I first learned about testosterone replacement when I visited an anti-aging doctor in Beverly Hills two years ago. Blood tests revealed that my “T” levels were on the low side of normal for my age. I hadn’t even thought about hormones before visiting his office and suddenly I was introduced to a whole new world of possibilities. For years, I felt lethargic, experienced moderate depression and was less vital than years earlier. The changes were something I figured I’d have to deal with. After all, I remember having depression as a kid so maybe it was a chemical thing.
If you’re like most people in North America over the age of 30, you are probably experiencing some signs of age-related hormonal imbalances. For men, the changes are usually gradual while for women, they can be more sudden and dramatic.
Many of my clients have just accepted that their aches, pains, foggy memory, and low libido are an inevitable part of aging. What they don’t realize is that many of these challenges can be due to lack of exercise, unhealthy lifestyle, stress, and environmental toxins. The other missing piece of the puzzle for many is imbalanced hormones. Something can be done about it and bio-identical hormone replacement (BIHR) may be the answer for you.
Once I began testosterone replacement, I immediately felt better! It was as if somebody had given my wilted body some water. Suddenly I perked up. My workouts improved, I felt more rested in the mornings and the depression seemed to reside. I was already quite lean but whatever body fat I had around my tummy also dissipated and my muscles looked and felt stronger and leaner. Numerous people were telling me how great I looked.
If you are confused about the use of hormone replacement, you are certainly not alone! There are numerous conflicting views out there and it is so difficult to know which ones to believe. Some studies tout hormone replacement as the key to feeling and looking great for as long as possible while others suggest that adding hormones can lead to cancer and other diseases. Who do we believe?
Studies dating back to 1940 revealed that testosterone replacement had a direct connection to increased prostate cancer. Unfortunately, those beliefs have held strong in the medical community, even today. In his book Testosterone for Life by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, he reveals how those early studies were inaccurate and discusses hundreds of newer, more up to date research that in fact, show there is NO connection between healthy testosterone levels and cancer. In fact, it is low “T” that is the perpetrator. Testosterone replacement in moderate doses, evaluated by your doctor also has no effect on heart disease, liver damage or high blood pressure.
In her book Ageless, Suzanne Somers speaks in great depth about her positive experience as a cancer survivor using BIHR and interviews numerous leading anti-aging doctors about the benefits of all hormones including estrogen, testosterone, HGH, progesterone, pregnenolone, DHEA, melatonin and thyroid.
Hormones are like the spark plugs for your body and in order to experience vitality, it is imperative to fine tune and balance the KEY hormones. Here are the hormones which most anti-aging doctors test you for and a little bit about their role in your body. The goal of most anti-aging specialists is to bring our hormones back to the levels they were in our mid 20’s-early 30’s, a time when most of us felt our absolute best. The vital hormones to look at are testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, insulin, thyroid, cortisol, and melatonin
Testosterone is the hormone that makes a man male. It works to create muscle, body hair, lower body fat and all other male characteristics. Testosterone is at its peak during our 20’s and begins to decrease in most men at the age of 30. Testosterone is released from the testes and is also responsible for sperm production.
Normal levels of testosterone in men range from approximately 348ng/DL to 1197ng/DL. A blood or saliva test will reveal what your levels are. I was surprised to find out that my levels were sitting at 440ng/DL. This is definitely considered the lower side of normal. Since doing bio-identical hormone replacement I have managed to get my levels between 800-1000ng/DL
A great reference on testosterone for men is the book Testosterone for Life by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler.
Estrogen is the hormone that makes a woman female. It creates feminine characteristics. Like testosterone, bio-identical estrogen replacement has also brought up some controversy.
Suzanne Somers has written numerous books on the topic and has become an advocate for both male and female bio-identical hormone replacement. In her book called “Ageless; the naked truth about bio-identical hormones” she has researched this topic at great length along with numerous leading doctors in the field of anti-aging and wellness. Suzanne believes whole heartedly in estrogen replacement for those who struggle with imbalances. Having been a cancer survivor, she talks openly about why she feels estrogen replacement decreases cancer and other disease.
HGH (Human Growth Hormone)
HGH or Human Growth Hormone is getting a lot of press these days. It is a natural hormone in our bodies that we often overlook. As children, these hormones help our bodies and our internal organs to grow and become strong. As we age, the amount of HGH in our body decreases dramatically. At age 25, the average HGH level in our body is around 600ug and by age 60, the amount can gradually goes down to 15% or 90ug. When HGH decreases, our bodies begin to age more rapidly.
Numerous anti-aging experts are recommending that people with low levels of Human Growth Hormone begin HGH replacement as a tool to reverse the aging process.
Like testosterone, HGH can aid the body in building lean muscle, burning fat and increasing overall energy. It also works on reversing aging on a cellular level.
Human Growth Hormone should only be considered if there is a deficiency. It should never be used as a body building or fitness tool. Find out your levels and get a skilled professional to weigh your pros and cons. Keep in mind that HGH is expensive; anywhere from $500 to $800 US per month.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that my HGH levels were quite good for somebody my age. I attribute this to the interval cardio training that I do called Sprint 8 and a healthy diet and lifestyle. I would certainly consider HGH replacement should my levels decrease in the future. It’s just one more tool that we can use to turn back the clock and live our life to the fullest!
Progesterone is produced in both the ovaries and the adrenal glands and works to normalize blood sugar levels and facilitate proper thyroid function especially during a woman’s menstrual cycle. It can also assist in countering depression and anxiety, cognitive function, regulating thyroid, and increasing libido. A healthy pregnancy and embryo depends on this vital hormone as well. It is important for men to have adequate amounts of progesterone too. Bio-identical, oral supplementation and cream is available and is relatively safe as long as you are monitored by a doctor regularly.
Pregnenolone is naturally produced in the adrenal glands, liver, skin, brain, testicles, ovaries, and retina of the eyes. It has been shown to improve cognitive function, increase energy, reduce the effects of stress, improve mood, and immunity. It is most commonly available as a supplement or cream.
The thyroid gland is located in the neck and it produces the hormone thyroid. Our pituitary gland can also affect the production or thyroid. Our thyroid levels can be affected or even halted by stress, illness, anxiety, and even dieting.
Hypothyroidism or low thyroid can cause hair loss, weight gain, constipation, cold hands and feet, and foggy thinking. Hyperthyroidism is the opposite which means that the thyroid is overactive possibly leading to hyperactivity, muscle weakness, sudden weight loss or gain, increased appetite, and sensitivity to heat.
Finding the right treatment can be tricky which is why it’s important to find a knowledgeable doctor who will offer suggestions on how best to treat you for under or over-active thyroid.
Insulin is secreted by our pancreas and it works to regulate our blood sugar and assists our body in burning carbohydrates rather than storing them as fat. Some people have become insulin resistant which means that the body no longer accepts sugar and fat for energy but rather stores them which can produce even more insulin. Long term high insulin levels can lead to weight gain especially in the mid-section. Increased insulin can also lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, plaque in the arteries, and cancer.
Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle along with exercise is very important in balancing your insulin. Ask your doctor how balancing all of your hormones will positively affect your insulin levels too.
Cortisol is known as the stress or the fight or flight hormone. Our adrenal glands send adrenalin into our system which can cause an energizing effect. But because of our modern day stresses, our cortisol is pumping way too much and far too often. Over time, too much cortisol can wreak havoc on our system causing insulin resistance, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.
Reducing stress levels through meditation and lifestyle changes will help a lot in conjunction with balancing all of your other hormones.
Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone. It is secreted from the pineal gland that is located in the brain. It is also a very powerful antioxidant which assists the body in squelching free radicals in our system. Like other hormones, as we age, our body slows the production of Melatonin. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential if we want to live longer, look younger, and feel better. Quality sleep is restorative to our entire system and with high levels of Melatonin our body has a better ability to fight off infection and remain strong.
Have you experienced sleeping through the night and still waking up tired? I know that I have. This could be a sign that your Melatonin levels are low.
Often supplementing with Melatonin helps people to get a better night’s sleep. It is gentle and effective and even at high doses it has not been shown to be toxic.
In the United States, you can purchase Melatonin supplements at a health food store. If you are having sleep issues, consider supplementing for a few weeks and see if your sleep improves. Sometimes even a tiny dose will make all the difference.
Melatonin is also great for those who travel often and deal with jet-lag due to time zone changes.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is secreted by our adrenal glands and is considered by many doctors to be an anti-aging hormone. It has positive effects on almost every part of our body including the brain, muscles, immune system, organs, and tissues. DHEA also helps the body’s production of collagen which promotes younger skin.
DHEA levels start to decline in most people after the age of thirty which is why it is vital to get tested regularly. Healthy levels for women range from 150 to 350ug/dL and 250 to 450ug/dL for men.
DHEA is available as a supplement and like Melatonin is relatively safe at moderate doses. Always consult your physician to find out what dose is best for you.
I recently found out that my levels were at 101ug/dL which is considered to be low. I just began to supplement with 50 mg of DHEA per day and will re-test in one month to check on my levels.
The key is to ensure that you find a qualified doctor who specializes in hormones. Initially, it may take a few appointments to get your levels balanced but once they are, only yearly blood work is advised as maintenance. The results will be well worth it!