Understanding Bioidentical Hormones

1.jpgTestosterones are a class of male hormones called androgens that is vital for sexual and reproductive development. The National Institutes of Health holds testosterone as the most important male hormones, and while women produce testosterone as well, it is far more crucial for male reproduction.

It’s essential for the development of male sex organs ahead of birth, and is vital during puberty when the secondary sex characteristics are being formed, including an increase in penis and testes size, growth of facial and body hair, and deepening of the voice. As well, it’s used to regulate the fat distribution, sperm production, red cell production, sex drive, and the maintenance of the strength and mass of muscles.

For women, testosterone takes more of a secondary role in body development. While women do still need it, they have a higher reliance on other hormones. It still helps with maintenance of body muscles and mass, red cell production and regulation of sex drives, but it has far less influence during on body growth during puberty than it does in men.

Both men and women benefit from testosterone, which is why it is so important to ensure proper regulation of it. Often during the early 30’s, the production of testosterone will decrease. However, there are instances where the body will produce too much or little to meet the needs of our bodies. If you have questions or concerns you should speak with your doctor, whether you’re a man or a woman, as both genders are capable of problems. If you have any of the signs of symptoms listed below then you should start talking with your doctor.

What is High Testosterone?

It’s rare to find a case of high testosterone. Adrenal tumors, hyperthyroidism, and precocious puberty are all able to cause it, however none of these are common occurrences. Those with high testosterone are likely abusing steroids, and the ones most likely to do this are individuals involved in the athletic community.


Often depression is thought of as extreme sad feelings, but it’s more like extreme dejection and despondency. It’s more than just feeling sad. Depression will make an individual feel isolated, hopeless, and cause them to lose interested in many things they used to enjoy, such as hobbies or social interaction. High testosterone levels in those over 35 are often linked to depression, especially for women. This is because there is a major hormonal imbalance, and you body is trying to overcompensate for that imbalance.


This occurs mostly in men, but individuals with higher levels of testosterone often respond to situations in a very hostile manner, sometimes overtly. These people may have short tempers, overreact to inconveniences or annoyances, and may even become violent.

Decrease Testicular Size/Sperm Count:

The reason that this occurs is that your body takes all of the excess testosterone and converts it to estrogen. This causes men to produce less sperm. If you see a change in your testicular size then you should speak to your doctor right away.

Frequent and Major Mood Swings:

Everyone experiences mood swings in their lives. It’s something that happens and no one should feel ashamed for it when it does. However, the keywords are frequent and major. Most often a mood swing means going between two emotions in a short time, but high testosterone can cause this to be several emotions in the range of a minute. One second they may be happy, then suddenly they become sad, then shortly after they can become enraged. They may become impulsive, and will right away talk to themselves because of it. This can all play a big role in their aggression as well.

Lowered Libido:

This symptom can occur for both cases of higher/lower levels of testosterone, but the case of higher than normal testosterone, it is generally a combination of the above mentioned symptoms. While it’s thought that a higher testosterone level would increase the sex drive and libido, it’s actually able to do just the opposite. Mood affects our libido greatly, and if you’re experiencing major mood swings, it can negatively affect your personal sex life.

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What are the Effects of Low Testosterone?

Your body will naturally lower how much testosterone it produces to meet your needs as you age. Though we often don’t feel the effects of this until we’re in our 60’s, the average start for the decreasing process is age 30. Low testosterone is much more common than high, though they have some similar signs and symptoms.

Erectile Dysfunction:

Erectile dysfunction is the inability of a man to maintain an erection sufficient enough for sexual activity. Now it’s important to know that low testosterone is rarely the sole cause of ED, and the other causes will also need to be treated, which could be anything from emotional strain to substance abuse. That being said, it can cause issues in the regulation of sex organs. Testosterone stimulates sex drives, it also aids in maintaining erections. It helps to stimulate the receptors in the brain, as well as produce the nitric oxide in male sex organs.


Also known as early menopause, this is the time from before and, up to a year, after the final menstrual period for women. Menopause decreases the amount of testosterone in women, which is a natural occurrence. When a woman has low testosterone this process will begin earlier, and it will result in irregular periods, lowered libido, fatigue, and other such symptoms.

Hair Growth and Loss:

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the specific type of testosterone that regulates hair growth, and it is produced by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. It’s in the skin and allows hair to grow in a given place. As you age the DHT will be distributed differently throughout your body, which means not only is your hair thinning out on top, but it’s probably increasing on your face, back, chest, or other places. When people joke about their hair moving from their head to their back, that really is what happened.

Increased Body Fat and Loss of Muscle Mass:

As mentioned before, testosterone plays a major role in building and maintaining muscle mass. This means that if you have less testosterone then you likely will have less muscle mass. This does not necessarily mean a loss of strength or function, but it can mean an increase in overall body fat. Starting at middle age, men will see their testosterone decline steadily until they reach “adrenopause” which is when they have a partial androgen deficiency. Testosterone also plays a key role in the balancing and regulating of your fat metabolism, insulin, and glucose.

In particular, men can experience gynecomastia, a swelling of breast tissue caused by the imbalance in testosterone and estrogen levels. Men will often have swollen breast gland tissues, they’ll be tender, and there may even be discharge from one or both of the nipples. Gynecomastia is able to affect just one or both of the breasts, and sometimes in uneven amounts.


Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become fragile and brittle due to a loss of tissue, often because of changes in hormones or a deficiency of calcium and/or vitamin D. Due to testosterone being a part of maintaining the density and mass of bones this is a problem not just for women, but for men with low testosterone. Bones from an individual with this are much easier to break.

The Effects of Hypogonadism

Hypogonadism is the condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough testosterone. This is different from lower testosterone, as its either from birth or a result of infection or injury. You can experience the above mentioned symptoms without ever having hypogonadism. Still, it’s vital that we know what the symptoms are for all life stages:

In babies:

  • Ambiguous genitalia
  • Female genitals on a genetically male child
  • Underdeveloped male genitalia

In pubescent boys:

  • A lack of developed muscle mass
  • No deepening of the voice
  • Lack of facial and body hair
  • Slow increase in size of penis and testicles
  • Arms and legs that grow out of proportion to the rest of the body

In men after puberty:

  • Infertility
  • Lacking in their sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Little body or facial hair
  • The growth of the breast tissue

As the level of testosterone in the body decreases with age, men may also experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Lower libido
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in sleep patterns

How does Testosterone Replacement Therapy Work?

If a doctor confirms that you have a strangely low testosterone level then they might suggest you get treatment. This is called testosterone replacement therapy, and some of the forms include:

  • Transdermal (Aka “Skin Patch”): These patches are applied daily, and generally are use on the upper body and/or arms. These patches contain the medication prescribed to the patient and are designed in such a way that the medication permeates the skin in a controlled fashion, thus attaining more steady levels of the drug in the body.
  • Mouth Patch: These are similar to the skin patches, and will be applied twice a day to the upper gums, above the incisors.
  • Gels: These lotions will be rubbed on the skin, usually once a day, and the medicine will be absorbed in this way.
  • Injections/Implants: As implied, these treatments are injected directly into the bloodstream, slowly absorbing the testosterone into the system.
  • Pills: Pills and supplements are also offered but often have negative effects on the liver. These are not recommended unless there is a need, for example if you have an allergic reaction to another form of treatment.

As with most things, there are risks to this therapy. The immediate side effects are normally mild, things like acne or irregular breathing patterns while sleeping. The long term ones can be dangerous though. The testosterone addition can cause problems with the cardiovascular system, leading to heart attack or stroke, and, though the research hasn’t shown this yet, it’s thought that the replacement therapy might be stimulating prostate cancer cells, causing them to grow more. It’s best you speak with your doctor before you make any major or rash decisions. You speak with them about getting your testosterone levels tested, and then determine what the risks are for you and what the next steps, if any, are that you should take.

You’ll want to have a more realistic look at testosterone replacement therapy. It’s not a miracle cure for aging, and most doctors will advise against it entirely if symptoms are entirely derivative of getting older.