Considering Testosterone Replacement?

Proceed with caution

Man holding pill
Bartomeu Amengual/age fotostock/Getty Images

If you’ve lost your mojo, it might be tempting to ask your doctor for testosterone replacement therapy to make things better. But not so fast. Before you start taking a powerful medication, find out the underlying reason for your problem.

Compared with women, guys have it easy. Our reproductive systems are pretty straightforward.

A part of the brain called the hypothalamus sends signals to the pituitary gland - which sits just below the brain stem - to release hormones.

And one of these, called luteinizing hormone, travels to the testis to jump start testosterone production.

Testosterone is pretty much what separates the boys from the men. It gives us deeper voices, larger muscles, facial and body hair. It stimulates the growth of our sex organs at puberty and fuels libido.

What’s more, it helps to boost mood. It even helps us think more clearly!  

Usually, the hypothalamus acts like an awesome traffic cop. If we have too much testosterone, it tells the pituitary to slow down. If we don’t have enough, it tells it to speed production.

But with aging, the amount of testosterone produced naturally goes down. This is called "andropause.”

And sometimes, even for young guys, something goes wrong.

Low Testosterone Symptoms

  • Lower sex drive

  • Shrinking muscles

  • Higher percentage of body fat

  • Low sperm count (reduced fertility)

  • Loss of body hair

  • Depressed mood

If you’re suffering from these troublesome symptoms, you might feel tempted to ask your doctor for hormone replacement therapy.

The syndrome is known as hypogonadism.

And believe me, it’s no fun.

Testosterone Is Not Always the Problem

No wonder sales of male hormone replacement drugs now top 400 million a year in the United States.

But hormone replacement is powerful stuff. Some people experience unwanted side-effects. And the risks range from sleep apnea to heart failure.

So before you fill that expensive prescription, you might want to consider whether hormone replacement is really going to deal with the underlying cause.

Because the truth is, the core problem can sometimes be addressed without hormone replacement.

Potential causes of low testosterone symptoms include:

  • Poor liver function

  • Poor gastrointestinal health

  • Any acute illness

  • Blood sugar and insulin issues

  • Pituitary problems.

Failure to treat any of these underlying issues could lead to much bigger problems down the line. And taking hormone replacement therapy could be like slapping a bandage on a deep wound.

So, if you’re dealing with symptoms of hypogonadism, try not to jump to conclusions.

First, ensure that your doctor rules out—or treats—the underlying conditions that can lead to these problems.

Get Tested

Bottom line?  If you have symptoms of low testosterone, get tested.

A good male hormone panel will include:

  • total and free testosterone

  • the estrogens (estrone, estradiol, estriol)

  • androstenedione

  • sex hormone binding globulin

  • DHEA

  • DHT

  • luteinizing hormone

Also, consider an adrenal salivary panel to assess cortisol levels.

Some doctors may hesitate to run such an extensive panel, but for your long-term health, it’s worth it.

We still don’t know the long-term effects of male hormone replacement therapy. And if you don’t have to take this medication, you probably don’t want to.

For the sake of your overall health, you owe it to yourself to get the real story.

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