Men's Health

Testosterone and Thyroid: Is There a Connection?

Is there a connection between testosterone and thyroid hormones? Learn more about hormone health and how these hormones are connected with Thrivelab.
Dr. Nayan Patel
PharmD

If you’ve ever experienced symptoms of a hormone imbalance, then you may already know how overwhelming it can feel. Hormones are so interconnected that an imbalance in one place can have a ripple effect, causing many other hormones to go out of balance.

For instance, testosterone and thyroid hormones can affect each other in many different ways, all of which can cause uncomfortable symptoms and health issues. Here at Thrivelab, we understand the complex interplay of hormones and how they work in your body. Keep reading to learn more about testosterone and thyroid hormones and how they can affect your health.

What Is Testosterone?

Testosterone is a hormone that is primarily produced in the testes in men and in the ovaries and adrenal glands in women. This androgen is the main sex hormone in men, although it is also present in smaller amounts in women.

Testosterone plays a crucial role in male development and reproductive function. It’s responsible for the development of male secondary sexual characteristics, such as increased muscle mass, body hair growth, and a deepening voice, during puberty. Testosterone also helps maintain bone density, muscle mass, and sex drive in adult men.

In women, testosterone is also important for maintaining bone density, muscle mass, and sex drive. However, women produce much smaller amounts of testosterone, which is why they typically don’t experience other effects of testosterone, like hair growth and deepening voices.

Testosterone levels in both men and women decline with age, which can lead to a range of symptoms, such as decreased sex drive, fatigue, and decreased muscle mass. Low testosterone levels can also increase the risk of osteoporosis and other health problems.

What Are Thyroid Hormones?

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, just below the Adam's apple. Despite its small size, this walnut-sized gland is a key part of the endocrine system.

The thyroid gland produces two primary hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which is the more abundant hormone. The body T4 converts T3, which is the more biologically active form of thyroid hormone. T3 is responsible for most of the effects of thyroid hormones in the body.

The production and release of thyroid hormones are regulated by a feedback loop that includes the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. The hypothalamus produces thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to produce thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH, in turn, stimulates the thyroid gland to produce and release T3 and T4 into the bloodstream.

Thyroid hormones play a key role in maintaining optimal health and well-being — they help control body temperature, encourage proper growth and development, and affect many bodily functions, such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion.

Dysfunction of the thyroid gland can lead to a range of symptoms and health problems, including hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid function), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid function), goiters, and thyroid cancer. 

What Is the Connection Between Testosterone And Thyroid Hormones?

Testosterone and thyroid hormones may seem completely separate, but they interact much more than you’d think. Here are a few ways these two hormones can combine to affect your overall health.

Hypothyroidism 

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is known to affect the way your body metabolizes testosterone and other androgens. It does this by controlling blood levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that binds to testosterone.

This protein binds to testosterone and carries the hormone throughout the body. That’s why you may see blood tests for both free testosterone and total testosterone. 

In a test for free T, a provider looks only for actively circulating testosterone. In a test for total T, the provider will also look at testosterone that has been bound to SHBG.

When TSH is low, it can lead to an underactive thyroid. This is called hypothyroidism, a disorder that often comes with uncomfortable symptoms such as poor temperature regulation, fatigue, and weight gain. 

However, low TSH can also reduce the amount of SHBG in the blood, which can affect how well testosterone is able to circulate in your body. This can contribute to symptoms of low testosterone, which can be different in men and women.

Hyperthyroidism

Just as thyroid function can cause low levels of testosterone, it can also cause high levels of testosterone. When the body overproduces TSH, it can also raise levels of SHBG in the blood as well. This can increase the amount of total testosterone in the body.

Usually, free testosterone levels will remain the same. This means that while there may be more total testosterone in the body, there generally isn’t a difference in the amount of testosterone that’s available for your body to use. 

However, hyperthyroidism can also affect the rate at which testosterone converts to estrogen. This process, called aromatization, can speed up with hyperthyroidism, contributing to symptoms of high estrogen. These can include low libido, mood swings, and gynecomastia, or the development of breast tissue in men.

What Are the Symptoms of Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid gland produces lower levels of thyroid hormones than the body needs to operate. This is often caused by high levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The most common cause for low TSH is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack the thyroid gland.

Low TSH can contribute to low T3 and T4, which can lead to uncomfortable and even overwhelming symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue and weakness: Feeling tired and having low energy levels is a common symptom of hypothyroidism.
  • Weight gain: Hypothyroidism can slow down the metabolism, leading to weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
  • Cold intolerance: People with hypothyroidism may feel cold all the time, even when others around them are comfortable.
  • Dry skin and hair: Hypothyroidism can lead to dry, itchy skin and brittle hair that breaks easily.
  • Constipation: A slow metabolism can cause constipation and difficulty passing stool.
  • Depression and anxiety: Hypothyroidism can affect mood and lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Muscle and joint pain: Hypothyroidism can cause muscle and joint pain, stiffness, and weakness.
  • Menstrual irregularities: Women with hypothyroidism may experience irregular or heavy periods.
  • Impaired memory and concentration: Hypothyroidism can affect cognitive function, leading to memory problems and difficulty concentrating.
  • High cholesterol: Hypothyroidism can lead to high levels of cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of heart disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much T3 and T4. This often occurs alongside low TSH.

Hyperthyroidism can happen on its own, but it’s commonly caused by Graves’ disease. This autoimmune condition causes the body to produce thyrotropin receptor antibodies, which can alter the pituitary gland and cause it to underproduce TSH. Other causes of hyperthyroidism include tumors and pregnancy.

Unfortunately, high levels of thyroid hormone can cause symptoms that can affect everyday life for many people. These include:

  • Rapid heartbeat: Hyperthyroidism can cause the heart to beat faster than usual, leading to palpitations and a pounding sensation in the chest.
  • Anxiety and irritability: Excess thyroid hormone can cause feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and irritability.
  • Weight loss: Hyperthyroidism can cause increased metabolism, leading to weight loss despite having a larger appetite.
  • Increased sweating: People with hyperthyroidism may sweat more than usual, even in cool temperatures.
  • Tremors: Hyperthyroidism can cause fine tremors in the hands and fingers.
  • Heat intolerance: People with hyperthyroidism may feel hot all the time, even when others around them are comfortable.
  • Fatigue: Despite increased metabolism and weight loss, hyperthyroidism can also cause fatigue and muscle weakness.
  • Menstrual irregularities: Women with hyperthyroidism may experience irregular or light periods.
  • Changes in bowel habits: Hyperthyroidism can cause diarrhea and frequent bowel movements.
  • Eye problems: Some people with hyperthyroidism may experience eye problems, such as bulging eyes, double vision, or eye irritation.

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism affect everyone differently, so you may not see all of these symptoms. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to a hormone specialist like our providers at Thrivelab in order to get to the root of your concerns.

How Can You Support Testosterone and Thyroid Hormones?

It’s clear that both testosterone and thyroid hormones are essential for your overall health. However, these two types of hormones also have a complex relationship, where a change in one can also affect the other. If you want to support healthy testosterone production, you also need to focus on your thyroid hormones.

Here are a few ways you can support both hormones through lifestyle changes and health choices:

  • Eat a healthy diet: A balanced diet with plenty of whole, nutrient-dense foods can support healthy hormone levels. Dr. Nayan Patel, one of our hormone specialists, says, “To have proper hormone health, we also have to maintain a good diet that supports hormone health and doesn’t throw them into turmoil.”

Aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates. It’s also important to look for sources of healthy fats, which can support testosterone production, and iodine, which can support the thyroid.

  • Exercise regularly: Regular exercise, especially strength training, can help increase testosterone levels and support thyroid function. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
  • Get enough sleep: Sleep is crucial for hormone regulation, and poor sleep can contribute to low testosterone levels in men. In general, it’s a good idea to aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
  • Manage stress: Chronic stress can negatively impact hormone levels, including testosterone and thyroid hormones. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can lower TSH and also reduce testosterone production in the body. To support your hormones, practice stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.
  • Consider supplements: Some supplements, such as zinc, magnesium, and selenium, can support healthy testosterone and thyroid hormone levels. Talk to your Thrivelabs provider before starting any supplements.

How Can Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy Help?

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) involves using bioidentical hormones that are structurally identical to the hormones naturally produced by the body. In the case of hypothyroidism, BHRT can help restore hormonal balance by replacing the hormones your body is missing.

On the other hand, BHRT can also help those with hyperthyroidism. By using bioidentical hormones, it's possible to regulate thyroid hormone levels and help restore normal function. 

To learn more about how BHRT can help support your testosterone and thyroid hormone levels, schedule your first appointment with one of our licensed providers today. Our providers will listen to your concerns, run any necessary tests, and help you get to the bottom of your symptoms.

Support Your Thyroid With Thrivelab

In conclusion, testosterone and thyroid hormones are both essential hormones that play vital roles in the human body. Imbalances in either hormone can lead to a range of overwhelming symptoms and health problems. 

The good news is that you can support balance in both hormones by eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, getting adequate sleep, and practicing stress management. You can also restore balance with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.

Thrivelab understands the stress and frustration often involved in getting a diagnosis and finding the right treatment. Our medical professionals are ready to support you every step of the way. We don’t just want to treat your symptoms — we want to address the root cause so you can enjoy your life without worrying about flare-ups.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like fatigue, mood swings, weight fluctuations, temperature intolerance, or irregular menstrual cycles, you might be wondering, “Should I get my thyroid checked?” The answer is yes, especially if you resonate with the signs of thyroid dysfunction mentioned above. Early detection and proper diagnosis are crucial in managing thyroid conditions effectively. Here’s a guide on when and how to get your thyroid checked.

When to Get Thyroid Checked:

If you’re unsure about when to get your thyroid checked, consider the following scenarios:

Persistent Symptoms: If you’re experiencing persistent symptoms like unexplained fatigue, mood swings, weight changes, or menstrual irregularities, it’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation.

Family History: If you have a family history of thyroid disorders or autoimmune conditions, you may have an increased risk of developing thyroid issues. In such cases, regular thyroid screenings are recommended, even in the absence of symptoms.

Preexisting Conditions: If you have other health conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, or a history of radiation exposure to the head or neck, it’s essential to monitor your thyroid function regularly.

References
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