What it is and what it does? Too high? Too low? Here’s what you need to know about testosterone to keep your hormonal health in check

Testosterone – We all want to know what’s going on beneath our skin. From the food we eat to the chemicals in our washing powder, there are a number of factors that can affect our hormones. To better understand these magic chemical messengers, we must first know what role they place in the first place.

First up, testosterone – the male-defining hormone that’s often misunderstood. We’ve put together the facts on the t-hormone and the crucial roles it plays in our body to help you take better control of your hormonal health.

What is it?

First and foremost, testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, as well as an anabolic steroid. It’s primarily associated with masculine characteristics and its key role in the development of male reproductive tissues. Although men have it in higher amounts, women also produce it in the ovaries.

What does it do?

For men, testosterone kickstarts the internal and external development of the male fetus, including the testis and prostate. It also plays a crucial role in male puberty: growth spurts, increased muscle and bone mass, body hair growth and genital changes are all down to testosterone. In both men and women, testosterone sends signals to the body to generate new blood cells for muscle and bone strength around puberty. T-levels affect the sex drives of men and women.

Why is testosterone important?

Testosterone regulates many functions in our bodies, particularly male bodies. Fitness-wise, the talked-about hormone is a remarkable thing. It strengthens your bones, enhances libido and helps regulate insulin, glucose and fat metabolism – in turn decreasing body fat. The more testosterone, the more muscle mass is built up, thanks to the hormone’s protein synthesising abilities. It’s also been linked to optimum cognitive function – researchers even found that testosterone  may fight depression.

How can low levels cause problems?

When testosterone levels are low, it can have a negative impact on a man’s wellbeing. Lack of the T-hormone can result in increased body fat, poor sexual performance, wrinkling of skin, loss of body hair and low mood. Needless to say, it can affect your fitness, appearance, social life and self-esteem.

Can too much t-hormone cause problems?

If high T-levels in men are natural, there shouldn’t be a problem. If a man uses anabolic steroids and bumps up levels of artificial testosterone, however, it can lead to lower libido, shrinking of the testes, infertility, irritability, and breast growth. When women’s testosterone levels rise, it can result in acne, body and facial hair, mood disorders, a deeper voice and balding. If you’re a woman with high testosterone levels, you should also get tested for polycystic ovary syndrome.

How can I get my levels in balance?

For men, testosterone levels can rise with regular exercise and T-hormone-boosting foods. Red grapes, tuna, pomegranate and honey can all help amp up your testosterone by increasing blood flow, fighting impotence, boosting sex drive and making your sperm more active. Another important T-boosting exercise is de-stressing. Whether that’s through meditation, yoga or an invigorating swim, ditching the stress hormone cortisol can allow your testosterone to thrive. Exercise is a must to reduce testosterone in women, as well as lowering the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates in your diet. Insulin in these foods can lead to male hormone production in the ovaries.