Testosterone has been crowned the king of hormones, estrogen the queen, and DHEA the mother to them both. However, all humans have the same hormones present in varying amounts that determine our female or male characteristics. Hormones can determine what the brain is interested in doing. This is why when the sex hormones are low, your sex drive is low. When the bonding and cuddling hormones are high (oxytocin and prolactin), you are more in tune with the feelings of others and can easily care for your children. This applies to both men and women.
The average testosterone of a healthy young man is 400-900 nanograms, women 40-70. Testosterone levels gradually decrease as we age. Andropause (decreasing testosterone in men) begins about age 30 and declines about 10% per decade thereafter. In women, menopause most often occurs between the ages of 42-58.
My question is, if it’s a natural event to have our hormones decrease, then why are we so bothered by the physical and emotional effects? As it turns out, as recent as 100 years ago, life expectancy was only 45 years. This worked out well, since that’s how long our hormones lasted. Now we are living twice as long but we are experiencing a rapid decline in vital health during the second half. As a group, we are getting less exercise, eating more processed foods, exposed to toxins and we perceive life as “high stress.” The evolution of our endocrine systems have lagged behind … eventually we will adapt, but for now, some of us are suffering horribly!
Below is a list of symptoms commonly related to decreasing sex hormones, primarily testosterone. Please keep in mind that many other conditions can create the same symptoms — however, once your symptoms are correlated with a laboratory value that reveals a hormone imbalance, you may have taken a very important step toward feeling vibrant and happy once again.
1. Muscle loss, loss of strength and weight gain, osteoporosis
2. Depression and mood swings
3. Decreased sex drive, ability to get or maintain an erection or achieve orgasm
5. High total cholesterol, higher risk for diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease
6. Sleep disturbance
8. Hot flashes and night sweats in men
9. Hair loss
10. Foggy brain and memory loss (dementia is on the list)
12. Aches and pains
13. Less initiative and mental aggressiveness
14. Lack of confidence and social anxiety
Besides aging, declining levels of testosterone can also be caused by: steroid abuse, head injury, testicular injury, vasectomy, hernia repair (during childhood), fatherhood, poor sleep habits and obesity (body fat raises estrogen levels). Also on the list are prescription medications such as statins, Propecia or Proscar, beta blockers, Prozac and most other antidepressants, marijuana, and Metformin (Glucophage). Also watch out for anti-inflammatories, antifungals and blood pressure medications and excessive alcohol intake.
For women who are suffering from the symptoms of hormone loss, they will find some forward-thinking hormone specialists prefer to use testosterone before adding estrogens. Women will convert some of the testosterone into estrogen to give a bump without the extra supplementation. Bioidentical hormones, which are an exact replica of our own, are readily available now. When used respectfully under the direction of a trained medical practitioner, they can add a great deal to the overall sense of well being we experience, with very little down side, if any.
True or False? Testosterone causes prostate cancer.
False: Testosterone does not cause or produce deleterious effects on prostate cancer. However, it has been shown to increase the rate of spread of an existing prostate cancer.
True or False? Being around your pregnant wife can lower your testosterone levels.
True: Men are sensitive to the hormone changes during pregnancy and will experience a decline in testosterone and an increase in prolactin. (Watch The Male Brain video.)
True or False? Too much testosterone can result in overly aggressive behavior.
True: Recent studies suggest that testosterone levels play a major role in risk-taking during financial decisions. The administration of testosterone makes men selfish and more likely to punish others for being selfish toward them.
Prescriptions for testosterone replacement have risen more than 17-fold in recent years. Is this a fad? An epidemic? Or are we just becoming less tolerant of feeling this way? Is this a good or bad thing? I don’t know, and neither do the experts. However, we do know that people who have been suffering from the list above do feel their lives improve with the supplementation. What is that worth? That has to be left to the individual. This is functional medicine at its best. Hormones are life. When our hormones wane, our quality of life wanes as well. It is our personal responsibility to always weigh the risks and benefits to make our own decisions, and ones that we can live with.
Tune into my radio program, The Conscious Living Show, on Saturday, August 13, 2011 to hear Dr. Bob Ghelfi speak on hormone replacement therapies for men and women. It will be live and you can call in (530) 605-4567 or join us in the chat room online.
Meanwhile, I’m working on my next column, all about sensual lubricants. Please blog your suggestions, experiences, questions.
Nancy Sutton Pierce RN, Health Educator is the Founding director of Nancy Sutton’s House of Yoga and Radio Talk Show Host on The Conscious Living Show LIVE every Saturday 11a-12noon on KCNR 1460am You can reach Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comment or questions.
As You Desire is proudly sponsored by Body Logic MD; helping both men and women restore their libido and vitality through hormone therapy, fitness and nutrition counseling. www.bodylogicmd.com