Alcohol and testosterone – What are the facts?

Alcohol and testosterone – What are the facts?

Even just moderate alcohol intake will affect the condition of your body, and its ability to function at its optimum capacity. In the short term, it can negatively affect your motor abilities, and impair your judgment. Overconsumption will impact the following day, leading to a hangover, and the accompanying headaches, fatigue, and nausea.

While the short-term effects of alcohol are unpleasant, for most people a hangover will be over a day later. However, the health risks in the long term are worth thinking about. Read on to find out the impact of high alcohol consumption, over a long period of time, and its effect on your body’s ability to produce the right amount of testosterone.

What you need to know about testosterone production

Before we go into detail about how alcohol affects the body’s level of testosterone, we must first glance over the function of testosterone.

Testosterone is the “male” sex hormone. While it is present in both men and women, it exists in a higher concentration in men. It plays a key role in bone and muscle growth, and it also contributes to one’s sex drive. Like with other types of hormones, an increased or decreased level will have both emotional and physical consequences.

Low levels of testosterone in men may cause:

  • Low libido
  • Lean muscle loss
  • Low energy levels
  • Irritability
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Body hair loss

How does alcohol affect testosterone?

For the production of testosterone, three glands in the male body are required: the hypothalamus, the anterior pituitary gland, and the testes.

  1. The hypothalamus releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which acts on your anterior pituitary gland.
  2. Then, the anterior pituitary gland releases luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulation hormone (FSH).
  3. In response to the luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulation hormone, your testes synthesize testosterone.

The consumption of alcohol interferes with all three of these glands, which can disrupt testosterone production.

Also Read: Does smoking lower testosterone?

Short-term effects of alcohol on testosterone levels

Acute consumption of alcohol has the ability to cause short-term impairment on testosterone release, by negatively affecting the hypothalamus and pituitary gland.

One study shows that a male’s testosterone levels can start to decrease, as little as just 30 minutes after the consumption of alcohol.

Another study was conducted on healthy men who were given a pint of whisky every day for 30 days, and their testosterone levels were then compared to men with chronic alcoholism. By the end of the month, the healthy men’s testosterone levels had reached similar levels to those with chronic alcoholism.

Long-term effects of alcohol on testosterone

Research has found that ‘heavy alcohol consumption results in reduced testosterone levels in the blood’.

Compared to those who consume little to moderate amounts of alcohol, those who drink heavily have an increased likelihood of poor testicular function.

Those who drink heavily consume more than 15 drinks a week (for men), and more than 8 drinks a week (for women).

When men drink heavily, they are more likely to experience the following:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low libido
  • Low testosterone levels

So, does alcohol reduce testosterone production?

In short, the evidence demonstrates that there is a link between the consumption of alcohol and testosterone, with high levels of drinking causing lower testosterone levels in men. Heavy drinking over an extended period increases these effects. The reasons for that correlation are slightly more complicated to explain:

  • When you drink alcohol, your body must metabolize ethanol, which is a compound found in alcohol. The metabolism of ethanol lowers the amount of NAD+ in the body, which is a coenzyme that is responsible for the production of testosterone in the liver and testes.
  • Heavy drinking of alcohol over a continued period can cause elevated levels of estrogen, the female sex hormone, testosterone converted to estrogen, and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can destroy testosterone.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption disrupts your sleep pattern, which has the effect of decreasing your body’s ability to produce testosterone. Reducing your alcohol intake can improve your sleep and your body’s testosterone levels.

Alcohol and sperm

There is also a connection between alcohol consumption and sperm, as alcohol impairs the function of Sertoli cells. Sertoli cells are found in your testes, and they’re required for sperm maturation.

Both testosterone and FSH have a role to play in spermatogenesis and the development of sperm.

If testosterone and FSH levels are disrupted, it can lead to spermatogenic arrest, which is an interrupted development of sperm, which can lead to a lower concentration of sperm in semen.

One study found that “a significant percentage of heavy drinkers (52.3%) had partial or complete spermatogenic arrest”.

Other research also concluded that an association between chronic consumption of alcohol and poor semen quality has been witnessed in a large number of studies conducted on both humans and animals.

Also Read: Where can you buy testosterone?

Additionally, many studies have shown that alcohol abuse can lead to testes shrinkage.

A study conducted in 2017 on 16,396 healthy men discovered that excessive drinking could negatively affect semen morphology and semen volume. However, moderate alcohol consumption didn’t have any significant effect on either.

The multiple studies conducted demonstrate that excessive drinking not only affects the primary male sex hormone, but also sperm levels and semen quality.

Want to quit drinking? How long does it take to return to normal?

If you are drinking excessively, and you’re worried that it could negatively affect semen volume and testosterone levels, then rest assured that quitting alcohol can actually reverse some of the damage to your testes, and your brain.

However, the recovery time will depend on how much you’ve been drinking, and the period of time. In some cases, the damage can be permanent.

One study conducted on mice found that damage to the male reproductive tract, caused by alcohol, was partially reversible after 10 weeks of abstinence from alcohol. While the results of animal studies aren’t always the same for humans, this suggestion of partial recovery is promising. However, more research needs to be done! Further human research will allow us better understand to what extent the reproductive system is capable of healing itself.

Committing to a healthy lifestyle can help support the recovery of the reproductive system. Plus, it can also help heal other damage caused by prolonged excessive alcohol intake.

Eating nutritiously dense, whole foods, exercising regularly, and sleeping for at least 8 hours a night can help maintain a healthy body. This will also encourage normal testosterone production.

How does alcohol affect testosterone replacement therapy?

Those who have abused alcohol for a long time have a higher risk of developing low testosterone levels. Continual excessive drinking while on testosterone replacement therapy can undermine the effectiveness of the treatment. Therefore, doctors will recommend that those on testosterone replacement therapy limit their alcohol intake, or quit it entirely.

One study shows that more than 90% of males who suffer from advanced liver disease also have lowered testosterone levels. Continued alcohol use can worsen the damage to the liver, leading to further impairment of testosterone production.

The bottom line

The evidence clearly demonstrates that alcohol affects testosterone levels. Plus, chronic alcoholism can severely impair testosterone production and semen quality.

If you are concerned that your alcohol intake is affecting your testosterone levels, it’s important to seek medical advice. A doctor will be able to run tests to ascertain your hormone health, as well as recommend any courses of action if your alcohol intake is becoming problematic.


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