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Testosterone, an androgen hormone, can provide numerous health benefits including improving libido in menopausal women and women with diminished testosterone.
Testosterone isn’t just for men. In fact, this androgen hormone is produced in small amounts in women’s ovaries and adrenal glands.
As women approach age 40 their levels of estrogen, progesterone and androgens (testosterone) begin to decline. Once in menopause or if they’ve had their ovaries removed, testosterone levels drop even further and androgen-deficiency symptoms such as low sex drive and diminished energy may appear.
This once maligned hormone was thought to be one of the culprits behind acts of violence and rage.
Yet in controlled doses testosterone can be highly beneficial to menopausal women considering hormone replacement therapy, particularly if they’re experiencing low sex drive unrelated to physical or emotional factors.
Estrogen and Progesterone Hormone Replacement Isn’t Always Enough
Although most doctors prescribe estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy to protect women against osteoporosis, bone loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and to alleviate mood changes, hot flashes and vaginal dryness, these hormones might not improve their libido or energy levels. Dr. William Regelson, MD, and author of The Superhormone Promise, suggests that testosterone is the missing piece of the puzzle for hormone replacement therapy.
“For many women who feel they are not quite themselves, the ingredient missing from the blueprint is testosterone.” Dr. Regelson found that including testosterone in the hormone replacement mix, even for brief periods of time, can mimic our “normal hormonal state” and help women better tolerate estrogen and progesterone.
Benefits of Testosterone Hormone Replacement for Women:
- Increases sexual drive
- Maintains and builds lean mass and reduces body fat
- Strengthens bone
- Promotes a sense of well-being, boosts mood
- Supports cognitive function (ability to focus on a task)
Testosterone has also been shown to reduce vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, and urinary tract issues, although this might be due to the fact that much of testosterone is converted to estrogen, the hormone responsible for alleviating several urogenital symptoms.
Although few studies exist regarding the risks and benefits of testosterone hormone replacement in women, one research study conducted showed that testosterone improved overall well-being, some measures of bone density, sexual drive, mood, energy and even sleep quality.¹
Types of Testosterone Hormone Replacement Therapy
Most doctors won’t prescribe testosterone pills due to the risk of liver toxicity and because this form can lower levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol in your body. Bioidentical testosterone (bioidentical means it is similar to what your body naturally produces on its own) is available in transdermal forms such as gels, creams and patches or in sublingual drops and tablets.
Deciding if Testosterone Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Right For You
The key to bioidentical estrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormone replacement therapy is to supplement if your levels are measurably low, using the lowest dose necessary to alleviate the greatest number of symptoms. If you are considering testosterone hormone replacement therapy:
- Test levels. Ask your doctor to test your androgen, DHEA, estrogen and progesterone levels. Progesterone may also improve libido. Saliva testing is more accurate for some hormones because it measures “free” hormone levels (the active hormones) rather than only overall totals. ZRT labs offers home kits, saliva and blood spotting. You can then take the results to your doctor to consult.
Consider DHEA. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) a precursor to testosterone, is milder and in low doses can provide some of the same therapeutical effects for women. Dr. Christine Northrop, a pioneer in women’s health, recommends that if your testosterone and DHEA is depleted to take DHEA, although you need to wait about four months to feel the effect. If after four months you don’t notice any improvement, consider testosterone hormone replacement.Click here for DHEA products.
- Avoid if you’re in childbearing years. Most younger women produce ample amounts of testosterone.
Although testosterone shouldn’t be prescribed across the board for all menopausal woman, it can benefit women who despite estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy and DHEA supplementation, still experience low energy levels, diminished sex drive and reduced sensitivity to sexual arousal.
Painter, Lisa. “Testosterone: A Major Breakthrough for Menopausal Women,” Discovery Health. July 15, 2008. http://health.discovery.com/centers/womens/testosterone/testosterone.html
K. K. Miller, B. M. K. Biller, C. Beauregard, J. G. Lipman, J. Jones, D. Schoenfeld, J. C. Sherman, B. Swearingen, J. Loeffler and A. Klibanski. Effects of Testosterone Replacement in Androgen-Deficient Women with Hypopituitarism: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 91, No. 5 1683-1690.