Whilst not often connected to male hormones, there have actually been a few studies in recent years that suggest that probiotics could indeed have an impact on maintaining healthy testosterone levels in men.
The sex hormone, plays a crucial role in men's health. It influences everything from muscle mass and fat distribution to mood and libido.
However, testosterone levels naturally decline with age, leading to a variety of health issues. As a result, it’s quite important for men to do what the can to look after their hormonal balance.
Not All Probiotics Do The Same Things
It’s important to know different probiotic strains are active in different parts of the body. They can effect everything from the gut, through to vaginal health depending on the strain, but we’re of course looking at, you guessed it, the testes.
A couple of probiotics in particular, most notably, Lactobacillus reuteri (L. reuteri), has been the focus of recent research exploring its potential impact on testosterone levels.
And there are also some studies involving different probiotics which show they can help metabolise estrogen, theoretically raising free testosterone levels.
The Studies On Probiotics and Testosterone
Now, it’s important to note that most of the studies in regards to this have been done on mice, so it doesn’t necessarily translate to humans. However, we do know that probiotics can effect female hormones, particularly around menopause, so there is a reason to suspect there could be something good for men here too.
The most recent study published in the journalPLoS One showed that male mice consuming L. reuteri had larger testes and higher serum testosterone levels than their counterparts not given the probiotic.
And interestingly this was true across age groups, regardless of the natural testosterone decline.
The next one worth looking at for men is the various studies that found certain probiotics could influence estrogen metabolism, potentially reducing the risk of estrogen-related diseases. Typically the studies are used in relation to menopausal women with hormone regulation issues, however, helping the body correctly metabolise estrogen is beneficial to both sexes as you’d expect. And whilst estrogen is natural in men, too much estrogen can counteract the effects of testosterone. The strains used in these studies were commonly Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium.
Probiotics can also effect cortisol, which has an interesting relation to testosterone, whilst it does reduce the overall free testosterone. Not all cortisol is bad, for example, it spikes during exercise, but there is some information to show that your body can raise it’s test levels to counter this resulting in the same amount of free testosterone. What is bad is chronic raised cortisol. This of course has been shown to lower testosterone levels. So probiotics that can help increase cortisol metabolism, can also have a benefit.
L. plantarum has shown the most promise in effecting cortisol levels.
Conclusion: Do Probiotics Effect Testosterone?
Well, the mice studies definitely look promising, but there’s not much in the way of studies to show that they can raise testosterone in humans.
That said there are studies to show that probiotics can effect other elements of our hormonal systems that play a role in free testosterone levels. AKA testosterone not being counteracted by another hormone.
So, there may well be something here, although it’s a little early to say directly.