As men and women approach their late forties, they often find themselves encountering problems they never knew existed in their youth. Suddenly, they may be unable to maintain energy throughout the day, their sex drive and performance have deteriorated, and many of the joys of life have evaporated.
Barring a specific medical issue or drug-induced problem, sexual problems in both men and women such as; loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, insufficient lubrication and many orgasm problems generally result from a hormonal imbalance. Since the extent of hormone testing used conventionally is often limited, the probability of uncovering hormone imbalances is unlikely.
In our society today, advertisements about pharmaceuticals to fix all problems abound. TV commercials touting solutions for low testosterone, AKA low-T, erectile dysfunction, female sexual dysfunction (FSD), and drug cures for almost everything are ubiquitous. Thus, when these problems—most of them related to sexual difficulties—start, people (and their doctors) often think about hormonal deficiencies—men about testosterone and women about the estrogens.
A subsequent visit to a doctor often results in blood tests that include testosterone level for a man and either estradiol or FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) for a woman. If a man’s testosterone measurement comes back in the normal range, his doctor may simply write a prescription for an erectile dysfunction drug. This may help if his problem is low libido, but is of little help for the myriad of other sexual issues. A woman, especially if she is at or nearing menopause is often given a prescription for synthetic HRT.
If the prescription does not help, the patient might be told “Well, you’re getting older. You just have to accept that you cannot perform like before.” — Unfortunately, some people accept this, and go through the rest of their lives suffering with problems that might be easily remedied had they—or their doctors—been willing to spend the time to look deeper.
Hormones are the chemical messengers of the body. There are many different hormones and virtually organ in the body contains hormone receptors. They control all aspects and body functions. Hormones and their receptors can be thought of as analogous to keys and locks. When the appropriate hormone (key) binds to a matching receptor (lock), it enables (unlocks) the receptor allowing the chemical message carried by the hormone to be transmitted to the internal mechanism of a cell. Hormones circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream, searching for matching receptors to which to transmit their message.
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. Due to the constant bombardment of “Low-T” advertisements, many people believe that low testosterone is the only cause of ED or low libido. While low testosterone (as well as estrogen) may tend to cause a loss of libido (sexual drive), neither is the only player in this complex orchestra. Often, levels of one can be in the normal range, but imbalances with other hormones can cause serious problems. Thus, with hormones, the absolute value is far less important than the relationship (balance) between them.
Not all Hormones are the same
Depending on where you get your information about hormones, it would seem that hormone replacement is either a fountain of youth or a complete disaster area. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), as defined by conventional medicine typically uses synthetic mimics of hormones produced by the body. For men this often includes synthetic testosterone injections and for women, products produced from the urine of pregnant cows. Natural or bio-identical hormone therapy uses hormones produced from natural plant sources, that are carefully designed to be identical to those produced by the human body, hence the term bio-identical.
Medical sources often frown on bio-identical hormone replacement therapy for men or women. On the other hand, many studies show a profound improvement in well being for those who use such hormones. Many women have been conditioned to believe that any kind of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) will cause breast cancer, a heart attack or a stroke. And indeed, many of these problems were linked in studies to HRT. However, this association is only with synthetic hormones. Studies have not linked any of these issues to bio-identical hormone use. The human body does not properly recognize synthetic chemicals and they often cause problems, hence the issues with synthetic prescription hormone replacement therapy.
Testing Hormone Values
Hormones exist in the body in two states: free (active) and bound (inactive). The free portion of each hormone is the active element that attaches to receptors on body organs and delivers its chemical message. Blood tests are often ordered that measure only total hormones. However, it is common for people (especially those over 50) to have total hormone values within range, while the free value of the same hormone is well below the target. This is particularly true with testosterone. Thus, a blood test that measures total testosterone only provides part of the story. Saliva testing measures only free hormones—the ones that do the work, thus providing an more accurate and less expensive way of measuring several hormone values at once. It is also quick and can be done at home in complete privacy.
When hormone levels are reasonably within range, the actual values are of lesser importance then the critical relationship of each hormone to the others. For example: a man suffering from erectile dysfunction or a woman suffering from a loss of libido could have normal levels of one hormone, but elevated or deficient levels of other hormones which are causing the problem. One cannot get a picture of hormonal balance without measuring all of the related hormones.
Many people take to the Internet for solutions when they have sexual problems. Unfortunately, while there is a wealth of information available, there is no real way to determine if the information is appropriate or downright dangerous. Searches often result in a multiple suggestions and recommendations for herbs, nutrients, diets, specialized proprietary supplements, exercises and other techniques—most of which are unproven and useless. Also, human differences can be critical. What might work for one person could be severely detrimental to another.
Even on sites that list herbs and nutrients that may be useful, few recommend testing to isolate problems, and almost none list appropriated dosages. Thus, it is up to the user to guess at where the problem originates, as well as try herbal remedies that, while useful for other problems—may be totally useless for the problem at hand. This often results in frustration, wasted money, and in some cases, harmful results.
Some of the issues that occur with aging are mere annoyances, but others, especially sexual problems 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 issues that are more complex, 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.
Author bio: 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. Saliva home hormone test kits and many sexual and other supplements are available at his website www.HealthNaturallyToday.com. You can connect with him directly at 239-652-0421, or email to DrJim@HealthNaturallyToday.com.