Alcohol Effects onTestosterone Levels in Men and Women

Alcohol Effects on Testosterone Levels

No one needs to tell you that excessive alcohol consumption is bad for the body. However, you should understand how it affects your hormone levels – primarily testosterone.

Here are some aspects of alcohol effects on testosterone levels and sexual performance:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption can cause low testosterone
  • Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to impotence
  • Alcohol functions as a depressant – slowing down blood flow to the penis which leads to erectile dysfunction
  • Excessive alcohol intake can interfere with sleep – the body produces testosterone during sleep

In their alcohol testosterone study, Professors in the Department of Medicine, the Division of research on Drugs of Abuse, Mary Ann Emanuele, M.D. (also the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry) and Nicholas V. Emanuele, M.D. (also a staff physician at the Veterans Hospital, Hines, Illinois) from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Illinois found the following to be true:

  • Alcohol affects all three parts of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis [1]
    • The hypothalamus has regulatory functions that produce releasing hormones to stimulate the pituitary gland
    • The pituitary gland produces hormones that stimulate testosterone and sperm production
    • The gonads (testes) produce testosterone and sperm

Is there a difference in how alcohol affects testosterone levels in women?

Yes, the situation actually reverses for female consumption of alcohol. Testosterone is a hormone that promotes drive and assertiveness. That is why men who abuse testosterone therapy tend to get aggressive.

Some women report feeling increased bravado or self-assuredness after a few drinks. This is due to an increase in testosterone production. Women who use oral contraceptives have an even greater increase in testosterone levels following alcohol consumption. [2]

A cautionary warning to women – alcohol abuse can lead to loss of female sexual characteristics and development of hyperandrogenism.

Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Testosterone Production

The alcohol effect on testosterone production goes further than just interfering with the HPG axis. Alcohol abuse can also impact testosterone in the following ways:

  • Alcohol stimulates the brain to release Beta-Opioid Endorphins which damage testosterone.
  • Alcohol can reduce the amount of Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) in the body. NAD is a coenzyme that helps with the production of testosterone in the testes.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption can cause oxidative damage to the Leydig cells in the testes. Testosterone in the scrotum, as well as that circulating in the body, is subject to destruction.
  • Continual alcohol abuse can increase cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Cortisol decreases testosterone production and causes your body to release the hunger hormone ghrelin which often leads to overeating.

Intake of too much alcohol also creates other problems for hormone levels. The next aspect of alcohol effects on testosterone levels is weight gain. Alcohol contains empty calories. Not only can you gain weight from drinking, but many people find that they eat more while consuming alcohol.

What does weight have to do with alcohol and testosterone production?

Most people who gain weight from heavy alcohol consumption notice increased abdominal fat. The enzyme aromatase is produced in belly fat and has the primary function of seeking out testosterone to convert to estradiol. Estradiol is a form of estrogen that further increases food conversion to fat, increasing weight and further lowering testosterone levels.

Too much estrogen conversion and you wind up with a condition called estrogen dominance. You now also have an increased risk of gynecomastia (man boobs), stroke, prostate cancer, heart attack, and osteoporosis.

Furthermore, it is the liver that has the function of metabolizing testosterone and fat. When alcohol enters the liver, the organ must focus on alcohol metabolism rather than fat metabolism. The fat finds storage inside fat cells rather than being utilized as fuel.

Can Alcohol Help Increase Testosterone?

Not one to be the bearer of bad news, HT Medical Center wants you to know that occasional consumption of alcohol affects testosterone levels in a positive way. Some current research shows that moderate drinking may improve testosterone production, or at least not harm it.

What does moderate mean?

First, do not drink every day. When you do indulge, limit it to one or two drinks at the most. Of course, body weight can affect how much you can safely drink. Always consume a glass of water with every alcoholic beverage.

Being wary of what you drink is another aspect to understand. Beer, wine, and bourbon often contain phytoestrogens, chemicals that can raise estrogen levels. More estrogen means more fat and aromatase – essentially zapping away your valuable testosterone.

A final word on alcohol effects on testosterone levels has to do with DHEA-S, a heart-protective hormone. Moderate alcohol consumption may increase DHEA-S levels. In other words, choose wisely and drink moderately for optimum hormonal health.

For further information about testosterone and hormone levels, contact HT Medical Center for a free consultation.