What Happens When You Drink? The Link Between Alcohol and Testosterone

Alcohol can affect your life in many ways and can be a contributor to serious mental health crises. It can also impair your cognitive performance and lead to diminished physical capabilities. But what about your hormones, including the male sex hormone — does alcohol potentially lower testosterone levels too?

When we think of alcohol, we sort of by default think about the consequences of alcohol consumption. While adverse effects are many, some of the worst-case scenarios end in dependency or lead to drinking becoming a coping mechanism for the problems we face.

However, alcohol can take a toll on your health, especially if consumed over long periods of time, and can have countless negative ramifications. Many clinical trials have, therefore, looked into HOW alcohol can cloud your brain communication, make you gain weight, and lead to disease development. 

Research has also focused on hormonal fluctuations and the link between alcohol and testosterone. Let’s find out what exactly that relationship looks like.

Does Alcohol Really Lower Testosterone? 

A review published last year looked into the effects of alcohol on testosterone production in men and found that the excessive intake of alcohol led to a decline in serum testosterone levels. It also identified the reason for this decline as increased activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, in addition to both inflammation and oxidative stress.

But alcohol alone is thought not to be the only factor as research has determined there must be a genetic component playing a significant role — at least for some ethnicities.

A clinical trial that investigated 314 Korean men analyzed both drinkers and non-drinkers and further subdivided the drinking group into “flushers” and “non-flushers” with either moderate or heavy alcohol intake, based on whether alcohol consumption would lead to facial flushing.

The study found that the risk of developing low testosterone was much higher in “flushers” when compared to non-drinkers while an increased risk was not observed for “non-flushers.” This led researchers to conclude that a genetic predisposition may link alcohol and testosterone in Korean men who do consume alcohol.

To fully grasp the link between alcohol and testosterone and to determine whether alcohol really lowers testosterone, research has also focused some of its attention on investigating how far ripple effects can reach and how alcohol will impact the male reproductive system.

A review suggested that alcohol will impact testosterone synthesis on all levels: the testes, the hypothalamus, and the anterior pituitary gland. 

Chronic heavy alcohol intake, therefore, has the potential to cause infertility, impact the Leydig cells in the testes, and negatively affect sperm maturation. It has also linked alcohol to a reduction in serum testosterone levels.

Testosterone deficiency in itself can cause an array of reproductive issues and has been associated with erectile dysfunction, low libido, and unsatisfactory sexual performance.

Testosterone Therapy and Alcohol

Individuals with a long-standing history of heavy alcohol intake are at higher risk for hypogonadism — the medical term for testosterone deficiency. With a clear connection between alcohol and testosterone, how do people fare who are on testosterone therapy if they continue to drink alcohol? 

See, most doctors will advise their patients against consuming alcohol while on testosterone therapy or they will recommend patients at least reduce the amount they drink precisely for that reason. 

Testosterone therapy and alcohol don’t go well together simply because some of the benefits of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can be attenuated if you continue to drink.

TRT can help boost low testosterone and is available in an array of shapes and forms, varying from oral testosterone options to injections to implants, gels, and patches.

Furthermore, testosterone therapy and alcohol don’t go hand-in-hand because alcohol disrupts other hormones in your body, one of them being estrogen. With an increase in estrogen, the effects of testosterone therapy can be diminished because in a way, estrogen counteracts testosterone. This is secondary to alcohol having a direct impact on testosterone as well.

Adverse Effects on Your Health: How Alcohol Affects Your Body

While a clear connection has been established between alcohol and testosterone, your hormonal system isn’t the only system that can bear the consequences of heavy alcohol intake. In fact, consuming alcohol has a multitude of short-term and long-term effects on your health. 

Temporary cognitive impairment, mental confusion, and limited physical abilities can lead to accidents, fractures, and falls.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol is a critical contributor to more than 200 diseases and injuries. Alone in 2019, a shocking 2.6 million deaths worldwide have been linked to alcohol.

Some of the most prominent long-term effects of heavy alcohol consumption are:

  • liver disease (cirrhosis, fibrosis, hepatitis), 
  • various forms of cancer,
  • diabetes,
  • changes in your brain, including dementia,
  • heart disease, including an irregular heartbeat,
  • stroke,
  • seizures and epilepsy,
  • high blood pressure,
  • weakened immunity and infections,
  • mental health crises (such as depression), 
  • poor sleep,
  • anemia, including an increased risk of developing ulcers, 
  • gastrointestinal problems, and 
  • dependency.

Consuming alcohol can alter your brain function and affect pathways needed for communication. It can cloud your judgment and make it more difficult to think clearly, control your mood, and coordinate your motor skills.

Alcohol further increases your chances of developing blood clots and negatively affects your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, putting individuals at a higher risk for a gastrointestinal bleed. Additionally, it lowers your overall quality of life due to added diseases and a wide range of mental and physical limitations.

Boost Your Testosterone and Limit Your Alcohol Intake

With a multitude of studies conducted to examine the effect of alcohol on our bodies and hormonal system, a connection between alcohol and testosterone is evident.

In many ways, our hormones really are at the mercy of our lifestyle and daily habits. While it may seem scary at first that so many of our everyday choices can impact our hormonal system, our health, and our quality of life, modifying our lifestyle can significantly contribute to hormonal stability and better health.

Let’s learn more about how our lifestyle choices affect our testosterone levels. Sign up for our newsletter here and be sure to receive helpful tips and pointers for a testosterone-healthy lifestyle. 

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