Low testosterone man with poor gut health

Gut Health and Testosterone: What You Need To Know

10 min read


15 May 2024

Supercharge Your Day

  1. What impact does testosterone have on gut health?
  2. How does gut health affect testosterone levels?
  3. How can nutrition improve gut health and boost testosterone production?
  4. What types of exercise can I do to improve my gut health and T levels?
  5. Additional lifestyle tips for tip-top health
  6. Final thoughts…

Testosterone is vital to men’s health. But did you know that gut health and testosterone are linked?

In the quest for tip-top health, two critical aspects that often come to the forefront for men are gut health and testosterone levels.

While at first glance, these two elements might seem unrelated, emerging research unveils a pretty mind-blowing connection that can significantly impact your overall wellbeing. 

We’ll explore the intricate relationship between gut health and testosterone, shedding light on how one influences the other and the overall implications for health.

Stay tuned as we dive deep into this topic, exploring the scientific underpinnings of the gut-testosterone link, practical advice on getting a healthier gut microbiome, and how these efforts can lead to improved T levels.

Sounds down your street? Let’s go!

What impact does testosterone have on gut health?

Gut health

Testosterone is a key hormone in the male body, responsible for more than just the common factors like muscle mass and facial hair. It plays a big-hitting role in maintaining libido, energy levels, bone density, and even mood. 

On the other hand, gut health refers to the overall health of the gastrointestinal system. But more specifically, it's about the balance of the microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts, known as the gut microbiome. 

These tiny creatures are not just passive residents. They influence everything from nutrient absorption and immune function to—surprisingly—the hormonal balance within our bodies.

These two components, which play crucial roles in men’s overall health, have been linked to two main outcomes that could impact gut health: Fighting inflammation in the gut and the composition of the gut microbiome.

Testosterone plays an important anti-inflammatory role in the gut. But, it breaks down when inflammation-induced activation of immune cells in the gut leads to gastritis, which can produce symptoms of indigestion, vomiting, and nausea.

Oh, and the composition of your gut microbiome plays a major role in overall health – so cultivating a healthy gut and maintaining testosterone levels work hand in hand. 

What is a leaky gut?

Leaky gut, otherwise known as intestinal permeability, is a condition where the lining of the intestines becomes compromised. When this happens, harmful substances like toxins, bacteria, undigested food particles, and other molecules leak into the bloodstream. 

More specifically, an important membrane in your small intestine is not working well enough to block out unwanted particles and pathogens and absorb nutrients.

When the junctions become dysfunctional, often from eating irritating foods, among other causes, foreign particles can get into your bloodstream.

How does a leaky gut affect your health?

Digestive issues

The damage to the lining of your gut allows toxins or disease-causing microbes into your bloodstream, which causes illness. 

A leaky gut plays a role in gastrointestinal conditions such as celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Some studies show that leaky gut may be associated with other autoimmune diseases (lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, allergies, asthma, acne, obesity, and even mental illness.

How does low testosterone affect your digestive system?

Having low testosterone and poor gut health, whether it be from leaky gut, microbiome dysbiosis, or another cause, can directly impact the digestive system. 

Studies have shown that testosterone can modulate the activity of smooth muscle cells in the gut, which play a crucial role in regulating movement and contractions necessary for digestion.

Optimal testosterone levels can help to reduce pain in the gastrointestinal system and keep things moving in the colon (the longest part of the large intestine).

Plus, testosterone can influence the secretion of digestive enzymes and hormones involved in nutrient absorption and gut function. 

Low testosterone could contribute to disruptions in gut microbiota and affect your…

  • Immune function
  • Risk of inflammation
  • Gut motility and permeability
  • Ability to regulate metabolism
  • Stress responses

Testosterone receptors are present in the smooth muscle cells of the gastrointestinal tract and regulate the contraction and relaxation of these muscles, which is crucial for proper digestion. 

Imbalances in testosterone levels can disrupt this process, potentially leading to issues like constipation or diarrhea.

Testosterone has anti-inflammatory properties and plays a role in modulating the immune system.

Low testosterone levels may lead to increased inflammation in the gut, which can contribute to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), characterized by symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Read: What are normal testosterone levels?

How does gut health affect testosterone levels?

Testosterone levels

Gut health issues, specifically chronic and acute inflammation initiated by exposure to endotoxins, are associated with testosterone deficiency. Endotoxins are among the particles that can leak through the gut lining. 

Inflammation in the male body can disrupt the function of Leydig cells in the testes, which are responsible for testosterone synthesis. Also, inflammation and changes in the gut flora (normal bacteria) could lead to problems within the digestive tract and beyond.

Not only can things like poor diet, excess alcohol consumption, chronic stress, and lack of sleep cause intestinal permeability, but these factors can also cause dysbiosis within the gut microbiome.

Dysbiosis means there is an imbalance between the friendly and unfriendly bacteria in the gut. It can lead to more inflammation in the gut and, thus, a further decline in testosterone.

The relationship between testosterone and gut health is complex and multifaceted, and further research is needed to fully understand the extent of testosterone's impact on gastrointestinal physiology.

Signs and symptoms of low testosterone 

Some men experience many signs and symptoms of low testosterone levels, which is often referred to as Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome (TD) or Low Testosterone (low T). 

According to ​​American Urological Association, data suggest that overall about 2.1% (about 2 men in every 100) may have TD. As few as 1% of younger men may have TD, while as many as 50% of men over 80 years old may have TD. Here are some common signs and symptoms of low T:

  • Reduced libido (sex drive)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Decreased strength
  • Increased body fat, especially around the abdomen
  • Mood changes, such as irritability, depression, or anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns
  • Decreased bone density, leading to osteoporosis or increased risk of fractures
  • Hair loss or thinning, particularly on the scalp
  • Reduced facial or body hair growth
  • Hot flashes or night sweats
  • Infertility or decreased sperm count
  • Decreased testicle size
  • Breast tissue enlargement (gynecomastia)
  • Decreased motivation or drive
  • Loss of confidence or assertiveness
  • A decrease in overall well-being or quality of life

How can nutrition improve gut health and boost testosterone production?

Man eating healthy food

Improving gut health and boosting testosterone production is essential for overall wellbeing.  And you can achieve this through various lifestyle and dietary strategies

Including foods that help maintain a balance of gut microbiota, promote healthy gut bacteria and reduce inflammation cultivates a healthier gut. 

Here are some dietary changes you can implement to improve gut health and boost…

  • Eat high-fiber foods  (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds)
  • Consume fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha) 
  • Consume polyphenol-rich foods (berries, grapes, green tea, dark chocolate, and olive oil)
  • Limit added sugars and refined carbs
  • Choose healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish (salmon and mackerel)
  • Stay hydrated (drink water regularly)

Supplements that can support gut health and testosterone levels include prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, and ashwagandha. 

How does exercise improve gut health and testosterone levels?

Regular exercise and frequent physical activity simultaneously improve gut health and boost testosterone levels.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for adults age 19 to 64 to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Alternatively, you could aim for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week.

Here are some of the key ways that a good diet and getting enough exercise can boost your gut health.

Reduces inflammation

Becoming more active can reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms of conditions caused by poor gut health. Plus, inflammation can contribute to low testosterone levels, so reducing inflammation through exercise may indirectly support testosterone production.

Promotes gut motility

Exercise stimulates muscle contractions in the intestines, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Healthy gut motility may indirectly support testosterone levels by promoting optimal nutrient absorption and hormone regulation.

Enhances gut microbiota diversity

Regular exercise has been shown to increase beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiota which brings better digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function. Specific gut bacteria may influence testosterone levels—so improving gut microbiota diversity through exercise could potentially support testosterone production.

Regulates stress responses

Chronic stress can disrupt gut function and contribute to conditions like leaky gut and dysbiosis, while also suppressing testosterone production. Regular physical activity can reduce stress levels, improve mood, and enhance the body's ability to cope with stressors, benefiting both gut health and testosterone levels.

Supports weight management

Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise is important for gut health and testosterone levels. Exercise can help reduce body fat, and improve metabolic health, which may positively impact both gut health and testosterone production.

Increases blood flow

Exercise increases blood flow to various tissues, including the gastrointestinal tract and testes. Improved blood flow enhances gut function, nutrient delivery, and oxygenation of tissues, while also supporting testosterone production in the testes.

What types of exercise can I do to improve my gut health and T levels?

Man exercising to boost testosterone

Physical activity is incredibly important for health and well-being due to its numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits. 

With a focus on improving your gut health and boosting your testosterone levels, here are some powerful exercises to help you ace your goals.

Exercises to tackle your gut woes…

  • Aerobic Exercise: Activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming can stimulate gut motility and promote regular bowel movements.
  • Yoga: Certain yoga poses and sequences, such as twists and forward bends, can massage the abdominal organs, improve digestion, and reduce bloating.
  • Pilates: Pilates exercises focus on core strength and stability, which can support overall gut health by improving posture and promoting proper alignment of the digestive organs.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT workouts, which involve short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief periods of rest, can help reduce inflammation and improve metabolic function, potentially benefiting gut health.

Exercises to boost those T levels…

  • Strength training: Resistance exercises such as weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, or resistance band workouts can help increase muscle mass and strength, which is associated with higher testosterone levels.
  • Compound movements: Exercises that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pull-ups, can elicit a greater hormonal response, including increased testosterone production.
  • Interval training: Incorporating intervals of high-intensity exercise into your workout routine, such as sprinting or cycling at maximum effort for short bursts followed by periods of recovery, can help optimize hormone levels, including testosterone.
  • Heavy lifting: Lift heavier weights with fewer repetitions (around six to eight reps per set) to stimulate the release of testosterone and growth hormone. Focus on using proper form and progressively increasing the weight over time.

Related: Quick Testosterone Boosting Exercises To Power Up Your Day

Additional lifestyle tips for tip-top health

Healthy lifestyle

By this point, we know how essential proper nutrition and regular exercise is to improve gut health issues and keep testosterone levels at a sufficient amount. 

But, here are other lifestyle strategies to help you to improve overall health…

Manage stress

Practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or spending time in nature. Chronic stress can negatively impact both testosterone levels and gut health.

Prioritize quality sleep

Prioritize getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night to support hormonal balance, immune function, and gut health. Establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and optimize your sleep environment for restful and quality sleep.

Limit alcohol and caffeine

Reduce alcohol consumption and moderate caffeine intake, as excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption can disrupt gut microbiota balance and hormone levels, including testosterone.

Practice mindful eating

Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues, chew food thoroughly, and eat in a relaxed environment. Mindful eating can improve digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall satisfaction with meals.

Read: How To Motivate Yourself To Workout When You Hate Exercise

Final thoughts…

The interconnectedness between gut health and testosterone levels in the male body plays a big part in your overall wellness. 

The microbiome within our gut not only influences the digestion and absorption of nutrients but also plays a crucial role in the regulation of testosterone levels.

Whether you make a conscious effort to alter dietary choices or make positive lifestyle changes, the steps you take will lead you to success.

By understanding how to nurture our gut health, we can unlock potential pathways to optimizing our testosterone levels, impacting various aspects of our health and daily living in the process. You’ve got this.