Where does testosterone come from?
It all depends on your sex.
Well, that’s a bit of a generalization, so let me be more specific.
I’ll start with the facts—men and women both produce testosterone within their bodies. We call this endogenous testosterone.
However, the source of that testosterone is more than just your gonads (or sex organs), although those generally play the largest role.
We used to think testosterone (and other hormones) were produced solely by these sex organs—and we thought each sex only had one major hormone in their body: testosterone for men and estrogen for women.
But that was a long time ago—we now know the truth is much subtler. Men have small amounts of estrogen and other hormones in their bodies, and women have small amounts of testosterone in their bodies.
And those small amounts can have a huge effect on the function of your body and your wellbeing.
So, where does testosterone come from? We’ll start with men.
Where Does Testosterone Come From in Men?
For men, the main source of testosterone production is the testes. In fact, up to 95% of your body’s testosterone is produced by your testes.
This is why hypogonadism (low testosterone) is often caused by almost any disease or process that damages your testicles. Even physical damage to the testicles can result in low testosterone because they’re so critical to the production of this hormone.
What about the other 5%? Where does testosterone come from if it’s not produced in the testicles? Well, there’s a specific gland that plays a role:
Testosterone Is Also Produced by Your Adrenal Glands
Here’s what’s most important to keep in mind—your adrenal gland can never take up the slack that can be left behind if your testicles stop producing testosterone.
If your testosterone production has dropped below normal levels because of a disease or illness, it may not be possible to restore normal function.
This isn’t always the case. Testosterone production may return to normal. For instance, opioid pain management drugs can cause low testosterone, but men who stop using these drugs may find their testosterone levels return to normal.
On the other side of the spectrum, men who have lost function in one or both testicles man never return to normal testosterone production. They will have to rely on exogenous testosterone (testosterone administered from outside the body) to return to normal testosterone levels.
Fortunately, this is exactly what testosterone replacement therapy does—through injections or other methods, the testosterone your body used to produce is replaced.
And, as far as your body is concerned, nothing has changed.
Where Does Testosterone Come from in Women?
For women, the situation is a little different, mostly because the levels are so much lower.
As a woman, you have about one tenth of the amount of testosterone a man has, and it originates in a few different areas.
So, where does testosterone come from for you? The basic mechanism is similar to that existing in men.
Gonads (ovaries) are still responsible for production, but only a portion. You get about 25% of your testosterone from your adrenal gland, 25% from your ovaries, and the other 50% from tissues surrounding both your ovaries and your adrenal glands.
However, just because the levels and amounts are produced differently doesn’t mean you don’t need testosterone—your body will react to a reduction in testosterone just like a man’s body will, just like your body will react to a reduction in estrogen.
Testosterone replacement therapy for women looks almost the same as testosterone replacement therapy for men, just with much lower amounts.
What Do I Do if I’m Not Producing Testosterone like Normal?
The most common way of dealing low testosterone, no matter your sex, is testosterone replacement therapy.