TweetUntil fairly recently the mere suggestion of using the essentially male hormone testosterone to treat female patients would have been considered out of the question by the majority of the medical profession. However, with leading pharmaceutical company Procter & Gamble announcing the development of Intrinsa ( a testosterone patch for women who have gone through menopause after surgical removal of their ovaries and uterus) it seems that the times they are a changing!
The patch – which produces a 50 to 70 percent increase in sexual desire according to studies – is already available on prescription in the UK and, although it is only given to women who have had hysterectomies, it does mark an important change in the way we approach hormone therapy. In fact there are probably a large amount of women who would benefit greatly from treatment with therapeutic doses of testosterone since,even before menopause occurs, many women have significantly lower levels of free testosterone (or any of its precursors such as DHEA). Additionally, in the years following menopause the levels are further reduced, leading to symptoms such as lack of libido, depression, fatigue and difficulty losing weight. When testosterone is administered the results can be quite dramatic with renewed outlook and enthusiasm for life, increased energy levels, reduction in fatigue, restoration of sex drive and greater ability to lose weight when following exercise and diet programs.
TESTOSTERONE AND WEIGHT LOSS
It is a simple fact of life that during the years preceding menopause and the years that follow, women experience changes in body composition – with noticeable increases in fat storage. This change in body composition can begin up to fifteen years before true menopause actually occurs. The hormone connection with this body composition alteration is rarely explored and, to make matters even worse, this is also the time when most doctors willingly distribute estrogens and progestins in the name of Hormone Replacement Therapy. This practice only serves to make matters worse since administering estrogen and progesterone makes it almost impossible for a woman to lose weight. After all, isn’t estrogen used by farmers to fatten up livestock swiftly and increase their turnover/profit margins? Any woman who has used birth control pills during her lifetime will attest to the fact that weight gain is usually a side effect of their use – from as little as 3 pounds to as much as 8-10 pounds being
So where does testosterone come into the equation?
Well, it is a widely held belief that testosterone causes weight gain, since studies have been published linking abdominal obesity with elevated testosterone levels in women. The flaw in this conclusion is the ‘conveniently omitted’ discovery that these women not only have elevated testosterone levels but their whole hormone profile is out of balance and, in addition, their insulin levels are high with poor insulin sensitivity – a well reported culprit in the cause of obesity. However, even the mere suggestion that testosterone administration may be beneficial for some women is taboo and the facilitation of studies to explore this rubs shoulders with the concept of studying the possibilities of male childbirth (although recent news reports point to even this possibility being currently explored – albeit in a transgender individual).
There have been trials conducted on a transdermal testosterone gel for women which would allow for a slow release of testosterone into the bloodstream, keeping levels elevated for about six hours and bypassing the liver. This substance has received little media attention though and has, for the best part, taken up residence on the shelf occupied by other drugs, which are either considered inappropriate or unsafe for use.
TESTOSTERONE AND SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION
Libido is another area where testosterone plays a major role in women where sexual dysfunction is often caused by a low interest in sex. Administering testosterone in such cases has often restored women’s sex drives to youthful levels with increases in the ability to achieve orgasm as well as length of orgasm experienced. Needless to say, the increased interest and participation in sexual activity significantly relieves stress and depression as well as improving the quality of relationships and favorably influencing body composition via the increased energy expenditure involved.
THE SIDE EFFECTS
Of course it would be totally irresponsible to neglect to mention the side effects which may be experienced by women introducing testosterone to their system. After all, you are introducing an essentially male hormone into a female body. Of course, side effects are also substance (which form of testosterone used) and dose related but they do include such things as:
* Hirsutism (increased hair growth on face, chest, around nipples and buttocks.)
* Deepening of the voice – beginning with hoarseness before the voice actually ‘breaks’ like that of a pubescent male.
* Vaginal Discharge can sometimes present itself. This is not a sign of infection but if it occurs -which is not always the case – can be troublesome.
* Clitoral Enlargement – which may or may not be considered a negative effect (depending on the amount of ‘growth’ involved). It does however usually lead to a greater frequency and intensity of orgasms.
* Menstrual Irregularities or amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycle for six months or more). Of course this is not of concern to postmenopausal women and may even be considered an asset by pre-menopausal women.
Wrapping up the side effects issue, it has to be said that the onset of virilization symptoms (deepening of the voice, increased body and facial hair growth, acne etc) can differ greatly between women depending on individual sensitivities and genetics. It is therefore advised that a female considering testosterone use should start by using low dosages (even a testosterone pro-hormone) and carefully monitoring effects. Also keeping cycles short allowing for sufficient breaks in administration.
In conclusion, perhaps the time is coming where testosterone will actually be considered as a therapeutic agent when it comes to treating both pre and post menopausal women. It certainly beats the current standard of loading them up with estrogen (which often leads to increased fat mass and loss of muscle).
If you are suffering from any of the previously mentioned symptoms of low testosterone you are advised to consult a physician in order to obtain a complete hormone profile. From there you can decide whether hormone therapy is for you or if the addition of some of the over the counter food supplements would be of value.
Testosterone and progesterone levels can often be restored by natural means and once this natural balance is restored women often find it easier to reach their weight loss goals and can reverse the loss of muscle and bone mass that occurs with age.
NATURAL STEPS TO TESTOSTERONE BOOSTING
There are many steps that can be taken to naturally enhance the production of testosterone and these include:
* Increasing your intake of testosterone-boosting protein foods. These foods include lean cuts of beef, eggs, chicken and turkey breasts, cottage cheese and oysters. You should consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day.
* Eat testosterone-boosting vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables are high in indoles, which increase testosterone by reducing the estrogenic effects of estradiol (a form of estrogen known to inhibit testosterone).
* Add saturated fats to your diet. This is not an invitation to pig out at MacDonald’s but it is important to have a sufficient amount of dietary fat in your diet to facilitate testosterone production. Aim for a healthy mix of saturated and unsaturated fats (about 50/50) and try to get about 4 calories per pound of bodyweight from dietary fat. For a 150lb athlete this would amount to 600 calories from fat – about 66 grams a day.
* Do not restrict calories too drastically. Low calorie intakes are notorious for killing testosterone. Unless you are on a pre contest regime, try to get at least 16-18 calories for each pound of bodyweight.
WOMEN AND TESTOSTERONE…THE FUTURE
The whole purpose of this article is to throw a new perspective on hormone therapy under the spotlight. Perhaps the time has come to bury the old ‘pink for girls, blue for boys’ theory of hormone replacement and put some research into testosterone therapy when it comes to helping women lead fuller lives.
It is certainly a controversial subject, but it is also thought provoking and definitely worthy of further investigation. What’s more, I am sure we will hear much more about this form of hormone therapy in the future as the results of existing studies begin to filter their way into the mainstream media.
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