Androgen Replacement Therapy
Androgen replacement therapy is restoring levels of androgens to optimal healthy levels. Androgens are hormones that stimulate, regulate, and maintain male sex characteristics. Two primary androgens that are used in androgen hormone replacement therapy include testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA. Both of them have great health benefits.
Testosterone: It Does More Than You Think
Testosterone is frequently called the male hormone, yet it has many benefits that go beyond improving libido and building muscle. Testosterone is the focus of androgen replacement therapy.
It helps to decrease body fat. It improves blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, and it is now recommended that males recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes be screened for low testosterone. Testosterone improves total and LDL or “bad” cholesterol. It improves wound and tissue healing, and memory and cognition. Testosterone may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Bone density is improved by testosterone, too.
Testosterone can help maintain normal blood pressure and it improves production of nitric oxide, a necessary product for blood vessel health. Testosterone can help in the management of depression and provides a sense of well-being.
DHEA: The Mother of All Hormones
DHEA is the most abundant hormone in the body. Levels of DHEA begin to decline in our early 20s and by the time we’re 80 we make only 10% to 20% of the DHEA as we did in our 20s. DHEA is a precursor hormone that gets converted into testosterone, estrogens, and progesterone. But, DHEA is its own health benefits, too.
DHEA improves the immune system enabling us to avoid infections and reduce the risk of cancer. DHEA is now being used more and more in the treatment of autoimmune disorders like lupus. DHEA delays atrophy or shrinkage of the thymus, a vital immune system organ. DHEA counteracts the harmful effects of cortisol produced in response to stress.
Like testosterone DHEA improves insulin sensitivity and improves body composition. DHEA has been shown to improve bone density in men with osteoporosis. Low levels of DHEA are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and depression and some antidepressant medications lower DHEA levels. Low levels of DHEA are linked to heart disease, too.
Androgen Replacement Treatment Options
Many options exist for androgen replacement therapy in men. Testosterone replacement can be given as an intramuscular injection typically given once a week, as a topical cream or gel that is applied to the skin daily, by insertion of pellets under the skin, and as a buccal pellet applied to the gums.
Injectable testosterone is considered the gold standard and gives the best blood levels. Topical testosterone has the advantage of more closely mimicking the body’s natural daily production of testosterone. See “Testosterone Therapy“.
DHEA replacement is given orally. DHEA is considered a nutritional supplement and can be obtained over the counter. There is a difference, however, between food grade (found over the counter) and pharmaceutical grade DHEA that can be obtained from a compounding pharmacy. To ensure high quality consider using a compounding pharmacy for DHEA.
Men low in androgens can regain much of their health with androgen replacement therapy.