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Can Hypothyroidism Cause Low Testosterone? (Explained)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Last updated: December 30, 2022

The connection between thyroid problems, specifically hypothyroidism, and low testosterone, is well-researched and established.

In my years as a fitness trainer, I have guided many clients who struggle with low T and hypothyroidism and always strived to help them with their challenges naturally.

I also decided to go through some relevant literature with an endocrinologist to further explore the connection between hypothyroidism and low T.

Let’s take a close look at the causes, symptoms, and possible solutions to help you better understand these conditions.

Quick Summary

  • Hypothyroidism is a condition where you don’t produce enough thyroid hormone, which can lower free testosterone levels.
  • The thyroid gland is butterfly-shaped and sits right below your “Adam’s apple.”
  • Subclinical hypothyroidism is a milder form or early stage of hypothyroidism.

What Is the Connection Between Hypothyroidism and Low T?

A woman with hypothyroidism symptom

The connection between hypothyroidism and low T is direct, and thyroid dysfunction affects levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and free testosterone, both of which can contribute to symptoms of low testosterone.[1].

There is a chain reaction of events that begins with proper thyroid function [2].

It might seem too complicated but bear with me.

It goes something like this:

  1. Adequate thyroid hormone stimulates the hypothalamus
  2. Hypothalamus promotes the production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)
  3. GnRH tells the anterior pituitary gland to produce luteinizing hormone (LH)
  4. LH sends a signal to the testes
  5. The testes produce testosterone

So, in a nutshell, when things go awry in the endocrine system with low thyroid hormone production (subclinical hypothyroidism), there is a trickle-down effect with other hormones, ultimately resulting in low testosterone levels.

While the relationship and treatment of hypothyroidism related to low testosterone levels remain a much-debated topic in the medical field, we know that both the thyroid and testosterone levels link to several common body functions.

Let’s start by taking a brief look at the thyroid.

What Does Your Thyroid Do?

Your thyroid gland produces two essential hormones, T3 and T4, that help regulate metabolism.

The thyroid is a small adrenal gland in the front of the neck shaped like a butterfly. Like other bodily glands, it produces substances that aid body functions, such as hormones.

The thyroid produces T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine).

These thyroid hormones basically tell your body how much energy to use.

When the thyroid functions correctly, your metabolism will work at the proper rate, and as T4 and T3 deplete, it will produce more [3].

Now let’s look at when it doesn’t function properly, as in the case of hypothyroidism.

What is Hypothyroidism?

A 3D model of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough T4 and T3 hormones.

Also known as underactive thyroid, this condition can lead to several health problems, including heart disease, infertility, and obesity [4].

Subclinical hypothyroidism is when the thyroid hormones are teetering on the edge of the normal range.

Causes

Several factors can lead to insufficient thyroid hormone production [5].

Including:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Thyroid surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Medications
  • Congenital disease
  • Pituitary disorder
  • Pregnancy
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Over-correction of hyperthyroidism (producing too much thyroid hormone)

Symptoms

The symptoms of hypothyroidism are vast and adversely affect normal body function [6].

They include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness, aches, and stiffness
  • Weight gain caused by low testosterone
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)

What is Hypogonadism?

Man suffering from hypothyroidism due to low testosterone

Hypogonadism is a condition where the body doesn't produce enough testosterone.

Let’s take a look at some common symptoms of androgen deficiency.

Symptoms

Interestingly, because the thyroid and testosterone play vital roles in many bodily processes, the symptoms of hypothyroidism and low testosterone can be similar, mainly related to sexual function, especially for men [7].

They include:

  • Decreased libido
  • Decreased energy
  • Depression
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Decreased body and facial hair
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Breast tissue enlargement
  • Osteoporosis

How to Boost Testosterone

Muscular person looking at his reflection in the mirror

You can try different ways to boost testosterone naturally through diet, exercise, and natural testosterone boosters.

There are also some medical interventions, such as testosterone replacement therapy, but those come with certain risks and should be considered as the last resort and only if the doctor deems such intervention necessary.

If your doctor assesses your level of androgen deficiency requires testosterone replacement therapy, a few options to replenish levels include gels, injections, implantable pellets, and patches [8].

But let’s take a closer look at the natural options.

Diet

Several foods provide essential nutrients that may naturally boost low testosterone [9].

Here are some excellent options for your diet:

  • Fatty fish: Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and zinc
  • Dark, leafy greens: magnesium
  • Cocoa (cacao nibs): magnesium and flavonoid antioxidants
  • Avocados: magnesium and boron
  • Eggs: healthy fats, protein, and selenium
  • Pomegranates, Berries, and Cherries: antioxidants
  • Shellfish: selenium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids

“Adding foods rich in nutrients important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels like vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and flavonoid antioxidants may help support hormonal health.”

- Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D.

Exercise

Couple exercising at the same time

Studies show that men who exercise have higher testosterone levels than sedentary men [10].

An analysis of obese men with low testosterone levels found that exercise increased testosterone levels more than reduced caloric intake and weight loss [11].

Some exercises prove to be more effective at raising testosterone levels than others.

Weight lifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are two of the best testosterone-boosting exercises.

One study shows that men who did resistance training three times per week for four weeks had increased T levels immediately after a workout and also in the long term [12].

Another study of treadmill running showed that 90 seconds at 100-110% VO2 max followed by 90 seconds of active recovery pace (40% of VO2 max) increased testosterone significantly more than a 45-minute run at a continuous pace [13].

Supplements

Top view of spilled supplements

Many testosterone-boosting supplements contain scientifically-backed ingredients, like magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, selenium, and boron, that naturally increase levels.

It is critical to get the root cause of low testosterone levels, like low thyroid hormones, evaluated and treated, but these supplements can give you a jumpstart in recouping levels.

Testosterone boosters can help erectile dysfunction and low sex drive and improve energy levels, focus, muscle mass, and bone density.

FAQs

Are TSH and Testosterone Related?

TSH and testosterone are related because thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) affects testosterone levels by moderating SHBG levels which will alter free and total testosterone levels [14].

Does Thyroid Boost Testosterone?

The thyroid can boost testosterone by producing proper amounts of thyroid hormone that begins a chain reaction of hormonal signaling that ends with the production of testosterone by the testes.

Does T4 Increase Testosterone?

T4 can increase testosterone, as one study in rats shows thyroxine (T4) injection increased thyroid hormone levels while simultaneously increasing serum testosterone levels [15].

Final Thoughts on Hypothyroidism and Low T

Thyroid problems can cause significant issues for men, including low testosterone, erectile dysfunction, muscle mass loss, and fatigue.

If hypothyroidism is the root problem causing low testosterone, see your doctor for treatment.

Otherwise, ensure you are eating healthy, testosterone-boosting foods, getting in some HIIT or weightlifting exercise, and finally, add a testosterone booster to your supplement lineup.

We have tested most of the top supplements on the market to come up with this list of the best performers:

Click the link to find the one that works for you.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15142373/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK500006/
  3. https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/hormones-and-endocrine-function/thyroid-and-parathyroid-hormones
  4. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hypothyroidism
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284
  6. https://medlineplus.gov/hypothyroidism.html
  7. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-hypogonadism/symptoms-causes/syc-20354881
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-hypogonadism/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354886 
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/testosterone-boosting-food
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22234399/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4706091/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17051372/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23310924/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6786294/#:
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9550548/
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