Before anyone begins supplementing with testosterone a common concern is understanding the testosterone side-effects and this is a reasonable concern. Of all the testosterone side-effects the most prominent is it works, it works well and quite unlike anything else but this is almost a given, what most are concerned with are the negative aspects and potential adverse reactions. Let's be clear, very clear; all medications, all hormones and even all the foods we eat have a potential to cause adverse reactions, it is the types of negative reactions and the probability that can vary.
It's no secret anabolic androgenic steroids have gotten a pretty bad rap over the years and in many cases undeservingly so. Many of the supposed adverse effects are based on little more than conjectural hearsay at best and often steeped in a predetermined emotional response that can exist for numerous reasons. Absolutely, steroidal hormones can have and do carry with them potential negative traits but they are often highly overstated as responsible use has proven to be very safe in healthy adult men; when we look at testosterone side-effects this is especially true; in-fact, many of the everyday medications you buy at your local RX carry far more serious side-effects and with a much higher level of probability. Have you ever looked into your favorite acetaminophen medications; the side-effects of such medications can be horrific and with a much higher level of probability, including but not limited to:
- Difficulty Breathing
- Swelling of the face (Mouth, Tongue & Lips)
- High Blood Pressure
- Blood Stools
- Dark Urine
- Stomach Pain
- Yellowing of the Skin & Eyes
- Hearing Loss
- Liver Failure
- Kidney Failure
Those are some very serious side-effects and it is one massive list and guess what, that's only a partial listing. Yet you more than likely have been taking acetaminophen in some form most of your life but you do so because you've made a choice to; of course now that you're aware of the possible side-effects your opinion may have just change a little bit. What about testosterone side-effects? With testosterone we're talking about a hormone your body has produced naturally your entire life, a hormone your body desperately needs in order to function properly and as such it is one of the most important hormones your body will ever make. Let's take a look at the possible adverse reactions this hormone can cause when introduced exogenously, how you can avoid them and we'll even talk about how great the probability is.
Aromatase Based Testosterone Side-Effects:
The majority of all testosterone side-effects are based on the aromatase process. When testosterone is introduced into the body it inevitably converts into estrogen via the aromatase process due to the aromatase enzyme. For the individual who is taking part in a hormone replacement therapy (HRT) plan this is generally of very little concern as his dosing will not be high enough to warrant a large buildup of estrogen in the body. Make no mistake, estrogen is an important hormone but when levels become too high nasty reactions can occur. The most common testosterone side-effects due to aromatase include:
- Gynecomastia (Male Breast Enlargement)
- Excess Water Retention (Bloat)
- High Blood Pressure
- High LDL Cholesterol
- Low HDL Cholesterol
Preventing Testosterone Side-Effects:
Of the common side-effects listed above each and every one is avoidable or reversible but responsible use is the key. Many might ask how this is possible and the answer is very simple; again, we're talking about a naturally based hormone, calling it a drug is in many ways inaccurate and calling it a foreign substance is nothing short of a downright fallacy.
Blood pressure and cholesterol; it must be stated, if you suffer from high blood pressure or high cholesterol you will necessarily be strongly advised from staying away from any testosterone therapy until you get the situation under control. If you are predisposed to such conditions then you will need to keep a very close eye on it but unfortunately for some of you this predisposition will be so strong that any testosterone therapy will be out of the question. For the healthy adult man there are things he can do to keep his blood pressure and cholesterol in-line and they are very simple things indeed. Diet and exercise and maintaining a healthy body-fat percentage have all been proven to be key components in maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Men who exercise regularly and who eat healthy diets rich in healthy fats, especially Omega Fatty Acids have been shown to be much healthier than those who do not. To combat related blood pressure and cholesterol based testosterone side-effects living a healthy lifestyle will be your best friend and this includes and cannot be emphasized enough avoiding regular alcohol consumption as it is detrimental to such a state of health.
While living a healthy lifestyle is very important this is not our only tool; while a healthy lifestyle will greatly aid in keeping water retention at bay it may not be enough and we still have the possibility of Gynecomastia to deal with. Remember, these side-effects are based on the aromatase process triggered by the aromatase enzyme and there is something at our disposal that can readily combat it and it is simply known as an aromatase inhibitor (AI). AI's do exactly what their name implies, they inhibit the aromatase process and if the testosterone cannot aromatase there can be no buildup in estrogen; what doesn't exist cannot cause a problem. Not only do AI's directly inhibit estrogen conversion but they have been shown to even greatly reduce the amount of estrogen in your system and further they even have the ability to increase the production of natural testosterone in your body by stimulating the release of the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) derived from your pituitary gland.
No, there is no guarantee AI's will be perfectly effective in all but in most they will; individual sensitivity always comes into play; for example, some people are simply allergic to peanuts and there's not a lot they can do about it. Of the commonly available AI's Arimidex and Letrozole are generally your best bet; Letrozole being the strongest. Letrozole is so effective that it has been shown to reverse the signs of Gynecomastia in many men if its use is undertaken as soon as such symptoms begin to show. Understand that if you do show signs of Gynecomastia and you ignore them all the Letrozole in the world will do nothing for you once the condition has set in; if that is the case only a surgical removal of the glands in your chest will help you. For this reason many supplement with AI's each and every time they use testosterone in order to avoid such related testosterone side-effects.
We must also mention Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERM's) as they are often a tool in combating testosterone side-effects, particularly Gynecomastia but they will do very little for water retention and any other aromatase based side-effects. SERM's contrary to popular belief do not inhibit the buildup of estrogen nor do they reduce the amount of estrogen in your body. Common SERM's such as Nolvadex and Clomid act by inhibiting the estrogen from binding and causing Gynecomastia by binding to the receptors in its place. Nolvadex is the most common SERM used for this purpose and in many cases 10mg-20mg per day can suffice; however, if you are sensitive and 20mg per day does not do the trick you will necessarily need to try an aromatase inhibitor if you are going to combat such related testosterone side-effects.
The Guaranteed Testosterone Side-Effects:
We've covered the potential and now it's time to talk about the guaranteed. Let's get right to it; the use of exogenous testosterone will cause testicular atrophy as well as suppress natural testosterone production. The testicular atrophy is actually due to testosterone production suppression; in many ways the two side-effects are truly one. Let's get this out of the way right from the start "Testicular Atrophy" means shrink, it does not mean disappear and for the most part means the testicles will lose a little fullness; most men really don't notice a massive significant difference. As stated this is caused by testosterone suppression, when your body is receiving testosterone from an outside source it has no need to make its own and since testosterone is manufactured in the testicles when production comes to a halt they lose some of their fullness.
It is important to note this is an effect low testosterone patients will have to accept for the rest of their life as therapeutic treatment in most HRT plans is for life; for those who suffer from low testosterone and require treatment such treatment is usually needed for the remainder of one's life. For the performance enhancer who does not suffer from naturally low testosterone it is a different story. If your body still has the ability to produce its own testosterone once you discontinue exogenous use, assuming no other anabolic steroids are being used your natural testosterone production will begin yet again and your testicles will return to their normal size and very quickly so.
Do you remember our discussion at the beginning regarding acetaminophen? Those were some very serious possible reactions and one was even death; but what about related testosterone side-effects? This little fact may surprise you and if it does you are welcome to search it out; there has never in history been a recorded death due to testosterone use; in-fact, there has never been a recorded death in history directly linked to the use of anabolic androgenic steroids period. Absolutely, there have been deaths where it was found the individual had anabolic steroids in his system; you've seen the reports of this or that athlete who died and had steroids in his body and then a host of other medications and maybe even alcohol; can you then still blame the testosterone?
Of course then there's Lyle Alzado, the poster child for such topics. Alzado was a former NFL star who died in 1992 due to a brain tumor. Alzodo appeared on T.V. before his death a frail and weak man, a far cry from where this giant super star, the bad boy of football once stood and he blamed anabolic steroids on his soon to be impending death. Alzado is like all men entitled to his opinion and he strongly believed anabolic steroids were the cause of his death but what did his doctors say? Lyle Alzado's own doctors stated numerous times there was no evidence that his death was caused or due to anabolic steroid use. Does this mean anabolic steroids didn't play a part? Unfortunately we don't know but we cannot say they are the cause when there is no proof and when there has never been a death linked to them this should make any sane person at least stop and think
The Bottom Line:
The bottom line is simple, there can be side-effects of an unwanted nature that may occur due to testosterone use but they are largely avoidable and often reversible through responsible use. In healthy adult men testosterone side-effects are rare if such responsible use is applied and even in supraphysiological doses there appears to be little concern and very little logic for the hysteria that often surrounds this hormone. While it has already been stated the emphasis cannot be stated enough; testosterone is a vital hormone, it is a hormone we need and one that provides innumerable benefits to the human body. For those who are healthy enough for exogenous use be prepared to use responsibly and be prepared to enjoy the benefits that are held within.