Vitamin D May Be A Game Changer In The Fight Against Low T
- Vitamin D fortifies bones, bolsters the immune system, and helps the body absorb calcium.
- Vitamin D also appears to play a direct role in the production of hormones including testosterone.
- Taking a vitamin D supplement may increase testosterone levels, but the evidence is mixed.
In recent years, Vitamin D has become known as a powerhouse nutrient. With powers that come from the sun and an ability to fortify bones, bolster the immune system, and help the body break down minerals like calcium, it certainly earns its reputation. But emerging research suggests another potential superpower: an ability to boost testosterone.
Vitamin D plays a role in sperm motility (1) and testosterone production, and some studies have linked having lower blood levels of Vitamin D with decreased T levels (2). This research has led scientists to a new hypothesis: Could increasing Vitamin D play a role in curing hypogonadism, or low testosterone? So far, the evidence is promising.
Here, we put into simpler terms what exactly Vitamin D is (spoiler: it’s a hormone), why it’s so essential for our bodies, and what you should know about its effects on testosterone.
What is Vitamin D?
There are two main kinds of vitamin D—vitamin D2 and vitamin D3—which you can get by eating certain foods that naturally contain the nutrient (salmon, mackerel, herring, mushrooms, butter, cream, egg yolks) or are fortified with Vitamin D (like cereal, orange juice, and milk).
But these foods aren’t our only source of Vitamin D. When exposed to the sun, your skin can manufacture its own vitamin D. Ultraviolet (UVB) rays from the sun convert a naturally occurring form of cholesterol in the skin, called 7-dehydrocholesterol, into Vitamin D3.
For Vitamin D3 to become a physiologically active hormone, your body has to metabolize it through two processes. The first, hydroxylation, occurs in the liver, where Vitamin D is converted into calcidiol. In the second, the kidneys convert Vitamin D into calcitriol, the form of the hormone that is considered to be a hormone. Calcitriol is then carried to target tissues throughout the body where it helps in the prevention of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Migraine Headaches
- Musculoskeletal Pain
- Inflammatory Conditions
The so-called sunshine vitamin does more than create healthy bones and strengthens your immune system, though. Some studies show that in men, Vitamin D may also support testosterone production.
Related: Foods That Boost Testosterone
How Do I Know if My Vitamin D Levels are Low?
Vitamin D levels vary from person to person and can be impacted by factors including skin tone (melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make Vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure), how much time you spend in the sun, being overweight, whether or not you have kidney disease, whether your digestive system can actively absorb Vitamin D and your diet (vegans often struggle to get enough because most natural dietary sources of Vitamin D are animal-based).
Physicians recommend getting between 1,000 IU –10,000 IU of Vitamin D per day, from dietary sources, sun exposure, and supplements (if your doctor recommends them).
Low levels can wreak havoc on your health. If you have low D, you might experience the following symptoms:
- Feeling foggy-brained or unable to concentrate
- Muscle weakness, muscle aches, or muscle cramps
- Mood changes (some research has linked low levels of Vitamin D to depression, though researchers are still studying the connection.)
- Bone pain
- Frequent infections
- Bone fractures
- Slow wound healing
- Erectile dysfunction
- Poor cardiovascular health
Too-high levels of Vitamin D can also be harmful. Toxic levels of Vitamin D3 may result in:
- Kidney stones
- Nausea / Vomiting
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pain
- High blood pressure
The only way to truly know whether you are D-deficient is through a blood test that checks calcitriol levels. If you experience the above symptoms, it might be worth asking your doctor to order one. Of course, these symptoms can also be signs of other conditions—including low T.
Get Hone’s at-home assessment to test your levels.
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Studies have linked having lower blood levels of Vitamin D with decreased T levels.
The Link Between Vitamin D and Testosterone
The American Urological Association found a significant link between Vitamin D and testosterone, the male sex hormone that fuels sex drive, in 2015.
Testosterone is produced in the testes, and scientists suspect that Vitamin D might influence how the testes work. When your liver converts Vitamin D into calcidiol, the hormone is sent to various organs and systems, carrying messages that are necessary for proper function. One of calcidiol’s targets is the testes and the message it delivers involves how to make and convert testosterone into free testosterone, which is the unbound testosterone used for cell replication in the bones and muscles and creating facial hair.
Which begs the question: If you increase your Vitamin D intake, does that mean your testosterone levels will also increase?
Can Vitamin D Supplements Raise My Testosterone Levels?
Maybe. But also: Maybe not. One 2011 study (3) showed that in the case of men with a combination of lower testosterone and a Vitamin D deficiency, increasing Vitamin D raised some men’s testosterone levels. On the other hand, in a 2012 study (4) on men with more optimal levels of Vitamin D, there was almost no effect on testosterone.
More recently, a study in the journal Nutrients found that soccer players who were exposed to 10 days of sun and six weeks of Vitamin D supplementation had significantly higher levels of testosterone (5). But that study was small: it was only done on 10 players, not even enough to side a full soccer team.
In other words, the jury is out for the time being.
Still, you can try taking more Vitamin D to raise your testosterone levels, as long as you get the green light from your physician first (you should never take any drugs, including supplements, without his or her OK). But one of the best ways to raise testosterone levels is hormone replacement therapy.
Treating Low Testosterone With TRT
Clinically low testosterone is diagnosed when T levels decrease to below a level of 300 ng/dL. That is the universal number for what is considered low. When this occurs, your body may react with a range of possible symptoms like fatigue, loss of body hair, reduced sexual drive, loss of muscle, erectile dysfunction, irritability, and depression, to name a few.
Low T is more common in men after the age of 35, which is when many doctors recommend that you begin testing your testosterone. Hone offers an at-home hormone assessment that can help you understand what’s happening inside your body. It’s a simple blood test that analyzes eight biological markers, including testosterone levels.
Related: The Benefits of TRT
If your T levels are low, your physician may suggest testosterone replacement therapy in the form of an injection, cream, or troche.
If you’re thinking about having children, a medication called Clomid (Clomiphene Citrate) might be the best option. TRT can lower fertility (if that’s a concern, we have a whole article on TRT and fertility). Clomid raises your testosterone levels while protecting your fertility.