This is part 4 of our 4-part series in how hormones affect autoimmune diseases.
Testosterone is an important hormone in the male and female body. It is similar to the female counterpart, progesterone. This hormone is made in the testicles and the adrenal gland. It has a lot of effects in the human body that help in reproductive growth, behavior, skin, muscles, cardiovascular, bone health and cognitive health. Reproductively, it is used to help make sperm, increase libido, and increase hair production.
Apart from its reproductive effects, testosterone also helps contribute to the cognitive, cardiovascular, muscular and immune systems. High levels can promote aggression and dominance, but also helps increase self-esteem. Low levels can cause low confidence and a lack of motivation. It can also disrupt sleep and reduce energy. It also helps to increase muscle bulk and strength and increases bone density. Men with low levels can be at risk for osteoporosis. Testosterone, and its pre-hormone, DHEA, also have an anti-inflammatory effect. It’s this effect that we are going to talk about today.
Testosterone’s Effect on the Immune System
Testosterone has a strong effect on the immune system. When levels are low, we can see an increase in the production of T-cells. This may lead to certain autoimmune diseases if left unchecked. Many different autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus have been linked to low levels of testosterone and DHEA in both men and women.
The balance between testosterone and estrogen is also important. Testosterone is often broken down into estrogen. When testosterone levels are low and estrogen levels are high, this could be because the body is converting testosterone too fast. This will make it more likely to produce an inflammatory state in the body. Raising testosterone or DHEA levels will often bring inflammatory markers down.
How to Treat Testosterone Levels
If you think that your hormone levels are off, then there are a number of ways to test them. The most common way is a blood test. Testosterone can be measured at any time for men or women. You may also want to have DHEA-S checked as well so you can see how well you are able to make testosterone. Estrogen should also be measured in men and women since there is a direct pathway between testosterone and estrogen.
If your hormone levels are too low, then there are some good ways to support this. Giving DHEA can help to make testosterone. But checking to make sure your DHEA levels are within normal limits is important. Also giving other hormone precursors like pregnenolone can help stimulate all hormone pathways. You may also want to help promote liver function if estrogen is high to help with the break down of estrogen in the body.
In any rate, you should always work with a provider that is well versed in understanding the effects of testosterone on the immune system. If you have questions about therapies that our providers use, or if you are wondering how hormones may be impacting your health, you can contact our office to schedule a phone consult with one of our providers today.