Share this article:

Testosterone and Sexual Desire

Our physiology, psychology, social interactions, upbringing, and past experiences impact our sexuality. However, even the slightest change in hormone levels can influence both libido and fertility.

Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, but it plays a key role in healthy reproductive function for both men and women. Like the other sex hormones, testosterone is required for multiple functions at various stages of human development. Because of this complexity, there are many misconceptions about testosterone and how it affects human sexuality. In this article, we will take a closer look at this many-faceted hormone to discover why human bodies produce it and how it affects both male and female sexuality.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is a male sex hormone, or androgen, that is predominantly responsible for the development of the penis, testes, and other primary male characteristics in utero.

Although classed as a “sex hormone”, testosterone impacts many other aspects of our health. It is responsible for overall bone and muscle growth and strength in men and women, for puberty in adolescents of both genders, for libido and sexual development, and it also plays an important role in our psychological well-being. [1] [2] In men, it improves mood, reduces the risk of anxiety and depression, enhances memory and problem-solving skills. Testosterone also gives self-esteem and assertiveness a boost in women.


WomanLog

Period Tracker & Calendar

You can track your period using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now:
You can track your period using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now:

The primary glands that produce testosterone are the gonads—testes in men and ovaries in women. It is also produced in small amounts in the adrenal glands and certain other tissues. The hypothalamus, an almond-shaped organ located at the base of the brain, regulates the function of the pituitary gland, which controls levels of testosterone and other hormones in the body.

While testosterone is necessary for both men and women, they have different hormonal cycles and experience different types of hormone fluctuation. Men have daily hormonal cycles, with testosterone peaking in the morning and declining throughout the day. These hormonal shifts cause some men to feel more tired and irritated in the evening. Women experience monthly cycles in which testosterone peaks right before ovulation and decreases once the egg has been released.

Peak testosterone

At the onset of puberty, testosterone production in males increases by about 3000%, lowering the voice and stimulating skeletal growth, increased muscle mass, and other male characteristics. Production peaks in the late teens/early 20s and remains relatively constant for a decade or so. Once a man reaches his thirties, testosterone levels begin dropping by 1-2% each year, according to some studies. As testosterone production falls, the body responds with loss of facial and body hair, increased fat tissue, decreased muscle strength, and a lower threshold for managing irritation. Decreasing testosterone also lowers a man’s fertility and libido.

A woman’s body normally produces only 5 to 10% of the testosterone a male body produces, but it is essential for female sexual and reproductive health and development. It is instrumental in bone health and regeneration, breast health, regular menstrual cycle, libido, and other important functions in the female body.

Testosterone production in women also surges at puberty and peaks at around the same age as in men but then declines slowly until menopause, when it drops by about half. Although the most obvious and well-known effects of menopause are linked to declining oestrogen, the effects of declining testosterone levels are subtle but by no means less significant. Reductions in sexual motivation, sexual arousal, vaginal lubrication, etc. are all associated with plummeting androgen levels. Once a woman reaches menopause, she will produce about one quarter of the testosterone she did in her teens; this lower level remains relatively constant for the remainder of her life.


Testosterone imbalance in men

Testosterone plays a critical role in men’s health; it is the cornerstone of a man’s strength and fertility, and of his physical and mental performance and wellbeing. Men with optimal testosterone levels maintain greater muscle mass and have less fat. The hormone also keeps the heart healthy and prevents cardiovascular disease.

But hormones are as sensitive as they are powerful—imbalances are not uncommon and can wreak havoc on the body. Too little or too much testosterone can adversely affect a person’s physical and mental health.

High testosterone in men can cause:

  • Increased risks of prostate cancer
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Mood swings, aggression, irritation
  • Liver and heart disease
  • Muscle and bone damage
  • Acne and oily skin
  • Sleep apnoea
Excessive testosterone is often linked to the use of anabolic steroids, but hormonal imbalance can also occur because of pituitary gland dysfunction.

Low testosterone in men can cause:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety, depression
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Loss of bone density and muscle strength
  • Thinning hair
  • Increased body fat

There can be many reasons for low testosterone: poor diet, unhealthy lifestyle, stress, certain medications, diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and obesity. Some hormonal fluctuation is normal for both sexes. When a person experiences significant changes, such as a rapid increase or decrease in physical activity, a career change, or starting a family, it is normal to experience changes in hormone levels, however it is important to keep testosterone in check.

Testosterone imbalance in women

In women, excessive testosterone production is usually linked to an underlying medical condition, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, thyroid problems, or insulin resistance.


High testosterone in women can cause:

Low levels of testosterone in women may be linked with genetic predispositions tied to hormone or enzyme production, adrenal insufficiency, surgical removal of the ovaries, early menopause, or taking additional oestrogen.

Low testosterone in women can cause:

  • fertility issues
  • loss of bone mass
  • low sex drive
  • irregular menstrual cycles

Testosterone and sexuality

Optimal testosterone is essential for proper sexual function. Testosterone levels that are too low or too high can cause problems with sexual function in both women and men. In men, testosterone imbalance can lead to erectile dysfunction and a low sperm count.

In women, a testosterone imbalance in either direction can cause low sex drive and vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness makes penetrative sex painful, which can cause the libido to plummet even further. In recent years, studies have been done on using testosterone to help treat female sexual dysfunction. However, the results suggest that increasing a woman’s testosterone levels doesn’t do much to improve their experience. While hormones play a vital role in sexuality, for many women (and men), libido is linked to feelings of psychological wellbeing and security that develop over time in a positive relationship.

Women are more likely than men to experience sexual desire responsively instead of spontaneously[3] . They need the right conditions for arousal to happen. This might be why drugs such as Viagra work for men, but similar products designed to increase female libido are only minimally effective.


Maintaining a healthy level of testosterone

We have seen that maintaining optimal levels of testosterone is essential for both men and women, but how to do this depends on your needs. While many physiological and psychological factors can impact testosterone levels, there are proven ways to keep your hormone levels in check.

Exercise

Physical activity increases testosterone levels and is generally beneficial. Many studies have shown that obese and sedentary men have lower than average levels of testosterone, but when the men in these groups start exercising, their testosterone levels increase and stabilize.

The most effective way for men to increase testosterone production is to focus on resistance workouts. Weightlifting is very effective and high-intensity workouts are also good, but less effective. Combining the two—especially doing the resistance training first—is an excellent way to improve your physical health and normalise hormone production.

For optimal results, remember to take breaks between rounds of heavy physical activity and allow your body to rest and recuperate. Prolonged physical activity without breaks increases stress, causing the body to produce more cortisol, which is known to lower testosterone.

Women also benefit from physical activity. Similar workouts help maintain healthy levels of testosterone in women. However, overdoing it increases stress, which in turn can contribute to hormonal imbalance. If you don’t know how much exercise your body will thrive on, you might start with recommendations based on age and sex and go from there.

Sleep

You’ve probably heard this before, but in our restless world it bears repeating:  Sleep is important for all aspects of our health. Quality rest is linked to faster physical recovery, better mental health, improved cognitive function, and many other benefits. Many studies suggest that people who get enough quality sleep each night have more stable testosterone levels. For most people, 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep (depending on your lifestyle and activity during the day) is necessary to allow the mind and body to fully repair and prepare for a new day of demands.

Food and nutrition

Proper nutrition is also important for maintaining optimal hormone levels. Depending on their physical requirements, the general recommendation for adult men is to consume 2400–3000 calories per day and 2000-2400 for women. Those who are physically larger or demand more from their bodies will need to consume more fuel, while smaller people and those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle will not need to eat as much.

However, it is not only caloric intake that matters. Food source and nutritiousness are equally important. Each meal should include some combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to provide the energy you need and balance blood sugar levels. Low testosterone is often linked to increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, insulin resistance, and high blood sugar, all of which can be influenced by diet.

Supplements

Some dietary supplements have been shown to increase testosterone levels. Vitamins D, B group, A, and E, and minerals such as magnesium and zinc are directly linked to testosterone production in the body. To determine whether supplements are appropriate for you, consult your doctor to test the vitamin and mineral levels in your blood. There is a great deal of information available regarding which foods you can add to your diet to safely increase the presence of these nutrients in your body without supplementation.

Is testosterone therapy a good idea?

If your testosterone levels are critically low—due to aging, a health condition, or some other factor—your health care provider might recommend testosterone therapy. For example, testosterone therapy is used to help combat hypogonadism, when the gonads produce too little testosterone.

Supplementary testosterone is produced in many forms—as gels, skin patches, pills, injections, or implants. While many men can provide anecdotal evidence that testosterone replacement therapy can increase energy and improve sexual function, we still don’t have much scientific evidence. And there are significant risks to TRT, including enlarged prostate and an increased risk of prostate cancer, sleep apnoea, blood clots, and cardiovascular disease.

Women can also be given supplementary testosterone to combat vaginal dryness and increase sexual function. However, most women undergo oestrogen replacement therapy to help alleviate menopause-related symptoms.

Testosterone is an essential sex hormone responsible for sexual function, energy, and physical and mental health in men and in women. To ensure that your body produces the level of testosterone necessary for your health and wellbeing, live an active lifestyle, eat healthy, nourishing foods, and keep yourself safe from excessive stress as much as possible.

Download WomanLog now:

Download on the App Store

Get it on Google Play

Explore it on AppGallery

Share this article:
https://lowtcenter.com/news-article/low-testosterone-cholesterol-connection/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9349750/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17520786/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15204068/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22234399/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4720522/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3880087/#%3A~%3Atext=Human+research+has+shown+the%2Creductions+in+circulating+testosterone+levels%2F
Although the word ‘sexuality’ leads us to think of the sex act, it is much more than just sexual relations and reproduction as a biological function. Sexuality is a holistic concept that includes a person’s physical and psycho-emotional need for love, intimacy, and pleasure; it is a set of behaviours we engage in to get what we need and want, behaviours that follow both written and unwritten laws. Or that we engage in despite them.
There is no shortage of toys created explicitly with sexual pleasure in mind, ranging from discreet little vibrators that can fit in the palm of your hand to sex swings for the living room.
Painful penetration or dyspareunia is defined as persistent or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during, or after intercourse. Many women experience discomfort during vaginal penetration now and then. But for some, painful sex becomes a regular part of their intimate lives.