The Science Behind Low Sex Drive
Our bodies are a balance of different chemicals, commonly known as hormones. If the hormones are out of balance, then the body will begin to malfunction. This is a basic understanding of a major area of medicine: Endocrinology but it doesn’t make it any less true. Testosterone interacts with other hormones, which can lower your sex drive and your ability to maintain an erection. Understanding the balance between hormones can help you to understand how to increase libido and improve your sex life.
Cortisol and Testosterone
Cortisol is the hormone created by stress. This is not always a bad thing. Some stress in life pushes us to work harder and succeed more. It is only a problem when there is too much stress and too much cortisol is released. It is the imbalance in the body’s chemicals that impacts on health.
There is some debate about whether a drop in testosterone causes an increase in cortisol or whether the stress hormone impacts on testosterone. You would think that an increase in adrenalin – which cortisol is – would facilitate an increase in testosterone. You would think that it would be a message to the body that you need to be stronger and bigger. To be honest, to a certain degree, this is true, but there is an optimal level and after this level cortisol enters a negative corollary to testosterone.
Therefore, there is a ratio of testosterone to cortisol that your doctors see as healthy. Testosterone is secreted from the Leydig cells in the testes and is important for muscle and bone strength. Cortisol is secreted from the adrenal gland and helps regulate blood pressure and is also important for blood sugar management. If cortisol is too high, then testosterone levels drop. If testosterone levels are too high, then cortisol levels drop. Much research has been done by scientists interested in improving sporting performance, where the giving of supplements to improve physicality needs to be balanced against the need to feel the prompting of adrenalin to perform.
Therefore, high cortisol levels can cause a disruption to your libido and is also be named as a contributory factor in erectile dysfunction. Extended periods of high cortisol levels lead to muscle breakdown and blocks testosterone’s effect on the body. The double whammy effect of muscle degradation and decreased testosterone is the reason why cortisol impacts on the erection so directly.
- There needs to be a balance between testosterone and cortisol in your body
- Cortisol is caused by stress but is also important for blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
- Low testosterone can lead to low libido and erectile dysfunction.
- Cortisol can also cause muscle degradation which can exacerbate erectile dysfunction
Estrogen and Testosterone
Estrogen is the female hormone and testosterone is the male hormone, but both men and women have a balance of both. Men, on average, produce between 6 – 8mg of testosterone per day, compared to 0.5mg produced by females. In women, estrogen regulates the menstrual cycle and helps in the lubrication of the vagina. In men, high estrogen levels can lead to reduction in sexual appetite and cause erectile dysfunction. It can also cause men’s breasts to grow and a loss of hair.
Research has yet to understand what positive impact estrogen has on men, other than to say that hormones work together to help cells, tissue and organs to grow and function properly. Many studies suggest that estrogen plays no part in male physiology and too much estrogen can have negative impact on the testosterone levels. However, some physicians believe the body produces more estrogen as men grow older to naturally dampen the sexual drive of men to cope with decreased physicality in other areas. In other words, having too much testosterone, as we grow older may lead to us becoming exhausted and frustrated by our bodily limitations. Therefore, the body naturally dampens the desire to help us maintain energy for other life-continuing body functions.
So, as men age testosterone converts to estrogen. This is called the aromatase reaction. Fortunately, the production of estrogen can be countered easily once discovered and can therefore reverse the impact on libido and penis functionality. So, even though you might argue that the reduction in testosterone is a natural function of our body, this does not mean we have to succumb to the suggestion we are past a healthy sex life.
- Men and women have both testosterone and estrogen in the body.
- Men have far more of the male hormone testosterone
- As men age they experience a reaction called aromatase, which turns testosterone to estrogen.
- High estrogen levels can cause low sex drive and erectile dysfunction.
Prolactin and Testosterone
Prolactin is produced in the pituitary gland by cells called lactotrophs. In women, this is the gland that helps them to produce breast milk when they give birth. In fact, prolactin absolutely loves estrogen and together they promote the growth of the other. As noted before, estrogen has a negative impact on testosterone levels, so already it is clear why prolactin and testosterone do not play well together.
Prolactin does have hundreds of other functions. The most important being control of our metabolic and immune functions, crucial for male health. Prolactin is the hormone that helps us to sleep, or at least it is the hormone that regulates the circadian rhythms of our body. Prolactin levels are highest when we sleep, but they are also elevated when we experience high emotional or physical stress. Too much prolonged physical activity can cause prolactin, which in turn promotes the production of estrogen.
A study of cyclists who take part in long races such as the Tour De France revealed that their prolactin levels increased and in turn this caused an increase in estrogen. This then caused muscle breakdown and could eventually have a negative impact on strength. Both prolactin and estrogen have a negative corollary with testosterone, with the more of one causing a reduction in the other. Therefore, sports scientists are clear that long-distance cyclists have to manage periods of rest to ensure hormones are balanced within their body.
So, if too much prolactin can adversely affect your testosterone, it can lead to infertility and low libido. Prolactin also antagonises dopamine and means that the period of recovery between erections is much longer. Dopamine and testosterone share a positive corollary, in other words the more dopamine there is, the more testosterone you produce and vice versa. Therefore, prolactin’s negative corollary with dopamine impacts directly on testosterone levels too. That is not all prolactin inhibits a gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which is released from the hypothalamus. This is what the body needs to stimulate the Leydig cells in the testes. These are the cells that produce testosterone. So, low testosterone means low libido and higher chances of erectile dysfunction.
Too much prolactin is called hyperprolactinemia and can be caused by medications or tumours of the pituitary gland. The easiest symptom to look out for is discharge from the nipples but also anorgasmia – the absence or delay of ejaculation.
- You need prolactin to regulate your sleep pattern.
- Prolactin has a negative corollary to testosterone, they certainly do not play well together.
- Hyperprolactinaemia can cause a loss of libido, delayed ejaculation and a longer recovery between erections.
- Symptoms of too much prolactin should not be ignored.
Luteinizing Hormone and Testosterone
Luteinizing hormone is produced by the anterior pituitary gland, by the gonadotropic cells – therefore, it has a direct influence on your reproductive system. In men, this is the hormone that communicates with your testes and encourages the Leydig cells to produce testosterone. It works in synergy with follicles stimulating hormones and is regulated by gonadotrophin releasing hormone produced in the hypothalamus. Basically, without this hormone there is no testosterone and you will have no libido and be unable to ejaculate, if indeed you can form an erection.
Here’s the strange bit. If your body gets carried away and produces too much testosterone, then the body gets into a negative feedback loop. In short, the hypothalamus decides your body doesn’t need this much testosterone, so it stops releasing gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which then means the luteinizing hormone doesn’t communicate with the testes and then testosterone production is stopped.
Therefore, keeping a healthy balance of testosterone in the body means that the feedback loop between the different hormone creating systems in the body act in a healthy fashion. In truth this imbalance is easily treated, and the balance can be restored. Once restored men will see an improvement in libido and erectile dysfunction. However, it does seem to suggest that you really can have too much of a good thing.
- Luteinizing hormone and testosterone work together to aid male reproduction
- Too much testosterone creates a negative feedback loop with other hormones, which results in a shut down on the Leydig cells that produce testosterone.
- The negative feedback loop can lead to low libido and erectile dysfunction.
Overall, what should we conclude?
The route to understanding how to improve libido lies in an understanding of the balance of hormones in our body. Doctors can order tests that measure the hormone levels in our blood and urine and can suggest treatments that rebalance our bodies. Although some of these level changes are perceived as a natural result of ageing, there is no need to accept the impact of time on our bodies.
These impacts can include:
- Loss of libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Increased rest period between erections
- Low ejaculation
These equate to a devastating impact on our lives and can then adversely impact our sense of manhood and our happiness. Therefore, understanding how to balance the hormones in our bodies and make the most of life should be an all-important health issue as we move into older age. Thankfully for Real Herbs there is a way to combat low testosterone symptoms, a Tongkat Ali supplement that has an effective potency of 200:1.