By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
August 31, 2012
- The often-overlooked hormone women need
- Sex isn’t the only thing that suffers without it
- How to naturally reclaim your hormones
When we think of testosterone, we think of men. And when we think of estrogen, we think of women.
But our bodies are not nearly as clear-cut as our minds and what we think.
As we age, it becomes very apparent that both of these hormones have had – and still have a powerful effect on us, regardless of our gender. And an imbalance in either one can have an undesirable effect.
Men are learning the hard way about the impact of having too much estrogen and how it can wreak havoc in their bodies. And women are
figuring out what it means to not have enough testosterone.
Neither is too happy about it.
In this two-part series, I’ll discuss both sides of this equation, and provide you with recommendations for balancing out your hormones – and possibly helping your partner do the same.
Women have one-tenth the testosterone as men – which may not sound like a lot. Until it goes missing.
Which is exactly what happens around menopause.
Testosterone levels drop in women the same way they do for men – as they age. And pre-menopausal women who take birth control pills, and
women who have total hysterectomies, also experience lower levels of the “male” hormone.
We all know one side effect of low testosterone levels: lower libido. But most women don’t realize that testosterone plays a role in heart health, muscle mass, bone mass and energy levels, too. And there is some indication testosterone could actually protect women against breast cancer.
Unfortunately, very few women seek medical attention for low libido. The cultural beliefs about it being normal for women to want sex less than men – and less as they age – don’t serve women (or men) well at all.
In fact, as Alfred Kinsey learned in his landmark research that led to the infamous Kinsey reports on both male and female sexual health – very few people of either gender know what is “normal” in terms of sexual drive. So we don’t always know when it’s time to get some hormonal assistance.
To add to the problem, the other signs of low testosterone levels in women are prone to misdiagnosis. For example:
- Muscle weakness, which is often considered a “normal” part of aging.
- Low energy and fatigue, which can be considered part of aging as well, or possibly linked to the thyroid.
- Depression, which women suffer with more than men.
Each of these symptoms can be easily explained or medicated without finding what may be the real culprit: low testosterone.
There is even a link between low testosterone in women and osteoporosis, which affects one in five women. While it may not be the cause, testosterone replacement can have a beneficial effect on bone density in older women with osteoporosis, and possibly a protective effect on younger women.
So the question is: why aren’t more women replacing testosterone as they age?
First of all, doctors have few testosterone solutions for women in their FDA-approved arsenal. So with the exception of a few extreme circumstances, doctors must prescribe what is called “off-label.” While this is a relatively common practice, it means that plenty of women who could benefit from testosterone therapy aren’t getting it.
Second, it is simply an overlooked, undiagnosed – but all-too-common and easily-fixed – problem. But the tide is turning. Perhaps we have the acceptability of the little blue pill for men to thank. In recent years, particularly since that hit the market, more women are willing to bring up topics such as sexual drive and sexual function with their doctors than ever before. So the spotlight is beginning to shine on this sensitive topic.
If you, or a woman in your life, thinks a testosterone boost might be in order, here’s what you can do…
The first step is to have your hormone levels checked. All of them, not just testosterone. I recommend working with a natural medicine physician who is familiar with a wide range of hormone solutions, including natural supplements and bio-identical hormones, so that you have a full range of options to choose from and a knowledgeable professional to guide you after you get your results.
And the natural solution I recommend to most of my patients, after assessing their levels, is DHEA, which is short for dehydroepiandrosterone. DHEA is a precursor of both estrogen and testosterone. That means it stimulates the body’s own ability to produce hormones naturally – which is always my preference.
DHEA is available in supplement stores and online, and women can safely take 5 mgm daily.
Of course, there are circumstances when you wouldn’t want to take DHEA, such as pregnancy. And although studies have shown DHEA to be safe with minimal side effects, I highly recommend getting your levels checked and working with a physician, rather than self-prescribing.
And here are a few other simple – and natural – ways for both women and men to boost testosterone levels…
Hit the Gym: Pumping iron boosts testosterone in both men and women. And it also strengthens muscles, which can wither with age. And stronger muscles can help with better balance and reducing falls, as well.
Have Sex: It’s a bit of a Catch-22. You may not think you want to have sex if your testosterone is low. And yet, having sex will boost your testosterone. Go figure. You may want to try the old, fake-it-until-you-make-it approach, and see if your natural sex drive kicks in as testosterone levels rise.
Get More Sleep: All of your hormones levels are re-set at night. Which means getting enough sleep, either on its own or in conjunction with
some of these other methods, can promote testosterone production.
In the next issue, I’ll look at estrogen and men. What the problem is, and what you can do about it. Be sure to check it out.