A big night out supercharged with alcohol might be fun but if you want to keep your testosterone levels high and have good sexual health, then you might like to skip that extra bottle of beer.
Alcohol is one of the leading causes of disease and death among Australians. High alcohol use is the third leading burden of disease behind tobacco use and high body mass according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and is at the top of the disease burden for those aged up to 44 years old.
Alcohol is big business too. According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’ MoneySmart, Aussies spend $14.1 billion each year on alcohol. That’s a lot of dough. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports we consume more than 183 million litres of alcohol each year. That’s enough booze to fill 73 Olympic pools at a depth of two metres.
It’s hardly surprising we see so much disease and mortality as a result of alcohol consumption.
Hormonal Health and excess Alcohol consumption
One of the less obvious health effects of alcohol is its disruption to our hormone balance and testosterone levels – and not in a good way. Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males and one of the most important androgens in humans.
Low levels of testosterone are associated with a number of risk factors and disease, and one of the key influences of low sex drive and erectile function. The hormone plays a vitally important role in promoting physical and mental health, especially in men.
As such, it probably goes without saying that if we want to maintain our sexual health and optimal levels of testosterone, excessive alcohol use is something we’ll do well to avoid.
Alcohol lowers testosterone
There’s some very interesting scientific studies on the effects of alcohol on testosterone in men.
A 1984 study for example, showed a concomitant decrease in testosterone and increased secretion of the stress hormone cortisol after one heavy dose of alcohol in eight healthy men. The researchers also found that decreased testosterone concentrations persisted for 24 hours after alcohol consumption.
Low levels of testosterone and higher levels of oestradiol were measured in a group of men who regularly consumed alcohol compared to non-consumers in this study from 2009. A low testosterone and high estrogen balance in men is cause for a number of health problems. Symptoms might include muscle mass loss, increased abdominal fat and sexual dysfunction. In more severe cases, high levels of estrogen in men can produce symptoms of gynecomastia – otherwise known as enlarged breasts.
This study in 2002 showed significantly lower testosterone levels in men together with a decrease in luteinizing hormone (LH). This result is worth considering as LH is crucial in regulating the testes for testosterone and sperm production and vitally important to our fertility and overall sexual health.
Another study found that physical exercise prior to ingesting alcohol actually prolonged the suppressing effects of alcohol on testosterone. And a study from 2004 showed that even a moderate intake of alcohol caused a decrease in testosterone levels by 6.8 percent in men, while there was no effect in women.
It’ not all bad news however. Some research has shown that a single low dose of alcohol may actually increase testosterone in men. But this study appears to be more the exception rather than the norm, particularly where acute or long-term alcohol use is concerned. In my theory this can be due to that one glass being able to help relax and reduce cortisol levels of the drinker.
Other negative health effects of excess drinking
The health effects of heavy and long-term alcohol consumption are well known. Besides the effects already discussed such as decreased testosterone and male fertility problems, there is risk of heart disease and liver inflammation such as alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Heavy drinking can also cause pancreatitis which is inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis can cause impaired digestion of food and symptoms including severe abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Drinking too much booze increases your risk of developing cancer in the liver, mouth, throat, oesophagus and bowel. Heavy drinking can weaken your immune system function making you more susceptible to viruses and disease. Your body’s otherwise normal ability to defend itself against infection is impaired and you’ll find it much harder to recover from injury.
If you’ve heard that alcohol is a depressant that’s because heavy drinking can cause damage to your brain and lead to anxiety and depression, among other mental health problems. There is also the risk of alcohol dependence and addiction.
Getting drunk is often associated with risk taking behaviour and poor judgement and ability to make rational decisions which can lead to harm to yourself or others. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) report that for Australian men, about a third of motor vehicle deaths and a quarter of motor vehicle injuries are attributed to alcohol consumption.
While a night on the booze may be fun and enhance social bonding, it can sometimes result in trouble with the law and increase your risk of injury or serious accident. Indeed alcohol fuelled behaviour can sabotage your life in many ways and have disastrous impacts on your job, finances, relationships and family.
Worse still according to the NHMRC, is that alcohol consumption in men is significantly associated with self-harm and suicide.
In fact just about anything where your otherwise rational judgement while sober would have been different if not for the influence of alcohol can have very regrettable consequences.
Excessive alcohol consumption had been proven to decrease hormonal levels and obviously decrease one health. The saying that prevention is much better than cure certainly applies here. To curb or completely cut one’s alcohol intake before any early warning signs or symptoms appear is by far the preferred approach.
According to the NHMRC guidelines for healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on a given day reduces the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime, while drinking no more than four standard drinks on any single occasion reduces the risk of injury arising from that occasion.
While complete abstinence from alcohol is not necessary for overall good health, or to prevent problems arising, it should be reason to rethink your next drink or at least don’t abuse the booze!