What is testosterone?
The classic male hormone, testosterone is the third of the sex hormone trio.
Made primarily in the testes and adrenals in men, and adrenals and ovaries and corpus luteum in women, testosterone is part of a class of hormones called androgens.
These hormones have primarily masculinizing effects. Like estrogens, when we speak of androgens (ANDRO-gens), we include more than one hormone: testosterone (tes-TOS-te-rone), androstenediol (andro-STENE-di-ol), dihydrotestosterone (DI-hydro-tes-TOS-te-rone), androstanediol ( andro-STANE-di-ol), androstenedione (andro-STENE-di-own) and dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) (di-HYDRO-epi-andro-STERONE).
The most important role of testosterone is to provide male characteristics. Although this may appear straight forward, testosterone functions are of significance to women as well.
Testosterone helps to:
- Promote muscle strength and exercise endurance
- Improve libido
- Increase energy levels
- Improve sense of well-being
- Increase body hair production
- Produce enlargement of the penis and testes as well as clitoris
- Improve sexual desire and fantasy
- Improve bone density
The negative effects of testosterone are due to overproduction or intake through either testosterone supplementation in pharmaceutical formulations or unsupervised androgen consumption. The side-effects are similar to those of estrogen dominance, since testosterone transforms into estrogen when in overabundance. The side-effects include:
- Male pattern baldness
- Increased facial hair
- More aggressive behavior
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Too much clitoral enlargement
- Involution of testes and penis
- Growth of breast tissue in men
We are only now starting to appreciate the importance of testosterone in men and women. While the balance of estrogen and progesterone is highly dependent on a cycle, we do not yet know how the balance of testosterone fits. As the story of hormones unfolds, I am sure much more will come to light about testosterone. For now, this is the skeleton of hormone information we will be building on.
Hormones are intimately involved in every body function. The amounts of hormones secreted are controlled by two glands in the brain- the hypothalamus and the pituitary. Hormones are produced by the sex organs: ovaries and testes, and the adrenal glands. There are three sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Their actions are interconnected and are both positive and negative. The balance and interaction between the sex hormones determine the presence or absence of symptoms.