How Alcohol Impacts Testosterone Levels
Excessive alcohol consumption may be doing more harm to your body than you realize. If you have ever overindulged and then found it difficult to rise to the occasion for a sexual encounter, you know what we are talking about. Low testosterone levels often contribute to a decrease in nitric oxide which helps blood flow to the penis.
This discussion about how alcohol impacts testosterone levels should help enlighten you to how you might be damaging your hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. In fact, you may well be hurting more than your testosterone levels. Other hormones, and even sperm production and fertility can suffer when you drink too much alcohol.
The effects of alcohol on testosterone levels have the potential to interfere with an entire hormone sequence as shown in the image to the left.
The process begins in the hypothalamus, where gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) exits and makes its way to the pituitary gland. Once GnRH arrives at the pituitary gland, it signals the secretion of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) necessary for sperm production and luteinizing hormone (LH) necessary for testosterone production by the Leydig cells in the testes.
The testes then manufacture and release testosterone into the bloodstream, where it travels back up to the hypothalamus where testosterone levels are monitored to repeat the cycle.
Interference at any point in the process can affect all of these hormones and their functions in the body.
Both an increase in the consumption of alcohol, and testosterone production decline can lead to a situation of infertility in males.
Why Drinking Too Much Alcohol Affects Testosterone Levels
Alcohol creates another problem that also has to do with estrogen levels – present in both males and females. The direct impact on the above-mentioned hormone levels is only a small part of the way alcohol lowers testosterone & increases estrogen levels in the body.
Alcohol contains empty calories. What that means is that your body is not getting any benefit from the calories in the drinks you consume. Not all alcohol is equal. The chemicals phytoestrogen and prolactin, present in hops and barley, interfere directly with hormone levels. You probably recognize these substances as used in the brewing of beer. Phytoestrogens (derived from plants) are also present in bourbon and wine.
Now, getting back to the empty calories – there are more than enough jokes about beer bellies, but the problem here is that this is nothing to joke about. Abdominal fat is the most dangerous type of visceral fat, and, alcohol reduces testosterone levels by increasing belly fat that produces an enzyme called aromatase. This enzyme is responsible for finding and converting excess free testosterone in the bloodstream into the hormone estradiol – a form of estrogen that increases the storage of belly fat. As estradiol levels increase because you consume too much alcohol, testosterone decrease occurs.
This is only one more way for how alcohol impacts testosterone levels.
Too much alcohol also interferes with sleep cycles. While you may pass out if you drink too much, your sleep will not be restful. During stage 3 sleep (deep, slow-wave) the body produces not only testosterone but also growth hormone. If your REM sleep is disturbed, your testosterone and growth hormone levels will decline. Since both of these hormones impact one another in many ways, you have another serious problem on your hands.
Are There Benefits of Drinking Alcohol for Testosterone Production?
You may be wondering if there are any positive alcohol effects on testosterone levels since there has been so much reported about how wine is good for the heart.
The answer is yes; there are ways that you can reap the rewards rather than cause interference in your hormone levels.
When you have just a small amount of alcohol, testosterone levels can actually rise. This means limiting yourself to only one drink a day.
Alcohol can help your body relax and decrease the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the bloodstream. Cortisol is a natural inhibitor of both testosterone and growth hormone, and makes it difficult for the body to drift off to sleep at night.
By understanding how alcohol impacts testosterone levels, you will find that limiting yourself to no more than one drink a day, you not only increase testosterone levels slightly, but you also decrease the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, stroke, and dementia.
How to Drink Wisely and Protect Testosterone Levels
Clearly, there is such a thing as drinking wisely, and sticking with the one drink a day (or less) rule of thumb is your best move.
To avoid any alcohol effect on testosterone levels, you will also want to make sure that you do not drink on an empty stomach – the body will metabolize the alcohol quicker. It is also important to drink a lot of water while you consume alcohol to help dilute its impact on the liver and when it enters the bloodstream.
Too much alcohol affects testosterone levels and generates oxidants that contribute to cell damage, including cells in the testes. Drink wisely and protect your body from hormonal imbalance.
For more information about how alcohol impacts testosterone levels, or to speak with a hormone specialist about low testosterone diagnosis and treatment options, please contact Kingsberg Medical. Confidential consultations are free and we can help you improve many areas of your life.Brian Leeber