From PTSD to brain injury, a military background greatly increases your risk of Low Testosterone.
And you’re at risk to begin with.
I’ve heard that the average testosterone levels of a modern day 25 year old are the same as those of a 60 year old man in the 1920s. T has been on the decline for the past century, and is dropping at a rapid rate as of the last 30 years.
What does this mean? It means disease, mental health problems and It means infertility. Nearly every condition under the sun a guy can experience.
Because Testosterone is the lifeblood of male health. This hormone does so much more than make you risk-averse and give you bigger gains in the gym. Testosterone keeps your heart healthy, plays a massive role in protecting you from diabetes and obesity, keeps your brain sharp, and has a host of other benefits.
So while this article is about why soldiers are at risk, really, all men in the modern world need to monitor testosterone.
The Spoils of War
Cortisol is commonly referred to as the stress hormone. When released, cortisol turns down your pain response and prepares you for battle. It’s a good thing, when it is needed. The problem is in our complex modern world, we secrete cortisol regularly, and like insulin, cortisol is a bully hormone that blunts the production of testosterone and other key hormones.
This is the first window into the relationship between service and low T. Military life can have you chronically stressed to say the least, and those on active duty face some of the greatest hardships known to man.
Chronic cortisol leads to lower testosterone. It’s no wonder PTSD is directly linked to low T levels, but what if the relationship is the other way around? What if low T is why you are more susceptible to PTSD, brain fog, mood issues, and the host of mental and physical ailments soldiers often face?
You see, war is stressful, but it also exposes you to big wounds when it comes to your Testosterone.
One of the more interesting observations is that special forces operators suffer less PTSD than infantrymen. One major theory is that operators often take the offensive to the enemy, engaging in planned scenarios.
Infantrymen often get attacked on patrol. The difference is reactionary as opposed to decisive.
Even so, spec-ops guys have plenty of problems, and by looking at the ones who get major mental health problems anyway, we can learn what risks there are.
Traumatic Brain Injury: The Blast Factory’s T Blocker
Tales From The Blast Factory: A Brain Injured Special Forces Green Beret’s Journey Back From The Brink by Andrew Marr is a moving story of the importance of testosterone for male health, the massively overlooked causes of brain injury in the military, and how a special forces operator went from elite warrior, to borderline insane and on 13 medications, to redemption and regaining his full capacity using testosterone (despite the incompetence of the V.A.)
But Keenan, I never went on active duty? I never worked with explosives or artillery (or only in drills,) I had a desk job and rifle practice.
Guess what buttercup, that gun in your hands gives you mild traumatic brain injury every time you fire it. I love guns, but I also love taekwondo and each pull of the trigger is like a light sock to the jaw.
My point is, just because you weren’t a spec-ops guy breaching doors and blowing shit up does not mean your brain is fine. TBI is massively common, and you can develop significant hormone dysfunction, neural damage, and other issues just from regular firearm use, not to mention exposure to loud noises such as aircraft and other equipment.
Back to Andrew.
Though only knocked unconscious once during combat, Andrew was exposed to low-level blasts often as part of the job description. In 2014, about half a year after a deployment, his mind began to rapidly deteriorate. His memory was almost non-existent, frequent migraines left him with double vision, and his balance was so bad he could barely walk straight.
Even with 13 medications for depression and anxiety, and everyday drinking to numb what he could, he still had major mood problems and ultimately saw an Army endocrinologist.
His Testosterone levels were so low, he was accused of being an anabolic steroid user (who’s bodies don’t make almost any testosterone in reliance upon the roids) who was just trying to replenish his supply. Eventually Andrew found a functional medicine doctor who did not accuse him of being a criminal, but instead ran tests to discover extensive damage in Andrew’s brain from TBI.
Find out more about mTBIs and how they’re affecting the military population and how you can help further their research on EPISODE 95 of The Hard To Kill Podcast with Ryan Carey
Neuroinflammation was rampant and there was severe damage to his hypothalamus, a key component in PTSD and the stress response.
Testosterone plays a key role in reducing systemic inflammation, not to mention major influence on the brain and particularly the dopamine neurotransmitter. Via these systems, testosterone helps prevent nearly every aspect of Andrew’s condition. Dr. Gordon prescribed a testosterone injection, and in Andrew’s own words: “I felt like Cinderella for 60 hours.”
He had a near complete turnaround. Guess where he is now? Completely off medication and symptom free.
What To Do
When it comes to addressing testosterone, things can both be simple and complicated. Simple, because you can just start taking supplemental T via your Doc. Complicated, because doing so will slow your body’s ability to make its own testosterone, stigmas and sanctions make the hormone particularly hard to get, and there is no standard medical protocol for addressing hypogonadism.
With all of that said, I do recommend everyone at least get their testosterone checked regularly. This should be something you do at least once a year, and more if you are addressing low T.
Dave has created a program to address veteran men’s hormonal health called the Be Always Stimulating Testosterone (BE.A.S.T.) Body Blueprint. It’s a 5 step program that focuses on the most significant, evidence based drivers of improving testosterone without resorting to TRT.
The Best Testosterone Test
When it comes to testing we have a few options, but my top recommendation is a Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones or DUTCH analysis. DUTCH is the most extensive test for charting your all day hormones.
Typical testosterone testing involves spot testing with blood or saliva. This can help see your testosterone rhythm by testing throughout the day. Typical urine tests let you see the total testosterone you have in a 24 hour period. The DUTCH test gives you both of these benefits using just urine.
This is because the DUTCH test measures hormone metabolytes. These compounds are created during hormone production and hormone breakdown. Measuring them gives us a clear picture not only of your hormone levels, but when they are being produced during the day and how much you are actually using.
The easiest way to get a DUTCH test is to order it directly from their website at www.dutchtest.com. You’ll want at least the DUTCH complete for $399 but I recommend ponying up the extra $100 for the DUTCH plus.
The DUTCH plus has the distinct advantage of not only analyzing your hormones, but also analyzing your awakening cortisol response curve. This information gives insight into the HPA-axis which controls the power of your fight-or-flight response. Since cortisol blunts testosterone, this is great data.
Once you have a DUTCH test, I recommend working with an educated practitioner to interpret your results. A warning: most standard doctors and endocrinologists use reference ranges for testosterone that are, frankly, subpar. Seek out someone who specializes in testosterone optimization, or a functional medicine practitioner.
I recommend going to the DUTCH website to find a practitioner. However you can also find a great functional medicine doctor with these resources:
Finally, You can also look for a good bio-identical hormone therapy specialist. Even if you do not want to use hormone therapy, these practitioners should be able to give you accurate interpretations of your results.
Lastly, I do not recommend trying to have your results interpreted by your standard medical practitioner or an endocrinologist. Reference ranges for testosterone are broad and based on national averages. However, considering testosterone has been on the decline for nearly a century, if you are average, you are low.
If you want to be on the same page as your doc and fully understand your test results, check out the work of Jay Campbell, especially his book The Testosterone Optimization Therapy Bible, and if you use the DUTCH test, check out their extensive library of tutorials for interpreting your results.
So there you have it! This is part one of a multi-part series for optimizing your testosterone.
Hopefully you have a better understanding of why warfighters are at a higher risk of low-T. TBI, high stress, and a world of declining testosterone all play a huge role.
Unfortunately, testing is not standard, but you can work with a quality practitioner to discover your own testosterone.
Stay tuned for the next articles, where we’ll discuss all manner of tactic from exercise for testosterone to nutrition, and much much more. Thank you for reading and I hope this article makes you Hard To Kill!
Train Hard, Fight Easy
Keenan’s singular purpose is to help as many people as possible achieve optimal physical and mental health. He believes biology and psychology are linked, and that by providing a healthy environment for the body we are more likely to fulfill our personal potential through a happy and optimized life. He healed from chronic fatigue syndrome, in two years, despite being bedridden and having a minuscule income. You can find him dropping mad knowledge at Keenan Eriksson Fitness. And you can check him out on Episode 30 of the HRD2KILL Podcast