Testosterone is the male sex hormone and is responsible for the development of many traits that we consider ‘masculine’. Testosterone will encourage fat loss and muscle development for instance, causing men to appear more muscular and sinewy. Likewise, testosterone increases sex drive, it increases aggression and it improves energy levels. All these things can help men to thrive and generally the male in a group with the most testosterone is the one who will be considered the ‘alpha’ in that group.
On the other hand, low testosterone is correlated with a number of health problems and may even negatively impact our psychology. Seeing as low testosterone is something of an epidemic among men currently; if you are suffering with depressive symptoms it could in fact be that you have low testosterone and might benefit from hormone replacement therapy or perhaps some lifestyle changes to help increase your levels of T.
The Connection Between Testosterone and Depression
The relationship between depression and testosterone is something that has not always been fully understood. This is in part because the symptoms of low testosterone and depression are very similar. If you have low testosterone you will suffer with low energy, poor sex drive, poor mood, irritability and difficulty sleeping – all symptoms that are also associated with depression.
Recent studies though have shown a definitive link between low testosterone and depression (1). Other links have also been shown, for instance it has been found that older men are more likely to fall over if they have low testosterone or if they suffer with depression (2).
Likewise, hormone replacement therapy with the intention of increasing levels of testosterone has been shown to be an effective way of improving those symptoms and treating depression (3).
In short then, testosterone does not always lie at the cause of depression, but often it might be responsible. If you are suffering with symptoms similar to depression then this is certainly an area that might be worth investigating.
It also stands to reason, that even if you aren’t ‘depressed’ as such, increasing testosterone might nevertheless be an effective way to improve your mood as well as your drive, libido and motivation.
Is Low Testosterone Causing Your Depression?
If you suffer from depression but aren’t sure whether testosterone is a contributory factor, then you can try raising the possibility with your GP and seeing what they have to say on the subject. They can then test your levels of ‘free testosterone’ and get an idea as to whether you are low.
You can also hazard a guess by looking for other symptoms such as difficulty gaining muscle or losing fat, high blood pressure and the loss of your ‘morning glory’. You should also consider various risk factors – low testosterone is considerably more likely as you get older, so ask yourself whether the depressive symptoms have worsened since you were young. Likewise, you are more likely to have low testosterone as a vegetarian, as someone who works in a dark office every day or as someone who is relatively inactive.
How to Increase Your Testosterone and Improve Your Mood
If you find that low testosterone is or may be responsible for your depression, then the next step is to consider what you can do to combat that low testosterone.
If you speak with your doctor then they might recommend you for hormone replacement therapy. This will involve increasing your testosterone levels simply by injecting you with more testosterone. This can be an effective way to help you quickly resolve the issue, but it can also have negative side effects. For instance, if you increase your testosterone through these unnatural means, then it can potentially cause you to stop producing as much testosterone naturally. In turn this can then cause you to have permanently lower T and that may leave you as being reliant on replacement therapy just to maintain normal levels.
Thus it is better to consider HRT as your last resort option. Meanwhile there are numerous safer and easier ways to increase your testosterone levels naturally. These include:
• Exercise – Especially using compound movements (like squats and bench press) and HIIT (high intensity interval training).
• Sleep – You produce the lion’s share of your testosterone while you are sleeping and as such, the more you sleep, the more you will increase your T levels. Try to really prioritize higher quality sleep by going to bed at a set time, making sure your room is dark and the right temperature and avoiding caffeine before bed.
• Vitamin D – Getting lots of vitamin D is very important for your testosterone levels. Vitamin D is really a hormone and is responsible for helping your body to regulate numerous other hormonal processes. The main way we get vitamin D is by getting more sunlight, but this isn’t always easy (especially if you live in the UK… ), so try supplementing.
• Magnesium and Zinc – Getting lots of magnesium and zinc in your diet can also support healthy testosterone production and prevent testosterone from being converted into zinc.
• Saturated Fat – Most important of all in terms of your diet is actually to consume more saturated fat. You know, that stuff that everyone has been telling you to stay away from? Actually, saturated fat is no longer believed to cause heart problems, but it will increase your levels of good ‘HDL’ cholesterol. And that happens to be what your body uses to make testosterone and other sex hormones. So start drinking full fat milk again and your mood might improve.
• Protein – When you eat protein, you eat the stuff your body uses to make muscle. Thus, it produces more anabolic hormones like testosterone in order to encourage that to happen.
• Avoid Plastic – That might sound like a random one but a range of products today contain what are known as ‘xenoestrogens’. These are substances that act like estrogen in the body and significantly lower testosterone. Along with our more sedentary and indoor lifestyles, this is thought to be one of the big reasons that men today have lower testosterone on average. To avoid xenoestrogens, you should avoid eating out of plastic containers (definitely don’t microwave things in plastic) as well as some toothpastes and hair shampoos. Switching to organic produce may also help.
Make these changes to your diet and lifestyle and if you don’t find they help your mood after a few months, consider speaking to your GP about HRT.