Testosterone & Chronic Inflammation
Chronic pain has to be considered in all respects a debilitating disease and 10–20% of the world’s adult population is affected by this disease. In the most general terms, pain is symptomatic of some form of dysfunction and (often) the resulting inflammatory processes in the body. In a study of pain, considerable attention has been paid to the involvement of, testosterone, the primary androgen, plays a beneficial, protective role in the body.
Inflammation on a cellular level is the core component of many aging-related diseases. This makes it the chief culprit of poor erectile function, vascular disease, autoimmune disease, and some types of cancers. All these mentioned conditions have an association with low levels of testosterone. In fact, many chronic inflammatory illnesses are linked to testosterone deficiency.
These diseases include diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and even an increased risk for bone fracture. Therefore, one of the primary ways testosterone improves biological systems is by decreasing inflammation.
Excessive inflammation affects the Leydig cell (testicle cells), affecting function and suppressing testosterone production. There is evidence from experimental studies that IL-6, TNF-alpha and IL-1 beta (the primary cytokines and major inflammatory markers) inhibit testosterone production due to their suppressive influence on the Hypothalamus-Pituitary Testes-Axis (HPTA).
IL-6, TNF-alpha and IL-1 beta control the levels of inflammation in the human body. Studies have also conclusively shown that suboptimal levels of testosterone lead to increased inflammation throughout the body.
Adiponectin, while not an inflammatory cytokine per se, affects inflammation as it’s a leading cause of decreasing insulin. Adiponectin levels naturally drop as men age; however, its levels will decline at a faster rate due to adverse lifestyle choices such as poor diet, unchecked fat gain, and lack of exercise. Testosterone optimization, on the other hand, raises adiponectin levels.
Study after study shows how Testosterone optimization has the power to decrease inflammation levels. Researchers have proven that Testosterone optimization inhibits IL-1 production; IL-1 is found in some conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Testosterone therapy has also been observed to lower TNF-alpha levels which are the primary cause of cardiovascular disease. It leads us to IL-6, an inflammatory found in diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Studies show that Testosterone optimization also decreases IL-6 levels!
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is now a standard test given by progressive doctors to measure systemic inflammation levels. The higher your readings, the more you are at risk for heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Fatty Liver Disease. Testosterone deficiency has been found to associate with higher CRP levels from insulin resistance, Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic syndrome
CRP values are easily affected by variable lifestyle changes such as colds, sinus infections, and even intense physical training. For this reason, it’s important for physicians to consider this, and other variables when evaluating CRP lab measurement numbers.
Ultimately, Testosterone optimization also has a profound effect on fighting inflammation via suppression of inflammatory cytokines and stimulation of anti-inflammatory cytokines. While there is sufficient research surrounding the link between testosterone and inflammation, the studies listed above provide conclusive evidence that testosterone suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines (‘bad’ cytokines) and stimulates anti-inflammatory cytokines (‘good’ cytokines).