Holistic Health and Low Testosterone

Symptoms associated with low testosterone in men include:

Is it Low T? and testosterone replacement therapy

Television commercials and doctors practicing hormone replacement therapy tell men that all these problems may simply be due to low testosterone. Therefore, all they need to do is take a drug which acts like testosterone, and their symptoms will go away.

In some situations this may help some men quickly feel better. However, these are numerous problems with this approach:

1) The causes of low testosterone is not considered

Proponents of testosterone mimicking drugs often blame a drop in testosterone to "Andropause" or "Male Menopause."

These phrases imply that low testosterone is due to natural changes men go through, which is comparable to menopause in women. But this is simply not true. Men do not have a pattern of cycling hormones which changes later in life.

There are many factors besides aging which can cause testosterone levels to fall in men. These are discussed in detail later in this article.

2) Testosterone drugs do not restore balance to the endocrine system

Testosterone is a hormone. Hormones are chemical messengers the body makes in order to self regulate itself. Hormones have profound effects on how we feel, and regulated by the endocrine system so we don't have too much, or too little.

When it comes to hormones, more is not better. High levels of a hormone can cause severe symptoms, and may even mimic symptoms of having too low levels. This is due to cellular resistance. Basically, if there is too much of a hormone, your cells respond by making less hormone receptors. This blunts the overall effect of the hormone, and is most well known with insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance happens when insulin levels are so high, that cells stop responding, and the hormone is no longer able to regulate blood sugar.

Although hormone resistance is most well known with insulin it can happen with other hormones as well. Whenever a doctors tries to balance hormone levels with drugs that mimic hormones, it can be tricky. Enough has to be given to have an effect, but not too much, or else side effects can happen.

Although doctors may think they can take a blood test and prescribe the correct amount of a hormone, no doctor can regulate hormones from outside the body, as good as a well functioning endocrine system. Every second of the day, the endocrine system works to keep numerous hormones (this includes testosterone, progesterone, cortisol, insulin, leptin and thyroid hormone) at proper levels and balance.

As detailed later in this article, hormone balance is vital. Testosterone does not work all by itself. There are complex interactions between hormones, which the body regulates literally every second.

From a holistic perspective, low levels of any hormone does not necessarily mean there is a need for hormone replacement.

Rather, there is often a general deregulation of the endocrine system which needs to be brought back in balance.

Testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, insuline and thyroid hormone work in balance

Hormone replacement therapy may help some people feel better very quickly, but it rarely restores balance to the endocrine system.

Often hormone replacement therapy means many return office visits to the prescribing doctor, to monitor hormone levels with blood tests, and readjust dosages based on symptoms.

In the meantime, the hormonal deregulation (and the problem which originally caused it) are still there. Nothing has really been fixed. Instead the symptoms of hormonal deregulation have been covered up with a drug.

3) hormone replacement therapy is potentially dangerous

There are many potential side effects of testosterone replacement therapy:
Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); breast tenderness or enlargement; calf or leg pain, swelling, or redness; change in the size or shape of the testicles; dark urine; excessive daytime sleepiness; frequent, prolonged, or painful erections; interrupted breathing while sleeping; loss of appetite; memory problems; mood or mental changes (e.g., anxiety, depression, hostility, suicidal thoughts); nausea; new or worsening trouble urinating (e.g., frequent urination, inability to urinate, weak urine stream); pale stools; severe or persistent headache; shortness of breath; skin discoloration; stomach pain; swelling of the ankles, feet, or legs; trouble sleeping or other sleep changes; unexplained or unusual weight gain; unusual tiredness or weakness; vomiting; yellowing of the skin or eyes.

However, in addition to simply listing possible side effects, something should be said about the history of hormone replacement therapy.

For decades women where prescribed synthetic estrogens to treat symptoms of menopause, prevent osteoporosis, stop atheroscleroses and in general make them feel a lot better. For a long time this was a standard care and hormones were prescribed without thought to long term dangers.

Then in 2002 the Women's Health Initiative found that hormone replacement theory significantly increased the risk of breast cancer, and the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

It took over 4 decades for this information to come out, and be appreciated by mainstream medicine.

With this history in mind, doesn't it make sense to now be cautious with testosterone replacement therapy in men?

Doesn't it make sense to try helping the body restore testosterone levels naturally first, rather than jumping straight to testosterone therapy as soon as low levels are found on a blood test?