-aging qualities have to do with the phyto-androgens present in Pine Pollen, and that some of what we consider to be signs of aging are actually just symptoms of low testosterone. So while Pine Pollen has a lot more to offer than just phyto-androgens, it is important to keep Pine Pollen in the forefront of our minds when we are thinking about low testosterone and the aging body. Pine Pollen is also anti-inflammatory, adding another beneficial and interesting level to the overall relationship between testosterone, stress and inflammation, and Pine Pollen.
In conclusion, it is important to note that while disease can contribute to or cause low testosterone, we also need to start viewing chronic stress and chronic inflammation as a disease state before they cause more serious, harder to treat diseases (cancer, diabetes, cardiac vascular disease), of which their role and relationship is already well documented. Furthermore, because the diseases caused by stress and inflammation can cause low testosterone (hypogonadism), we need to start looking at stress and inflammation in their own right as being the cause of low testosterone, not merely a stepping stone to a disease that does. By mitigating and healing the stress it is possibly to let testosterone levels raise naturally.
*This post originally featured a video about low testosterone by a professional boxer named "Real Raw Matt." The video has since been taken off of YouTube and--as such--it is no longer linked here.