The effect of stress on testosterone

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Written by Monica Xu, naturopathic doctor

Stress affects both men and women equally but the difference lies in how the body responds. 

This is due to hormonal differences between the two sexes. 

Due to societal pressures that put unreasonable demands on men’s emotions: that they shouldn’t cry, or should be able to cope with stress, men tend to bottle up emotions, going into problem-solving mode or finding ways to escape as one of their coping mechanisms.  

This can lead some men to get stuck in a cycle of fatigue, loss of motivation, depression, not wanting to exercise, weight gain, cycling back to fatigue.  

Chronic high stress may lead to sleep issues, increased blood pressure, changes in bowel habits, slower recovery time from colds and flu, and low testosterone. 

When we are stressed, the body releases cortisol and epinephrine from the adrenal gland, which increases blood pressure, increases blood glucose, decreases the immune response, and temporarily shunts away from the reproductive system. 

When the demand for cortisol exceeds the amount produced by the body, the body “borrows” the resource from the reproductive steroid hormones to supply cortisol. While progesterone gets affected in women, testosterone is the one that takes the hit in men.

Effects of low testosterone include:

  • Reduced interest in intimacy or sex.
  • Sleep problems: waking up too early, unable to fall asleep or interrupted sleep.
  • Mood changes: increased impatience, irritability, anxiousness, depression and rumination over past events. 
  • Withdrawing from social interactions: finding comfort in your mancave. 
  • Brain fog, memory issues and increased fatigue.
  • Increased craving for stimulants or sedatives (including alcohol and drugs). 
  • Stomach upsets: constipation, bloating and acid reflux. 
  • Body changes: weight gain or hair loss. 
  • Feeling older than your actual age.  
  • High cholesterol levels.

Stressed-induced low testosterone is different from age-related testosterone loss. When stress-induced, low testosterone is temporary and often reversible. 

I have witnessed countless patients improve stress response and naturally boost their testosterone levels by addressing the following areas:

  1.     Being more active.

Hit the gym, or get outside. Increasing natural light and sun exposure helps reduce stress.

Aerobic or anaerobic exercise helps regulate the cortisol response pathway. If you are short on time, consistent daily workouts of 7 minutes have been shown to be effective.

  1.     Emotional support.

Talking to people about the way you’re feeling, either in your social circle, or in a professional setting can help reduce stress levels. There is often a taboo for men to seek therapy, but therapy is beneficial for everyone, not just specific genders. There is no shame in seeking support, and therapy remains confidential between you and your therapist. 

If seeking professional help doesn’t feel right for you at the moment, consider getting involved in a team sport. The camaraderie and mutual support knocks off the stress of the day-to-day grind.

  1.     Rest and improve sleep quality.

If you are a snorer, get a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea. Sleep apnea shortens the oxygen supply in the body which puts the body in a fight or flight mode and leads to increased cortisol release at night.

  1.     Eat a veggie-full diet 5 days a week.

This provides the foundation of health. Getting the vitamins and minerals your body and mind need to function effectively supports the function of all systems in your body for better wellbeing.

  1.     Have a happy poop, daily.

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water can help support daily bowel movements. Poor diets and the resulting effects on bowel movements can also affect your mood. Your gut is your second brain after all. 

If you’ve tried all of the above, but you’re still struggling to reduce your stress levels, you may wish to seek further support from a healthcare practitioner.

Chinese version 中文版


作者:自然療法師 Dr Monica Xu






當皮質醇的需求超過身體產量時,身體就會從生殖類固醇激素中「借用」資源來供應皮質醇。 黃體酮在女性中會受到影響,而睪固酮則在男性中受到影響。


  • 對親密或性的興趣減少
  • 睡眠問題:起得太早、無法入睡或睡眠中斷
  • 情緒變化:變得不耐煩、煩躁、焦慮、憂鬱和對過去事件的反思
  • 減少社交互動
  • 腦霧、記憶問題和疲勞增加
  • 對興奮劑或鎮靜劑(包括酒精和藥物)的渴望增加
  • 胃部不適:便秘、腹脹和胃酸倒流
  • 身體變化:體重增加或掉髮
  • 感覺比實際年齡老
  • 高膽固醇水平

壓力引起的睪固酮水平低下與年齡相關的睪固酮水平下降不同。 當壓力引起時,睪固酮水平降低是暫時的,通常是可逆的。


    1. 適量運動
      可以到健身房或到戶外走動。 增加自然光和陽光照射有助於減輕壓力。有氧或無氧運動有助於調節皮質醇反應。 如果您時間有限,每天持續運動 7 分鐘已被證明是有效的。
    2. 情感舒發
      與人傾談您的感受有助於減輕壓力水平。 男性尋求治療往往有禁忌,但治療對每個人都有益,而不僅僅是特定性別,而且您和治療師之間的溝通是保密的所以請放心。如果您目前感覺不適合尋求專業協助,請考慮參與團隊運動。 友誼和相互支持能消除了日常工作的壓力。
    3. 足夠休息並提高睡眠品質
    4. 嘗試每週5天吃全素
      這為健康奠定了基礎。 獲取身體和心靈有效運作所需的維生素和礦物質,可以支持體內所有系統的功能,從而獲得更好的健康。
    5. 保持每天健康排便
      吃富含水果和蔬菜的飲食以及喝大量的水可以幫助支持日常排便。 不良飲食及其對排便的影響也會影響您的情緒。 畢竟你的腸道是你的第二個大腦。


2 thoughts on “The effect of stress on testosterone

  1. Dr. Tom Lue

    Hi Dr. Monica Xu! I love this article. It is an excellent piece filled with valuable information that can help people manage their stress levels.

    I appreciate the advice to eat a veggie-full diet five days a week as it provides the foundation of health and helps support daily bowel movements, which can affect one’s mood.

    I have definitely seen this in my own life – when I am not eating healthy or enough vegetables, I feel more sluggish and tend to be more stressed out than usual.

    In addition, your suggestion to seek further support from a healthcare practitioner if all else fails is essential.

    Everyone needs help sometimes, and asking for assistance should not be viewed as shameful or embarrassing.

    Seeking a healthcare provider with an understanding and consumer-centric approach is key to finding the best solution for your particular needs.

    I also like that you discussed how increased stress levels could lead to poor sleep, fatigue, and difficulty focusing.

    I have experienced this, making it challenging to complete my daily tasks.

    To ensure quality sleep, I practice simple grounding techniques before bed, such as drinking herbal tea, reading, or meditating.

    This article was informative and provided great insight into managing stress levels naturally.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge!


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