Inflammation & the Relationship between Low Testosterone and Crohn's Disease

While testosterone is associated with men’s reproductive and sexual health, it is sometimes falsely reduced to its role related to spermatogenesis and libido. As a critical hormone, however, testosterone has a much further reach with many unprecedented links, including one between testosterone and Crohn’s disease.

Hormones support an array of functions and processes in your body. As the male sex hormone, testosterone holds an unparalleled status and is a crucial player interconnecting with countless biological processes.

Given testosterone’s unique role and extended reach, testosterone deficiency has the potential to exacerbate certain disorders — making testosterone therapy a doubly important treatment option. This also applies to testosterone and Crohn’s disease, with testosterone able to significantly influence inflammatory factors.

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease is a common digestive tract disorder caused by inflammation and swelling of tissue. Crohn’s disease falls under the umbrella term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and is a chronic condition that can lead to frequent abdominal cramps, fatigue, and changes in weight.

Crohn’s disease was named after Dr. Burrill Crohn, a gastroenterologist who, alongside two colleagues, identified this illness. It mainly affects the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, most commonly occurring in the small intestine. However, symptoms can extend past GI inflammations and reach way beyond the intestine.

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Fever 
  • Low energy
  • Constipation

The main triggers of Crohn’s disease identified to date are:

  1. hereditary factors,
  2. autoimmune responses,
  3. and smoking.

Crohn’s disease is usually diagnosed as a result of ongoing symptoms, which primarily constitute unexpected weight loss and chronic diarrhea.

Crohn’s Disease in Numbers

According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, roughly 1 in every 100 Americans suffers from IBD, with an equal distribution of the disease among both genders. Research indicates that a genetic factor promotes the development of Crohn’s disease with up to 28% of IBD patients also having a first-degree relative with the illness.

While Crohn’s disease can occur in different types of people, regardless of ethnic background, its prevalence is higher in Caucasians, with disease rates among both Asians and Hispanics currently on the rise.

Crohn’s disease can develop at any age but is typically diagnosed in patients in their early 20s. As many factors play into its occurrence, it’s hard to make reliable predictions about who may or may not develop the illness.

Testosterone and Crohn’s Disease

Scientists are discovering more processes that rely on testosterone, highlighting its unequivocal significance. One of the many implications is the role of testosterone in inflammation as it can bear possible anti-inflammatory effects. Testosterone and Crohn’s disease are thus intertwined, with testosterone therapy potentially alleviating both conditions (hypogonadism in addition to Crohn’s).

Low T can Heighten Inflammatory Factors

Crohn’s disease can develop as a result of increasing pro-inflammatory mediators and leukocytes — which can be exacerbated in individuals with low serum testosterone. At the same time, inflammation contributors typically observed in patients with Crohn’s disease can also promote hypogonadism, suggesting a strong link between testosterone and Crohn’s disease.

Inflammatory factors that can contribute to both low testosterone and Crohn’s disease, have been found to affect men of various ages, including young males. Testosterone deficiency can further lead to a reduction in the levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines, emphasizing the significance of normalizing serum testosterone levels.

Benefits of Testosterone Therapy

Testosterone therapy showed improvements in the clinical course of Crohn’s disease in patients with both low testosterone and Crohn’s. With the administration of testosterone generally considered to be safe and with limited adverse events, testosterone therapy bears the potential to alleviate the severity of Crohn’s disease in hypogonadal men.

A study that observed a group of hypogonadal men who injected testosterone undecanoate every three months for up to seven years, found that (1) the Crohn’s Disease Activity Index declined and noted that both the (2) C-reactive protein (CRP) and (3) leukocyte counts decreased as well.

What does that mean?

It means that administering testosterone regularly reduces the severity and symptoms of a patient’s Crohn’s disease. CRP, in turn, is used as a marker for inflammation in the body. If your CRP decreases, it’s indicative of less inflammation — which is tied to the improvements in Crohn’s disease outcomes.

Similarly, your leukocyte count, or number of white blood cells, presents an immune response that can be indicative of inflammation in your body. If your leukocytes are high, this might be a sign of an infection. 

The study, therefore, concluded that testosterone therapy was able to reduce the amount of inflammation in the body and thus enhance the patient’s well-being and quality of life by improving their Crohn’s disease.

With inflammation being a critical component of a multitude of illnesses affecting men with low testosterone, normalizing serum testosterone levels marks a promising treatment option to address both hypogonadism and inflammatory conditions.  

If you have not been diagnosed with testosterone deficiency, but have an inflammatory condition, such as Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis, reach out to your healthcare provider and discuss the possibility of checking your testosterone levels — just in case. There’s a good chance these two are connected.

Understanding the Significance of Testosterone

For hypogonadal men, it’s not just about the low testosterone. Testosterone is interconnected with countless aspects of the human body, triggering a chain reaction when levels drop, potentially leading to many more health problems or exacerbating existing ones. The same rings true for testosterone and Crohn’s disease.

It’s, therefore, important to monitor your testosterone levels, so you can avoid low T symptoms and steer clear of other possible health problems. Remember to reach out to your doctor if you have questions and discuss if you might be a good candidate for testosterone therapy.

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