Over the past few years, many of my patients have come to me with health conditions that are either directly or indirectly influenced by their levels of testosterone. Indeed, maintaining healthy testosterone levels in both men and women can be tricky after the age of 50. Too much can cause just as many physical problems as too little and, as new research shows, levels even determine the outcome of social situations where innate trust come into play. Recently, I became aware of some new and interesting research findings involving testosterone that I’d like to share with you.
Testosterone: Some Interesting Social Findings
As I’ve advised my male and female patients alike over the years, testosterone is not just a man’s hormone. In fact, it is a master driver hormone that both men and women share that sparks not only their sex drive but their energy levels in general.
Typically in both sexes, after the age of 50, when both men and women start to go into the “hormone pauses”, i.e., andropause in men and menopause in women, testosterone levels can fall significantly and libido right behind it. Fatigue and depression can also set in as a result.
There are many things that men can do to boost their testosterone levels back to normal levels from dietary changes to supplements and perhaps even injections if they’re required. But what about the ladies?
This is what I explain to my female patients. Testosterone is as responsible for a woman’s libido as it is for a man’s and actually, perhaps more importantly, for the maintenance of the human species! Testosterone peaks in a woman when she is ovulating and therefore most likely to conceive. After menopause, testosterone decreases but can also be replaced in the same ways it is in a man; diet, supplement, prescription if necessary, to restore a healthy libido, and fight fatigue and depression.
Recently, researchers learned also of the social significance of testosterone. Seems Nature also gave testosterone an additional kind of “big brother” role in certain women to help them choose the right mate as it influences how she perceives trustworthiness in a mate. First let me give you a little background chemistry regarding this.
Prior research has shown that when people get a hug, or a soft touch on the hand, or arm, they secrete a “feel good” hormone called oxytocin that affects the brain, signals them to relax and makes them trust the person giving the hug or the touch. This phenomenon could cause people, especially women, to wrongly trust others, such as criminals who use these psychological ploys to their advantage.
Researchers, when trying to find if there was an antidote to the oxytocin effect, found that when women were given a drop of testosterone under their tongue they were less likely to trust a smiling face than when given the placebo.
In fact, the experiment worked most profoundly in women who were the most trusting in general, as if Nature had developed a hormonal alert for those most in need of its protection. Apparently, testosterone triggers decreased interpersonal trust and increases social scrutiny and more rational decision making, causing the women to be more wary of, and/or not choose, certain men as potential mates.
Now, as I counsel my female patients, a woman doesn’t need to carry a vial of testosterone drops in her purse to help her make more rational social choices about potential mates or male friends. It seems a man’s natural level of testosterone naturally triggers this response in certain women. It likely explains why some women are both drawn to very virile men but are also more skeptical of their motives towards them.
The take home message of this research for men is knowing that many women have this kind of ‘natural selection’ response. Therefore, take a little more time to first develop a friendship not based on sex to gain trust. Even more interestingly, further research shows that once a woman chooses a man for her reproductive mate, and they conceive a child together, a man’s testosterone levels drops by 50% which is Nature’s way of ensuring the new dad will help take care of the newborn.
Testosterone Boosting Needs to be Done Carefully
It’s been known for a few years that decreased levels of testosterone can result in increased risk of earlier death in men. The most likely reasons of a man’s testosterone dwindling are his diet and his age. We talked about andropause above, but if a man eats a lot of plastic packaged foods that must be heated in a microwave, his testosterone levels will decrease even more. Heating in plastic food containers, or drinking plastic bottled water that has heated somehow, causes the release of female hormones called xenoestrogen into the food and water, which he consumes.
In an effort to restore dwindling levels in men and to try and keep men healthier longer, testosterone boosting has been done more and more with injections, gels and pills. However, recently, researchers had to stop a (gel) trial because of adverse effects in the men they studied. Some men suffered heart attacks and other serious cardiac events. Recently, though, raw pine pollen has been shown to be a very rich source of plant testosterone as it carries the male sperm of pine trees and, unlike synthetic testosterone, doesn’t carry the side effects and doesn’t cause the body to stop its natural production.
To summarize, testosterone is an amazing and complex hormone that drives men and women both physically and socially. Boosting needs to be done carefully. I recommend that you start with diet changes and natural based supplements first to see what kind of boosting effect they afford before turning to synthetic hormones and then only under the care of a doctor.
Photo credit: whitehousedental.com.au