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Can Low Testosterone Cause Weak Immune System? (The Answer)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Last updated: January 5, 2023

In a recent conversation with an endocrinologist, he mentioned that testosterone deficiency can jeopardize the immune system.

He also said that testosterone makes men, in particular, more prone to some illnesses compared to women.

This really prompted me to find out in what way exactly T levels affect the immune system. So, I spent a better part of the day with the endocrinologist reviewing the scientific literature and exploring this connection.

Here are our insights.

Quick Summary

  • Lower testosterone levels can impair immune response in men, particularly with regard to Covid-19.
  • Researchers found that men with higher testosterone levels have a reduced immune response to the flu vaccine.
  • Women have stronger immune responses to influenza vaccination than men.

Do Testosterone Levels Affect the Immune System?

A doctor explaining to a patient how testosterone levels can affect the immune system

Yes, testosterone levels do affect the immune system. It appears that when the levels are too low or too high, it may weaken the intensity of the immune response.

Scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine experimented with men and women of different age groups and had their blood drawn prior to and after an annual flu vaccine injection [1].

Here’s what they found:

  • Women had a stronger antibody response to inoculation than men.
  • Men are more prone to respond poorly to influenza vaccination than women, possibly due to higher testosterone which is linked to a poor immune response.

Men with low testosterone levels generally had a response to vaccination more similar to women rather than men with high testosterone.

Sex Differences

A doctor holding a clipboard explaining the differences of testosterone on the different sexes

Scientists have always been aware of existing sex differences in antibody response and that women have stronger immune responses to viruses, fungi, and parasitic infections.

The aforementioned Stamford report published by the National Academy of Sciences elaborated more by revealing that the reason for the weakened antibody response to inoculation in men is due to their higher testosterone levels compared to women.

The researchers found that part of the reason for the weak antibody response is because testosterone appears to bind with module 52 genes, which are involved in immune regulation.

Additional research shows that the stronger innate and adaptive immune responses that women have over men result in faster pathogen clearance [2].

Most importantly, the same study acknowledged that biological sex affects the immune response to foreign particles through:

  • Hormonal regulation
  • Gene expression
  • Environmental factors

While this is the case, a more recent study zeroing in on testosterone effects on the immune system in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus appeared to have conflicting findings.

Let’s dive into this one.

Testosterone and COVID-19

The 2020 report revealed that older men with age-related low serum testosterone levels are more prone to suffer more severe outcomes of Covid-19 than their counterparts with high testosterone levels [3].

Further analysis by the scientists suspected hypogonadism (testosterone deficiency) as a common reason for worsening clinical progression among older men, obese men, and men with chronic diseases.

“As in the cases of older men or of those with dysmetabolic diseases like obesity, low serum testosterone level can predispose them to an impaired immune response leading to a worsening progression of SARS-CoV-2 infection in men.”

- Vito A. Giagulli, MD

The report by Viagulli agrees with previous research that found that decreased testosterone levels in men were associated with high rates of hospitalization among male patients with chronic kidney disease [4].

Are Men Susceptible to Suffering From Illnesses Due to Testosterone?

Two doctors discussing if men are susceptible to illnesses because of low testosterone

No, men are not necessarily susceptible to suffering from illnesses due to testosterone, as researchers assert that the body accommodates this by decreasing the levels of testosterone following illnesses to strengthen immune function [5].

As we established earlier in the report published by the National Academy of Sciences, women generally have stronger immune responses due to lower testosterone levels.

However, while testosterone appears to have a suppressing effect, it’s only one side of the story.

On the flip side, men are less susceptible to autoimmune diseases due to their naturally high testosterone.

Autoimmune conditions (disorders where the immune system attacks healthy tissues and cells) such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis have been tied to the deficiency in testosterone [6].

This means that women are more prone to suffer from autoimmune diseases than men.

How the Body Responds to Infections

A doctor explaining how the body responds to infections

The body’s defenses include different organs, tissues, and cells that mount robust immune responses to infections. Altogether, there are two major types: innate immunity and adaptive immunity [7].

1. Innate Immunity

Innate immunity response is faster (minutes to a few hours) compared to adaptive immunity.

It’s the one you are born with, and it’s the first line of defense as it slows down the effect of invader particles until adaptive immunity is developed.

2. Adaptive Immunity

Adaptive immunity is more complex, and it requires more time to identify, process, and make antibodies to deal with the pathogens (invader particles).

The good thing with adaptive immunity is that the system remembers the pathogens. So, future response to the same pathogen is faster and more efficient.

Being more complex, adaptive immunity is also more energy intensive.

6 Ways to Strengthen the Immune System

A person jogging outside to improve the immune system

Here are a few tips you should adopt to enhance your immunity.

1. Eat Healthily

CDC recommends diversifying and enriching your nutrient intake for optimal immune function [8].

This includes foods such as:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean proteins
  • Healthy fats

Also, you should limit unhealthy fats such as trans fats as well as refined sugar.

2. Physical  Activity

Previous studies have shown that physical activity can be beneficial for your immunity [9].

This benefit is limited to moderate amounts of exercise since higher-intensity exercises might have the opposite effect — decreased immunity [10].

3. Reduce Weight

Overweight individuals are prone to diseases because their immunity is often compromised [11].

They are also more likely to experience an insufficient response to illnesses [12].

4. Get Enough Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep also helps the immune system, specifically by boosting T cells (immune cells that fight pathogens) [13].

5. Reduce Alcohol Intake

Alcohol disrupts immune pathways, impairing the body’s ability to defend itself against infections [14].

6. Quit Smoking

Smoking compromises your immune system by increasing the risk for autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis [15].

Effects of Low Male Sex Hormone 

A person with low testosterone suffering from headaches

While testosterone may have suppressing effects on the immune system, it's still a vastly important hormone in the body, especially for men.

In fact, less than 300 ng/dl for men and less than 15 ng/dl for women is considered a deficiency and may lead to many health issues [16].

The negative side effects of low T levels include:

  • Fatigue
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sex drive
  • Depression
  • Muscle loss
  • Increased body fat
  • Loss of bone mass

Ways to Increase Testosterone

A person stretching and working out to increase testosterone

There are two major ways to boost your testosterone; the artificial and the natural way.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can be an effective way of boosting your testosterone, but it comes with many serious health risks, and it should be only considered if recommended by a medical professional.

I always advise my clients to go for natural ways instead.

Natural Ways

Here’s how to boost your T levels without wreaking havoc on your health:

  • Diet: Vitamin D, proteins, and Zinc are the go-to nutrients that can bring your low T back to normal levels.
  • Exercise: If you’re overweight, losing weight might get your T levels back to normal. You can do this by weight lifting and engaging in high-intensity workouts for fat loss, which might also boost free testosterone levels [17].
  • Sleep: Seven hours of uninterrupted sleep can be highly beneficial for testosterone levels [18].
  • Natural Testosterone Boosters: These products combine natural science-backed herbs and nutrients that have been studied for their potential to elevate the levels of testosterone. They can work very well when combined with a proper diet and exercise.

FAQs

What Can Cause Extremely Low T levels?

The causes of extremely low T levels include testicular injury, cancer treatment through radiation and chemotherapy, pituitary gland disease, genetic conditions like the Klinefelter syndrome, and medications such as corticosteroids.

Does Testosterone Help Fight Viruses?

Yes, normal levels of testosterone help fight viruses. However, very high or extremely low T levels may work against your immune system.

Boost Your T Levels for a Stronger Immune System

If you get sick frequently or take a long time to recover, consult a medical professional to check if your immune system might be compromised due to testosterone levels.

If you don't have preexisting conditions that require therapy, exercise and a proper diet are a good start for getting testosterone levels back to normal.

I also advise my clients to include these natural T boosters which are designed to support the body’s natural testosterone production.

We’ve tested all the products in this list and have selected the best based on test data and client feedback reports.


References:

  1. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2013/12/in-men-high-testosterone-can-mean-weakened-immune-response-study-finds.html
  2. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2021.694083/full
  3. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/andr.12821
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5733882/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5075254/
  6. https://ard.bmj.com/content/73/3/573.abstract
  7. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2279715
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/enhance-immunity/index.html
  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128145937000153
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7826544/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11298087/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28584297/
  13. https://rupress.org/jem/article/216/3/517/120367/G-s-coupled-receptor-signaling-and-sleep-regulate
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/
  15. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/sgr/50th-anniversary/pdfs/fs_smoking_overall_health_508.pdf
  16. https://www.webmd.com/men/features/keep-testosterone-in-balance
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551442/  
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19684340/
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