Smoking is an extremely dangerous yet preventable habit – one that’s difficult to turn away from because of its highly addictive nicotine content.
The many dangerous chemicals in cigarettes can significantly affect your skin, stomach, lungs, and blood health. Alongside these, it can affect the hormones responsible for improving your chances of conceiving a child and women’s periods.
Now, does smoking affect your testosterone levels? While we’ve seen cigarette smoke affect your libido, it can most certainly significantly affect hormonal production, too.
Let’s learn more about it in this post.
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The Role of Testosterone in the Body
Testosterone plays a crucial role in the overall well-being of both men and women. Found at higher concentrations in males and lower in females, testosterone is a growth hormone that stimulates muscle development, bone density, and overall vitality.
Testosterone is also responsible for the physical and functional changes you see during male adolescence. So, when testosterone levels drop, it can lead to a range of issues, including decreased muscle mass, increased fat, and erectile dysfunction.
Importantly, it can also affect mental and emotional states and cause depression and mood swings in severe cases.
How Does Smoking Increase Testosterone, If It Does at All?
The relationship between smoking and testosterone is complex and often debated. Chemicals in cigarette smoke and testosterone interact in ways that can either increase or decrease hormone levels, depending on various factors.
Numerous studies have explored this connection, with findings suggesting both positive and negative impacts on testosterone levels.
One study involved over 3,200 men who regularly smoked cigarettes. As they increased their cigarette intake, their testosterone levels slightly increased by 15% over time.
One analysis of over 22 studies involving around 13,000 men and 6,000 women found that androgen, an essential female hormone found in both men and women, broke down slowly for both biological genders. The researchers conclude that the reduced androgen breakdown could be the cause of increased testosterone in smokers.
In a study from Taiwan, thirteen male national-level baseball players who had never smoked before or consumed any nicotine product took nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) gums before any training. The results revealed that they had increased cognitive performance, accuracy, and reactions but did not increase muscle strength.
While this study does not focus on nicotine’s effect on testosterone, it shows that it might not have any sufficient effect to stimulate testosterone production in athletes.
A study from Sweden tested men with no history of smoking but regularly consumed ‘snus’ or chewed tobacco, a non-smoking alternative to cigarettes that contain nicotine. Their results found that these men have a 10% lesser chance of conceiving than their non-consuming counterparts due to decreased sperm count.
Does Nicotine Increase Testosterone: The Actual Effects of Nicotine
While the mechanisms through which nicotine might influence testosterone levels are not entirely understood, there are some proposed theories worth looking into about it.
The Disruption of Hormone Pathways: Nicotine disrupts hormone pathways, specifically those responsible for the production of testosterone. Smoking may interfere with these intricate pathways, causing the possible overproduction or underproduction of testosterone. This disruption may contribute to the hormonal fluctuations observed in regular smokers.
Free Radicals/Oxidative Stress: Cigarette smoke increases the level of free radicals in the body, causing oxidative stress. These unstable molecules can cause damage to your cells, proteins, and DNA. This can also extend to the endocrine system, affecting the delicate balance of hormones.
Enzyme Inhibition: Enzymes play a pivotal role in the body’s biochemical processes, such as breaking down food in the gut and absorbing essential vitamins. It also has a role in the production and breakdown of hormones. Smoking may interfere with certain enzymes crucial for testosterone synthesis or metabolism, which can increase or decrease hormone levels.
Does Vaping Increase Testosterone?
While vaping products usually contain nicotine and can possibly achieve the same effect on testosterone as smoking, it may do so with less impact because these products don’t have the same dangerous chemicals as tobacco.
Does Quitting Smoking Increase Testosterone?
While it’s logical to expect a potential increase or balance in your testosterone levels after quitting smoking, it’s essential to recognize that smoking is just one piece of the puzzle. Factors such as body mass index (BMI), diet, and comorbidities also play significant roles in hormonal balance.
Overweight and obese men tend to have poor hormone balance compared to their counterparts, possibly even after quitting smoking. In one study, high-protein diets were also found to decrease testosterone in men.
Lastly, if you have any comorbidities or chronic conditions, it’s highly likely your hormone levels will drop as your body prioritises your survival over hormonal balance.
Other Ways To Boost Testosterone After Quitting Smoking
Given how some studies seem to show cigarettes can increase male testosterone levels, smoking is still a dangerous habit that is highly addictive. It’s the primary cause of COPD, heart problems, and other preventable burdens, especially as you grow older.
A quick boost for your testosterone now isn’t worth the price your body would pay for the long-term consequences of smoking.
A well-balanced testosterone level ensures your body is in top shape without the aid of cigarettes. Here are other, more effective ways to boost your testosterone levels rather than cigarette smoking.
Quit Smoking Altogether
It’s always a good time to stop smoking for good – even if you’re already decades into tobacco, it’s never too late. Here are the steps to help you immediately quit smoking and improve your health.
Go Through First-Line Solutions First
Some motivated smokers can handle cold turkey just fine and see success within a few tries, but oftentimes, smokers have strong withdrawals that can draw them back to lighting a stick.
That’s where nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products come in. These are readily available and stocked at your local pharmacy.
NRT products are the most trusted quitting option available for motivated smokers. They might not imitate cigarettes, but they contain a small dose of nicotine that may be enough to alleviate your withdrawals. These come in the form of patches and gums for easy and convenient nicotine delivery.
While NRTs can be effective, they don’t work for everyone. If these haven’t done the trick for you, you may be eligible for a nicotine prescription to use nicotine vaping products (NVPs).
Chat to a GP
As mentioned, NRT products have worked for many successful ex-smokers. But, you might have ingrained behaviours and triggers that only something that mimics a cigarette can successfully address, such as the hand-to-mouth motion, and needing something to use while having a drink with friends.
That is where NVPs become very handy in helping you fight the urge to consume tobacco.
You need a nicotine prescription before you can purchase NVPs, so you’ll need to consult with a GP to help you on your smoking cessation journey.
And, if your GP deems it necessary, they can write you a nicotine prescription for NVPs.
You can chat to your usual GP more about this.
Visit Your Local Pharmacy
Once you have your nicotine prescription, you can pop down to your local pharmacy. Over 2,200 pharmacies across Australia hold these products in-store, but any pharmacy can order these in for you if they don’t currently stock them.
Both your pharmacist and GP can advise you on how best to use the product, such as the initial setup, and the number of puffs to take when you feel withdrawals.
Adopt a Healthier Lifestyle
Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are also other factors that affect your testosterone levels. The best way to get a boost without smoking is to exercise regularly, eat a good diet, and avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Getting sufficient sleep and reducing stress levels through meditation can also help you improve your testosterone levels.
See an Endocrinologist
If you’ve found your testosterone levels have significantly dropped during a general check-up, you must see an endocrinologist as soon as possible. They specialise in hormone-related issues and can provide personalised guidance and potential interventions to optimise hormonal balance.
Smoking might give you a small testosterone boost, but it’s not worth the risk. It’s better to stick with a balanced hormone level that keeps your entire body in good shape to ensure you remain healthy and produce testosterone at sufficient levels at any age.
If quitting smoking is quite challenging for you, we can help you.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good.