Excessive drinking and alcohol use impacts almost every aspect of your health. Your hormone health is no exception. Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in men, and it also plays an important role in the female reproductive system. Heavy alcohol consumption and testosterone levels are linked. Drinking too much can decrease testosterone and impact your overall reproductive health.
Does Alcohol Affect Testosterone?
Yes — the amount of alcohol you drink affects testosterone. While the impact is felt more acutely in men, women can also suffer from decreased testosterone due to alcohol use.
Testosterone is a primary sex hormone in males responsible for sex drive, hair growth and healthy bone and muscle development. The amount of this hormone your body produces varies throughout your life, usually declining naturally around the age of 30. Abnormally low testosterone is linked to a variety of health issues.
Heavy drinking for a long period of time increases alcohol’s impact on testosterone in a few key ways:
- When your body metabolizes alcohol, the amount of NAD+, a coenzyme responsible for testosterone production, decreases in the testes and liver.
- Alcohol use leads to elevated levels of estrogen, the female sex hormone, as well as the stress hormone cortisol — thus destroying testosterone.
- Drinking too much disrupts your sleep cycle, further decreasing your body’s ability to produce testosterone.
Alcohol’s Short-Term Effects on Testosterone
Testosterone levels can drop as quickly as 30 minutes after drinking alcohol. When testosterone levels are thrown off by alcohol use, both men and women can experience a range of short-term side effects.
Lowered testosterone levels in men who use alcohol can lead to:
- Decreased energy
- Lowered sex drive
- Loss of body hair
- Weight gain
- Swollen breasts
- Shrunken testicles
Women who use alcohol and thus lower their testosterone levels can experience:
- Mood swings
- Low sex drive
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Excess hair growth
- Brittle bones
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Testosterone
While low and moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t seem to have any long-term effects on overall testosterone levels, excessive drinking can cause your body to struggle to keep pace with normal testosterone production. As testosterone levels continue to drop, the potential of long-term health problems increases. Some effects include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Increased risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women
- Heightened risk of congenital disabilities for women and men
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Sperm?
Heavy drinking impacts the functioning of the Sertoli cells within the testes. These specialized cells are needed for sperm maturation, in which testosterone plays a huge role. Disruption to this vital sex hormone can negatively affect semen volume and sperm morphology and can even lead to infertility.
How Does Alcohol Impact Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
A history of alcohol use is closely linked to a high risk of low testosterone. Because of this, some men undergo testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which seeks to return blood testosterone concentrations to normal levels. However, continuing to drink while undergoing TRT can undermine this treatment’s effectiveness. Most doctors recommend limiting alcohol intake or quitting outright.
How Long Does it Take to Return to Normal After You Quit Drinking?
Stopping unhealthy drinking habits or quitting altogether can help reverse the effects of alcohol on your hormone levels. Depending on your level of alcohol use, though, your body may take months or even years to recover. Some damage may even be permanent. Most believe that at least a partial recovery is possible with abstinence from drinking. However, more research is needed.
If you believe that your unhealthy drinking habits are impacting your sex drive or lowering your testosterone levels, professional help is available. Gateway Foundation offers compassionate, effective treatment options for alcohol addiction.
Contact us today to learn more.