Testosterone levels are affected by stress. The same “mother hormone” that produces DHEA and the sex hormones, PREGNENOLONE, also produces cortisol. In times of high stress and high demand for cortisol, the stress hormone, pregnenolone shifts to the chemical reactions producing cortisol and less DHEA is produced resulting in less production of sex hormones. This phenomenon is called “cortisol steal” because the demand for cortisol in high stress states steals the pregnenolone to make more cortisol at the expense of DHEA and Testosterone. So, what constitutes stress? Fight or flight responses of fear anxiety and worry along with depression, feelings of defeat and helplessness constitute ongoing stress. Pain syndromes, infection, inflammation, hypoglycemia, insomnia and toxic exposure all create a high demand for cortisol and result in less production of testosterone.
Which brings us to toxins. An article was recently published that documented lower testosterone levels in younger men secondary to Phthalates and other toxins. Phthalates are esters of phthalic acid and are mainly used as plasticizers. Over 800 million pounds have been produced. They are ubiquitous and found in personal care items such as make-up, shampoo, moisturizers, liquid soap, hair spray and cologne. They are added to detergents as binders and viscosity control agents, as well as added to cleaning materials, modeling clay, fishing lures, paints, children’s toys and food packaging. Phthalates are actually the “scent’ of a product such as glade, new car smell etc. Phthalates have been studied as anti-androgen, i.e. decreasing testosterone levels. The Phthalate Syndrome consists of infertility, decreased sperm count, cryptorchidism and other reproductive tract abnormalities. And these at relatively lower doses of exposure than previously thought. Phthalate metabolites show statistically significant correlations with insulin resistance and obesity.
A second toxin that is an endocrine disruptor in Bisphenol A, primarily used to make plastics. The polycarbonate bottles that are clear and flexible plastic are used as baby bottles, water bottles, dental sealants, sports equipment, eye glasses, cd’s and DVD’s. Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor and can mimic the body’s own hormones. Several reviews have documented an increased susceptibility to obesity and associated diseases as a result of chronic exposure to Bisphenol A as well as an increased susceptibility to prostate cancer.
Our chemical lives are catching up to us!
The data on Testosterone is clear. Men with normal levels of Testosterone have decreased all cause mortality, have increased muscle mass, have better erectile function, have protection against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease and less risk of cardiovascular disease. So to live a lifestyle that disrupts these protective effects of Testosterone, such as poor nutrition, stress and toxins, puts yourself at increased risk to developing these chronic disease of aging.
In the next post we discuss Testosterone and prostate cancer and Testosterone replacement therapy. Thank you!