This is the 4th article in the series on the 5 principles of regenerative medicine. This was previously published in Healthy Beginnings Magazine. I hope you enjoy!!
Last week I had a patient come into my office. The patient, a pleasant and healthy 63-year-old former athlete, stated that he was depressed and low on energy and not feeling himself. I asked him what had changed? His reply: I ran out of testosterone. That same week I had another patient who, a senior in college, told me her head often feels cloudy, and her concentration and memory were not as sharp as they used to be. She said to me that even after a good night’s sleep she was fatigued and required three cups of coffee and a Redbull to get her day started.
What do both of these patients have in common you ask? They are both suffering from hormone insufficiency or deficiency. As we age or undergo extreme stressors in life, our hormone levels change and decline, leading to premature aging and infirmity. Many people don' t know what hormones are or what they do. Simply put, hormones are chemical messengers produced in one part of the body which elicit actions and effects on other parts of the body, mainly controlling the activity of cells and organs. Hormones are essential for every activity of life, including the processes of digestion, metabolism, growth, reproduction, and mood control. Without the proper hormone levels, premature aging and even death can occur.
Luckily science has given the medical field the ability to adjust, mimic and tweak hormone levels to help achieve optimal health. The most popular hormone therapies you may have heard of include testosterone or estrogen, but there are many more hormones available to help you feel your best and increase your longevity including DHEA, pregnenolone, cortisol, and thyroid to name a few.
Low testosterone has been extensively studied and is associated with increased risk of heart failure status post myocardial infarction, increase insulin resistance in men, and may predispose males to depression. Improving testosterone levels to the normal range is cardioprotective, stabilizes moods, improve healthy bone growth, increase lean muscles mass and not the least improves libido.
As women age, they undergo midlife changes which are subtle in some and more difficult in others. That time is called perimenopause which may start as early as the mid-30s, may last from 2 to 10 years and leads to menopause which by definition is 12 continuous months without a menstrual cycle. These midlife changes can be secondary to decreases in estrogen and progesterone secretion. The first symptoms are CNS related such as mood swings, sleep disturbance, and cognitive changes, followed by vasomotor symptoms (think hot flashes). Osteoporosis is one of the latter and most dangerous symptoms leading to fractures and loss of mobility. Although incorrectly and hotly debated for years, bio-identical estrogen therapy, coupled with progesterone, has been proven safe and effective for menopausal symptoms when used for fewer than five years.
DHEA is an intermediary molecule in the synthesis of both testosterone and estradiol. DHEA is being studied extensively and per Dr. Mercola is being "used to replace hormones (especially among people 40 years old and above), increase sex drive, combat the effects of aging, help prevent heart disease, assist in slowing down progression of Parkinson's disease, help prevent breast cancer, diabetes and metabolic syndrome." DHEA is such a popular and effective hormone supplement with athletes that it is banned in the NFL, the NBA, the MLB, the NCAA, and the Olympics. DHEA has been shown to help improve the adrenal gland, increase the immune system, increase libido, decrease inflammation, and increase bone and muscle strength, to name a few.
Pregnenolone is a hormone naturally produced in the body by the adrenal gland. Pregnenolone is the starting material in the production of testosterone, progesterone, cortisol, estrogen and other hormones. Because the body uses it biochemically as starting material, pregnenolone is sometimes referred to as a “precursor” or “prohormone.” Given its precursor status to many other hormones, pregnenolone is touted as an antiaging supplement thought to sharpen memory, reduce stress, stimulate the immune system and help alleviate depression.
As with any medication, it is vitally important to see your doctor and get appropriate testing before starting. All of the hormones discussed above can have severe and potentially life-threatening side effects. Although bio-identical hormone supplementation is a staple in the integrative medicine doctor's repertoire, please consult your physician to see if it is right for you.
Wilson, James L, N.D., D.C., Ph.D, Adrenal Fatigue. The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, Smart Publications, 2007, Petaluma, CA
Hypogonadism predisposes males to the development of behavioural and neuroplastic depressive phenotypes. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2011 Apr 9. Epub 2011 Apr 9. PMID: 21481538