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The signs, symptoms and causes of low testosterone.

WORDS Robbie Clark

Low testosterone, androgen deficiency, hypogonadism or low T. Whatever you want to call it, it is one thing that most men never want to hear, but did you know that low testosterone is common in Australia, affecting 1 in 200 men under the age of 60?

Androgens are the group of sex hormones that give men their ‘male’ characteristics. They are essential for male sexual and reproductive function but they are also responsible for the development and growth of facial and body hair, as well as bone and muscle development.

The major sex hormone (androgen) in men is testosterone. It is produced primarily in the testes and is controlled and regulated by a small gland in the brain (hypothalamus) called the pituitary gland.

The major functions of testosterone in the male body include:

  •          Starting and completing the process of puberty
  •          Bone and muscle development
  •          Growth of body hair, including facial hair
  •          Change of vocal cords to produce the adult male voice
  •          Sex drive (libido) and sexual function
  •          Prostate gland growth and function
  •          Sperm production

Androgen or testosterone deficiency occurs when the body is not able to make enough testosterone for the body to function normally. Having low testosterone is not a life-threatening problem but it can affect your quality of life. Common causes of low testosterone are primarily testicular, but can also be caused by issues with the pituitary gland and hypothalamus.

Testicular causes may include medical problems that affect the testes such as Klinefelter’s syndrome or undescended testicle, testicular damage, surgery, infection such as mumps, chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment and medication or toxin exposure.

Pituitary gland causes may include a benign tumour, congenital abnormalities and genetic conditions such as Kallmann’s syndrome, hemochromatosis – a genetic disorder causing excess iron stores in the body, thalassaemia – a genetic disorder that affects the production of haemoglobin resulting in severe anaemia. Other causes include certain drugs and medications such as opiates, anabolic steroids and corticosteroids used as an anti-inflammatory agent, ageing, obesity or excess alcohol consumption to name a few. 


The symptoms of androgen deficiency (low testosterone) often overlap with those of other
illnesses and are often different for men of different ages. Some of the common signs and symptoms related to low testosterone include:

  •          Physical symptoms: Decreased lean tissue, decreased muscle size, increased body fat, gynaecomastia (‘man boobs’), weight gain, joint and back pain, decreased firmness of the skin, headaches and anaemia.
  •          Energy and strength symptoms: Frequent tiredness and fatigue, feeling weaker and decreased endurance.
  •          Sleep symptoms: Insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying awake and night sweats.
  •          Cognitive symptoms: Decreased mental skills, decreased memory function, difficulty solving problems, confusion, decreased memory and focus.
  •          Mood and behavioural: Depression, social isolation, less motivation, increased irritability, mood changes and mood swings.
  •          Sexual symptoms: Erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, decreased genital sensation, decreased orgasm experience, decreased ejaculate volume, testicular atrophy (decrease in size). 


There are a number of natural and safe ways to boost your testosterone.

Dietary fat: Dietary fat is a key player when it comes to optimising natural testosterone production according to a study conducted by the Journal of Applied Physiology. However, keep in mind that you still have to be careful of the type of fat that you are eating. Olive oil, avocado, almonds, coconut oil, egg yolks, cheese and peanut butter are all great examples of the healthy fats that you could consider adding into your diet.

Nutrients: L-carnitine, selenium and zinc are important nutrients for male reproductive health with low levels associated with suboptimal sperm health. It has been shown that males with a low sperm count typically have lower seminal fluid carnitine levels. Studies have also shown that supplementation with these nutrients has resulted in improved quality, motility and viability of normal healthy sperm.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is also important for the health of testosterone according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology. The author of this study found that participants with higher levels of vitamin D had significantly higher levels of free testosterone compared to those with insufficient levels of vitamin D.

Bulgarian tribulus: Bulgarian tribulus (tribulus terrestris)is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as an aphrodisiac and male rejuvenation tonic for virility. Studies have shown that the steroidal saponin content in tribulus is the most important when it comes to its effects on libido and sexual function.

Other ways of boosting your testosterone include HIIT training, strength training, getting enough sleep, eliminating sugar from your diet, reducing stress and losing weight.

Also consider consulting your healthcare practitioner for strategies on how to get your testosterone strong again. Your practitioner should be able to direct you to the right foods, supplements, sleep, stress and workout strategies which will help.  


Robbie is a Sydney-based dietitian and sports nutritionist who has been in the industry for more than 10 years. He is regularly featured as an expert in the media and he has recently co-founded the first online nutrition clinic in Australia,, along with nutritionist Pip Reed. Robbie has an ‘everything in moderation’ approach to diet and nutrition and feels that diets are usually over complicated and unrealistic for people to follow and/or sustain. He believes in educating people to get back to the basics to gain a healthy metabolism, more energy, more muscle, less fat, improved hormone balance and a positive mind-set when it comes to food. For more information visit


Volek, J. S., Kraemer, W. J., Bush, J. A., Incledon, T., & Boetes, M. (1997). Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 82(1), 49-54.

Banihani, S., Agarwal, A., Sharma, R., et al. (2013). Cryoprotective effect of l-carnitine on motility, vitality and DNA oxidation of human spermatozoa. Andologia.

Scott, R., MacPherson, A., Yates, RW., et al. (1998). The effect of oral selenium supplementation on human sperm motility. British Journal of Urology, 82(1), 76-80.

Wehr, E., Pilz, S., Boehm, B. O., Marz, W., & Obermayer Pietsch, B. (2010). Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men. Clinical endocrinology, 73(2), 243-248.

8 Braun, L., Cohen, M. (2010). Herbs and natural supplements: an evidence-based guide, 3rd ed. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.



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