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How to Combat Common Testosterone Side Effects
As many as 13 million American men are estimated to have low testosterone. Without proper levels of this vital male hormone, men can experience decreased energy, low sex drive, and limited weight control.
Taking testosterone as a supplement, however, has been shown to enhance not only your physical stamina but your quality of life. When present in sufficient and heightened quantities, testosterone can help you attain a lower body fat percentage, greater muscle mass, and more energy. One April 2010 study in Men’s Health even found that higher levels of testosterone improve mental health, leading to greater feelings of confidence and drive.
However, too much testosterone can force your body into overdrive and cause side effects that leave you feeling like The Hulk. While you may want his body, however, you probably don’t envy his temper or discolored skin.
Here’s an overview of some common side effects of testosterone and what you can do to prevent them when you start taking a testosterone supplement.
The first manifestations of testosterone side effects, and usually the least serious, will affect your appearance. Testosterone can lead to cosmetic problems like acne, hair loss, and skin irritation.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, testosterone directly contributes to oily skin, which is the breeding ground of acne. It works by increasing production of sebum, the oil used to carry dead skin cells to the skin’s surface. When there is too much sebum, follicles in your face get clogged and pimples form.
Testosterone can also cause hair loss, while simultaneously increasing facial hair growth. When testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, it speeds up the natural processes that cause hair loss.
Skin irritation is another cosmetic effect of testosterone. This side effect is especially prevalent in testosterone creams, which can inflame the skin and cause skin rash, redness, and swelling.
What To Do: For acne, work on minimizing your intake of sugar and starch. These additives ramp up androgen and insulin production, which amplifies the effects of testosterone. If you want to prevent hair loss, be sure to find a testosterone cream that contains ingredients that inhibit the conversion of testosterone to DHT. Key words on products to look for include things like “free testosterone” or “DHT inhibitors.”
Especially common in younger supplement users, mood swings like aggression and rage can take hold by using testosterone. In extreme cases, these “up and down” symptoms are referred to as Irritable Male Syndrome.
Behavior characteristics of IMS include anger, sarcasm, irritation, impatience, defensiveness, and becoming withdrawn or unloving.
What to Do: If you’re in your 20s and you’re looking for a testosterone booster, try a moderate supplement first in smaller dosages before you work up to the full recommended amount. This way, you can monitor your mood and take action if necessary. In extreme cases, bioidentical hormone therapy and a customized nutrition plan may be necessary.
One of the most serious side effects of testosterone is how it affects the prostate. Taking testosterone can stimulate tissue in the prostate, leading to increased urination, enlargement, and even cancer.
Again, these effects primarily have to do with testosterone once it is converted to DHT. According to the Cleveland Clinic, testosterone as DHT can actually stimulate the growth of cancerous cells.
What to Do: Screen yourself before you begin testosterone supplementation and once you do start, monitor any changes in your urinary behavior for signs of changes. If you’re a man who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re at an especial risk for prostate cancer and should avoid testosterone supplements altogether.
While DHT is the culprit behind a lot of testosterone side effects, testosterone that is not used or converted to DHT can be as much of a problem. When testosterone remains in the body without use, it can aromatize into estrogen.
According to the Life Extension Foundation, this resulting estrogen can cause depression, loss of libido, weight gain, and gynecomastia—the enlargement of male breast tissue.
Too much unused testosterone actually counteracts your efforts to build your body and lose fat.
What to Do: As this side effect results from taking too much testosterone, your best bet is starting small to see how your body handles the increased testosterone before working up to a full dosage. Never, under any circumstances, should you exceed the recommended usage of your testosterone supplement. It will not increase the benefits and will likely lead to these and other side effects.
What Else Can I Do?
There are lots of ways to mitigate the general side effects of testosterone while you’re taking a supplement.
One of the most important things you can do is to make sure you’re not increasing your testosterone levels in other ways. Avoid too much dairy, for example. According to Harvard Medical School doctor Alan Logan, milk from pregnant cows contains hormones that will convert to testosterone in your body. This can give you more testosterone than you were expecting and lead to increased side effects.
You can also take anti-estrogen supplements like magnesium or selenium to lessen the chances of excess testosterone being converted into estrogen.
As always, however, the most important thing you can do is to monitor the effects of testosterone on your own body. Make sure you start with a lower dosage before working up to the highest recommended amount, and select testosterone products based on what you know about your body and how it responds to supplementation.