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Natural Awakenings, Palm Beach County, Florida

Testosterone: The Masculinizing Hormone

May 28, 2021 ● By William Stager

Much has been written about what it is to be male, a man and masculinity. Science, art, literature and the media abound with ideas, lessons and messages both subtle and obvious. We all have a physical, mental and spiritual side which influence and are influenced by forces within and without us. The complexity and capacity of our beings—of every human being—is enormous, if not infinite.

From a somewhat down-to-earth perspective, hormones play an important role in the physical, emotional and mental formation of every person. Hormones are part of the vast communication system of chemical messengers in our bodies that coordinate the interplay of every cell and organ from a microscopic to a macroscopic level. Out of the dozens of hormones, they are all basically made from three chemical groups: amino acids, proteins and steroids. All of us have virtually all the hormones, with quality and quantity being the deciding factor of their effects on us. To some extent, we can say we both control and are controlled by our hormones and their myriad effects.

Testosterone is one of the main “male” hormones, though as I said, we all have all of them. Androgens are steroid hormones that have masculinizing effects, with testosterone being the most abundant in men, with lesser amounts of dihydrotestosterone and androstenedione, plus a few others. Androgens are synthesized mostly from cholesterol (yes, our body makes its own cholesterol, so make sure it’s kept to a minimum in your diet), and mostly from the testes, though other glands, like the adrenals and ovaries (in women), also produce small amounts as well. By the way, males make small amounts of estrogen—the predominant “female” hormone—mostly from the liver, but also from the testes.

Testosterone is actively produced in males throughout fetal development and for about three months after birth. Then, no testosterone is produced again until around ages 10 to 13, or puberty. Production rapidly peaks into the 20s, then declines gradually with age, though it’s always being made. By the time a man is 80, he makes about half of the testosterone he had at 20. And yes, many men apparently experience a type of “menopause” as they age, with some of the same infamous symptoms women do.

So what does testosterone do? As we said before, it is “masculinizing”. It forms the male reproductive organs in utero, bringing them to full development at puberty. It grows hair on you when you’re young and makes you bald when you’re older, male or female, in accordance with your genetic factors. It enlarges the larynx and deepens the voice. It increases the thickness of skin over the entire body (the “thick-skinned” male, in more ways than one!). It increases the secretion of sebaceous glands, with one of its more unpleasant results: acne. It increases muscle mass after puberty, with men averaging 50 per cent more muscle mass than women. This is where the legal and illegal use of synthetic steroids gets inspiration, and we’ll talk about this later. Testosterone increases calcium retention and bone growth. Interestingly, testosterone has a specific effect on the pelvis, causing it to be narrower, longer, funnel shaped instead of the female ovoid shape, and stronger. Thus, testosterone is beginning to be used more in the treatment of osteoporosis as the incidence of this condition of bone loss increases with our expanding aging population. Testosterone increases our basal metabolic rate, giving more energy and burning more energy. It increases the amount of red blood cells so that men have higher hemoglobin and hematocrit levels than women. It also increases electrolyte and water retention.

So, what’s a guy to do?! Testosterone as a prescription drug should only be used legitimately under the direction of the appropriate physician. If a man feels low on energy, there are various herbal or natural substances that can be taken, such as ginseng. Also, diet and vitamins are always a large part of the picture of anyone’s health and need in-depth evaluation on an individual basis. Bach Flower Remedies are great for our emotional challenges.

Balancing one’s female and male, yin and yang characteristics is a lifelong adventure in harmony. Lifestyle, exercise and attitude are all vital aspects of our life. Meditation and prayer affect us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Always remember the healing power of love, and that you can choose happiness. Master Kirpal Singh summed it up: “Be good, do good, and be one.”

William H. Stager, DO, MS, MPH, FAAFP, FAAMA, FAAO, FACOFP dist., 311 Golf Rd., Ste. 1100, West Palm Beach. To contact the author, call 561-832-1894.