Hormone imbalances become a fact of life for many men and women over forty. Women start to experience symptoms of menopause and men symptoms of andropause (or “man-o-pause”). In other words, both sexes find themselves encountering problems they never knew existed in their youth. For women this often includes night sweats, hot flashes, loss of hair and sleep issues, and men often experience a loss of muscle mass or erectile dysfunction. In addition, both sexes typically find they are suddenly unable to maintain energy throughout the day, their sex drive (libido) as well as sexual performance has deteriorated, and many of the joys of life have evaporated.
While all of the above can be caused by diverse medical conditions, in many cases the issues result from a simple, easily corrected hormone imbalance. Sexual problems in both men and women such as; loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, insufficient lubrication and many orgasm problems almost always result from some kind of hormonal imbalance. In particular, men usually notice their morning erections have disappeared while women start noticing vaginal dryness that might make intercourse a little uncomfortable.
Testing and Balancing Hormone Levels
Many misconceptions and myths abound about hormone testing and hormone balancing. One of the most common is that hormone testing only requires a blood test for testosterone in a man or estrogen in a woman. As explained below, blood tests are notoriously inaccurate and measuring testosterone in a man or estrogen in a woman does not really tell us much. There are many hormones in the human body and—they are interdependent—an imbalance in one typically causes a corresponding imbalance in one or more of the others. Thus, testing a single hormone is essentially useless. In addition, most doctor-ordered hormone tests use blood serum and only specify measurement of the total hormone value, which again, gives us little information.
Blood tests typically test total hormone levels. Hormones exist in the blood in both free and bound (total) forms and it is only the free value that is active. Proteins in the blood typically bind to hormones lowering the value of the free portion without having much effect on the total value. For instance, an older man may have a low normal total testosterone level and also be severely deficient in free testosterone. This can cause him to experience multiple problems with libido and sexual functioning. Similarly, a woman can have a corresponding imbalance in progesterone or estrogen that will cause similar problems.
Since the extent of hormone testing using conventional medical blood tests is typically limited to the total value of a single hormone, the probability of uncovering serious hormone imbalances is unlikely. However, since human saliva contains only the free or active form of each hormone, saliva testing can provide a more accurate analysis. In addition, saliva testing typically includes a grouping of the most critical hormones, increasing the probability of finding a serious imbalance significantly.
For people having minor symptoms of hormone imbalances, however, a detailed salivary hormone test might be overkill. A full salivary panel for a man or woman typically cost a little under $200 and while it provides a wealth of information, it is not always necessary.
For example, a man that is having a minor loss of libido that has also noticed he is no longer having morning erections may just be experiencing a minor age-related decrease in his free testosterone level. Similarly, a woman experiencing hot flashes and night sweats may be experiencing a minor age-related decline in progesterone or estrogen. In these cases, it is prudent to try an over-the-counter, natural skin cream to supplement the body’s production. For a man, this would be Testosterone-For-Men and for a woman, the bio-identical hormones Progesterone and/or Estrogen.
If, after supplementing with the above for a few weeks, no improvement is felt, then it is time to schedule a full saliva test panel and/or a consultation with a natural health professional. The simplistic myth that one hormone is responsible for a single function is very misleading. Almost every hormone produced by the body has a myriad of functions and the absolute value of any one is far less important than the relationship (balance) between them.
Optimal health for both men and women is dependent on hormone balance, not just a single hormone. Men with low androgen hormones (like testosterone or DHEA) or imbalances in their androgen to estrogen (or progesterone) levels can benefit enormously from hormone supplementation designed to achieve balance. Similarly, women whose estrogen (or progesterone) to androgen level is out of balance can eliminate many pre-, peri- and post- menopausal symptoms.
Unfortunately, there is significant fear on the part of both men and women regarding any kind of hormone replacement therapy. For women, this fear is primarily due to the termination (in July of 2002), of part of the National Institute of Health large Women’s Health Initiative study. The study used animal derived estrogens and synthetic progestins. It was discontinued because these synthetic chemicals raised the risk of a woman developing breast cancer, blood clots, or a stroke. Such risks have not been associated with natural, bio-identical hormone creams.
Likewise, aging men have been advised for years that increasing testosterone levels would raise their risk of developing prostate cancer. Again, this may be true for synthetic testosterone injections, especially when they drive testosterone to excessively high levels. The latest research suggests that low free testosterone is actually associated with prostate dysfunction.
Summarizing, these fears cause many aging men and women to suffer through their “golden years” with considerable discomfort from serious hormone deficiencies or imbalances. Considering that natural bio-identical hormones are quite safe, and hormone levels can be easily determined in the privacy of one’s home with a saliva test kit, it is sad to see so many people suffering. Many of the issues that occur with aging are mere annoyances, but hormone imbalances can be devastating for both sexes. A simple hormone deficiency can often be corrected using one or more over-the-counter bio-identical hormone creams, or an herbal testosterone boosting cream. Often this is all that’s needed for many people.
For more complex issues, it is wise to seek the advice of a professional that deals with hormone testing and imbalances regularly. With the proper approach, some selective home saliva and/or blood tests, a little patience, a few herbal or nutritional supplements, and a knowledgeable practitioner, many of the age-related problems that men and women encounter are resolvable.
Order all of the Hormone Creams Dr. Jim talks about in this story here.
Author: Jim Occhiogrosso
James Occhiogrosso is a Natural Health Practitioner, Herbalist and author of the book “Your Prostate, Your Libido, Your Life.” He maintains an active practice helping both men and women overcome sexual issues and hormonal problems associated with aging, including erectile dysfunction, lack of libido, anorgasmia, PMS, menopausal problems, fibromyalgia, and CFS. He often acts as an advisor for men with prostate cancer whose doctors recommend a “watchful waiting” or “active surveillance” approach and he does phone consultations nationwide. He provides saliva home hormone test kits and many sexual and other health supplements. For more information, connect with him directly at 239-652-0421, email DrJim@HealthNaturallyToday.com or visit www.HealthNaturallyToday.com.