Open any men’s magazine or visit a website that targets men or men’s health and you probably will see them – ads promoting testosterone hormone therapy.
Mainstream medicine really wants you to take their synthetic testosterone drugs to improve muscle mass, lose weight, improve sex drive, and boost your mood.
But is testosterone therapy the answer to these and other issues that commonly affect men as they approach and surpass their 50th year?
Marketing moguls and companies that will profit from selling their testosterone products want you to believe it can. After all, use of testosterone therapy promises to combat aging and some of the fears and anxieties that go along with it.
Why wouldn’t you want that? The “fountain of youth” in a gel! Sex like a teenager!
I have a bunch of friends who are on T-therapy and none of them have been diagnosed with actual male hypogonadism (see below for the clinical definition of low-T). All of them except one (who takes it for cosmetic reasons) have been convinced that the symptoms they are experiencing as they age are due to low testosterone.
I say the same thing to each of them – you need L-therapy not T-therapy.
What do I mean by this?
The medical community and testosterone clinics argue that your low-T is the reason for your decreased sex drive, loss of energy and other symptoms.
But the evidence, clinical trials and studies are clear that changing your “lifestyle” (hence my term “L-therapy”) has the greatest impact on the symptoms you are experiencing.
It’s not low-T that’s your problem – it’s a mix of other lifestyle factors that are contributing to your loss of energy, sex drive and vigor.
The good news though is that you can do something about it.
Before I get to this however, it helps to recap what testosterone therapy is.
Testosterone therapy not the best route
Testosterone therapy (or testosterone replacement therapy) is typically prescribed for men who have low testosterone levels, symptoms of low T, or normal T levels but still have the symptoms of low T.
And contrary to what the ads tell you, in most of these cases, testosterone therapy is not the appropriate treatment even though now it’s considered to be “the remedy” for the classic symptoms most often associated with men as they get older.
Experts generally agree that testosterone levels naturally decline about 1 percent per year starting around age 30. However, there are two other factors to consider. One is the finding that “poor health may accelerate the age-related decline” in androgen [testosterone and other male hormone] levels.”
Another comes from results gathered from men who participated in the Healthy Man Study in Australia. David Handelsman, MD, PhD, director of the ANZAC Research Institute at the University of Sydney and his team studied 325 men, age 40 to 97, over a three-month period. They took nine blood samples during that time and measured testosterone levels.
Over the study period, T levels did not change in the men, leading Handelsman to say that “age alone does not make you testosterone deficient,” and that men who have a drop in T levels should talk to their doctor about underlying health conditions that could be contributing to the decline.
Testosterone therapy for men is available in five different forms.
- Patch. Two different types of patches are available: one that can be worn on the arm or upper body and applied once daily; or one that delivers the hormone through the membranes in the mouth via a patch applied twice daily to the upper gums.
- Gels. Two types of gels are available: one that is applied to the skin and another that is applied inside the nostrils.
- Injections: The hormone can be injected directly into the muscles. This is the type of therapy promoted by Cenegenics and most other low-T clinics. It can cost $1,000-$2,000 a month to be on one of these programs.
- Implants: Pellets of testosterone can be implanted in the soft tissues and the body can slowly absorb the hormone into the bloodstream.
- Pills: Although testosterone is available in oral form, it is not well absorbed and can damage the liver.
Remember that these are all drugs. Testosterone therapy is not the same as using natural supplements that can help your body build more free testosterone. T-therapy is supposed to be the use of the hormone “testosterone” (although it’s often synthetic) applied in one of the forms above. Natural supplements on the other hand do not contain testosterone but can help with the promotion of your own natural testosterone production.
What is a normal testosterone level?
Experts have been challenged to identify a “normal” testosterone level for men because there are many factors to consider. For example, fluctuations in daily rhythms, age, use of medication, presence of health conditions, and the levels of sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) all can have an impact on total T levels.
That said, mainstream medicine has decided have established that the normal range of total testosterone in adult males is from 240 to 900 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter). If that seems like a pretty huge range, I agree. Plus, the actual number doesn’t really matter. A value of less than 200 ng/dL is considered to be hypogonadism, or true “testosterone deficiency”, in which the body is not naturally producing enough of the hormone. This can be the result of a problem with the testes (primary hypogonadism) or with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland (secondary hypogonadism).
Both types of hypogonadism are typically treated with testosterone therapy, which is the only legitimate use of this treatment approach.
Side effects of testosterone therapy
The side effects of testosterone therapy alone are reason enough to avoid this treatment strategy. One of the scariest adverse effects is an increased risk of heart attack. A recent study reported that within three months of taking testosterone therapy, men 65 and older as well as younger men who had heart disease had double the rate of heart attacks.
Also, unless you like the idea of becoming hooked on testosterone therapy you definitely want to look at other options. Because that’s what can happen as the body stops making the hormone as it increasingly depends on the therapy.
Other side effects of testosterone therapy can include increased risk for stroke, polycythemia (red blood cell volume elevation), sleep apnea, acne, and breast enlargement.
Just watch and listen to the TV ads. The first 15 seconds are all builders, pilots and mechanics with 5 day facial hair doing manly things. The other 3 minutes are spent listing all the side effects.
Bodybuilders and other heavy t-users also have to book frequent trips to see a Phlebotomist for blood transfusions – to prevent the heavy blood clotting that occurs due to the therapy.
If you are considering testosterone therapy, be sure you ask your doctor to first check your testosterone levels. This is easily achieved using either a blood or saliva test. Hypogonadism is not that common, so chances are you don’t need testosterone therapy.
Also, get your levels checked in the morning when your T-levels are usually the highest. Some low-T clinics make a point of asking you to come in to get checked in the late afternoon when your T-levels are at their daily low. It’s a cheap trick that pretty much 100% of the time leads to you getting a prescription.
If you don’t want to fall victim to these drugs or their side effects, then make sure you check in with me for next week’s letter. I’ll show you the classic symptoms leading to being prescribed testosterone therapy, and how to use “L”-therapy instead to get all the benefits of more testosterone with none of the problems.