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Tag Archives: testosterone
June 17, 2017 : looking back hardly a day or two goes by since this year began when a question about medical marijuana or as we call it out here “marijuana” and what is going to happen next July when it becomes real is asked. Last month I was asked by a group of Nurse Practitioners to present on a topic I rarely speak about but fill prescriptions for often – BioIdentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. I like to use the term supplement instead of replacement but it really made me think about the tough upward climb this category has had and continues to have based on a few position statements from such groups as SOGC and NAMS.
Looking at the marijuana issue, never before have we seen a couple of ingredients leap onto the potential healthcare market with the claim to relieve or cure so many, many health issues. Never before have so many N of 1, anecdotal reports driven an entire category of mostly unproven therapies. Granted there are some valuable uses of the drug that have been used for years but many have been very overblown with the main selling point of “no one has died”.
Turning to my upcoming presentation, I started mulling over the studies that have shown for years the benefits and limitations of all types of hormone therapy that I have collected and still continue to collect on the topic. Speaking to the public on a subject is different than talking to medical professionals. I speak to both groups all the time on all topics. To narrow down an hour worth of meaningful, compelling, convincing data that flows easily on a medical treatment that is foreign to a professional group so that you don’t lose them is daunting.
If I present on a topic I have a clear conflict of interest with such as this, I always open with that and some literature from the other side of the argument. There is no problem here with BHRT as lots of naysayers exist. In truth, I have found there are as many cases of overblown promises with BHRT and there are complete opposite downplay of any proven benefits and exaggeration of adverse effects. A segment from Climacteric from just this year was the best I could find that slammed this type of therapy over a dozen sentences. We now see less of an issue with the term BioIdentical, since estrogen and progesterone are both found in the commercial prescription drug industry in Canada more and more in a bioidentical form, especially since the Women’s Health Initiative Study over a decade ago that effectively stopped conjugated equine estrogen and medroxyprogesterone acetate from being dispensed overnight. So at least Big Pharma has caught up with compounding in some ways.
I continue in my talk to disprove the issues just laid out from the climacteric slide: that hormones do pass predictably through human skin and give resultant increases in the body (given the correct fluid is tested), that the stability of the hormone in the right base is predictable, that saliva testing is legitimate and useful in showing levels of active hormones (especially for topically applied hormones), and that all hormone therapies have benefits and risks associated with them, regardless of what hormone therapy that entails.
Given the criticisms the WHI received, one thing we did find from the CEE/MPA regimen was the decrease in fracture risk. With the older average age of the subjects in that study and the lack of topical hormone or actual BHRT used, there is very little to pull from that study for this talk. There are however many studies that can and do show the benefit of BHRT. Most of these are smaller studies than we are used to in the prescription world. One point to take away though is we have seen a top seller in our prescription market fall away to nothing and the public is looking at us and asking how could we be so wrong all these years about something that was so blatantly clear in a study that it cut the study short? Evidence slowly grows on bioidentical hormones but is showing even to our commercial drug industry that it is a safe benefit.
The International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding published a three part study on the topic of BHRT. In this small study, surveys were given to women on HRT. The response rate was 70 on BHRT and 53 on synthetic hormone therapy. Each survey consisted of 15 questions that probed such topics as symptom relief, reasons for starting hormone therapy, side effects, age of starting therapy and type of therapy. In the areas of hot flashes, night sweats, sleep quality, dry skin/hair, vaginal dryness, foggy thinking, mood swings and decreased libido, bioidentical therapy outperformed synthetic therapy in all counts. In side effects from therapy, bioidentical was preferred over synthetic for side effects like difficulty sleeping, weight gain, breast tenderness, bloating, upset stomach, breakthrough bleeding, foggy thinking, mood swings and leg pain. Drowsiness occurred more frequently with bioidentical than with synthetic.
A huge concern with bioidentical and compounded hormones is the threat of cancer in hormone therapy. In 2008 a study that looked at over 80,377 post menopausal women, 2354 of them developed invasive breast cancer. Compared to the women that never used HRT, estrogen alone therapy was associated with a 1.29 fold relative risk, 1.69 with estrogen/progestagen and a relative risk of 1 with the estrogen/progesterone women.
In other studies we have seen the benefits from BHRT in areas of insulin resistance, blood pressure, lipids, endothelial function, arteriosclerosis, thrombotic risk, and neuroprotection. More and more we are seeing studies unfolding showing not only is BHRT a healthy and safe option for women of all ages but is also brings quality of life to these patients that they have lost since the Women’s Health Initiative Study came out. Saliva testing for topicals is also shown to be useful as topically applied hormones aren’t reflected in blood draws like oral is. Oral hormone therapy has shown itself to be an unhealthy route for women and topical application has proven itself to be the preferred choice longterm.
So yes, thank you Marijuana, or more correctly CBD:THC. Your very sudden rush to the market has been touted for virtually every medical issue going right now. There are definite benefits in areas such as pain, perhaps PTSD (and a few others) but completely untested and unproven “benefits” in so many other areas. It has shown us that there are areas like BHRT that we’ve been told we had zero proof for but really do have volumes of proof when we compare it to the complete lack of proof in marijuana for many of the areas it is being used for.
Orozco ,P. et al. Salivary Testosterone is associated with higher lumbar bone mass in premenopausal healthy women with normal levels of serum testosterone. European Journal of Epidemiology 16:907-912,2000
Wright, JV. Bio-Identical Steroid Hormone Replacement. Selected Observations from 23 years of Clinical and Laboratory Practice. Ann.N.Y.Acad.Sci. 1057:506-524 (2005)
Hofling, M, MD et al. Testosterone inhibits estrogen/progestogen-induced breast cell proliferation in postmenopausal women. Menopause:The Journal of The North American Menopause Society. Vol 14, No.2, pp 183-190
Holtorf, MD. The Bioidentical Hormone Debate: Are Bioidentical Hormones (Estradiol,Estriol, and Progesterone) Safer or More Efficacious than Commonly Used Synthetic Versions in Hormone Replacement Therapy? Postgraduate Medicine, Volume 121, Issue 1, January 2009
Schwartz, E.T. MD. Hormones in Wellness and Disease Prevention: Common Practices, Current State of the Evidence, and Questions for the Future. Prim Care Clin Office Pract 35(2008) 669-705
Deleruyelle, LJ. Menopausal Symptom and Side Effects Experienced by Women Using Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy and Synthetic Congugated Equine Estrogen and/or Progestin hormone Replacement Therapy: Part 3 . International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding Jan/Feb 2017 pp 6-16
Stephenson, K. MD FAAFP. Salivary Hormone Profile. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding vol 8 no 6 November/December 2004
Wepler, ST. A Review of Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding Vol.6 No.2, March/April 2002
With the erectile dysfunction (ED) market expected to reach 3.4 billion dollars (USD) by 2019, this is a lucrative area to invest in, and not much grabs the attention of a guy watching a commercial during a Monday night football game than the promise to easily cure this problem with one pill as needed. But is this the answer for everyone? What causes ED? For the guy with no apparent risk factors like depression or diabetes, hypothyroidism, injury or stress issues, erectile dysfunction or loss of libido (which don’t necessarily go hand in hand) can be confusing and frustrating for a guy as well as his partner.
What if we look at erectile dysfunction as something that can be addressed as a condition other than a “pill for every ill”. What if we actually look at a nutrient level that directly correlates to a medical condition and follow the science to give a directive on its recommendation? Well it turns out taking a simple zinc supplement won’t help 100% of the time, but it certainly helps some of the time.
There are two things that need to be looked at in recommending a supplement for a medical condition: what is the physiology of the medical condition and what is the pharmacology of the supplement you are using. There then is a search for a link between the two that leads to a tie in with a therapeutic approach. In some ways this is like a logic course that says A causes B, B causes C therefor A causes C. We then must apply this to the scientific method and finally the ultimate test: clinical response and safety. This is often made out to be the gold standard for our typical Rx meds that I dispense every day, but often ridiculed when it crosses the barbed wired “nutraceutical” boarder. If it is a nutrient then we must be getting the right amount in our food after all right? Regardless of 1)what the real amount is in the food we eat, not to mention 2)the depletion that may be taking place of that nutrient due to a prescription drug we are taking (an absolute science based cause and effect) – we blindly accept what our food has in it and the level our bodies maintain – this is an incorrect assumption. In fact it is quite ironic that the anti-nutraceutical court is still hanging onto this assumption when both are established by science.
So what causes erectile dysfunction? Sometimes it is a circulation problem. Sometimes it is a low testosterone issue. Sometimes it is not. Testosterone (T) supplementation can help ED and low libido in cases of low T and even if there is a normal T level at baseline, ED can be helped. In cases where thyroid under or overactivity is causing T levels to be less than optimal. Aging is also a problem as T levels drop after mid 20’s and as adipose tissue increases and aromatase enzyme conversion of T to Estrogen correspondingly increases. This causes an unfavorable E:T ratio which equates to low T.
When men are given supplemental testosterone it can have positive effects on erectile dysfunction as well as the “grumpy old men” syndrome of low energy, loss of drive, low libido, and loss of endurance as well as “man boobs”. Zinc has a direct effect on the two main enzyme systems that act on testosterone: conversion of testosterone to estrogen via aromatase and the conversion of testosterone to DHT by 5 alpha reductase. Zinc blocks the testosterone to estrogen pathway leading to more testosterone. It turns out that only at really high zinc levels does zinc inhibit the 5 alpha reductase enzyme so when we give mild to moderate zinc supplements, DHT actually increases because there is more testosterone to feed into this pathway. This actually benefits things because DHT has 2-3 times the times the androgen receptor affinity than testosterone. In any case, we see an increase of testosterone and androgenic activity from DHT with zinc supplements and whether a guy has low or normal T to begin with, there is a positive change in erectile dysfunction and libido in some men due to the increased androgenic activity and less estrogen pulling in the opposite direction. Conversely we see testosterone levels drop when a diet is low in Zinc as well as a drop in DHT. It is important to note that this effect of increased testosterone with zinc supplementation, while well established, does not always lead to an improvement of ED and increased Libido.
Clinically I have seen these results in doses of just 20 mg twice daily. It is important to note that prolonged zinc supplementation can lead to lowered copper levels so it is not advisable to continue this therapy unless it is in a cyclical nature. For those on long term zinc there are combination products with Zinc and Copper. In cases where some prescriptions that lower zinc are given, like acid lowering meds, thiazide diuretics and ACE inhibitors, or in renal dialysis patients, this chronic monitoring of zinc may lead to longer term supplementation.
So, in establishing physiology, pharmacology, clinical results and safety, zinc is a good choice when you look at cost and side effect profile as well as ease of availability and interaction profile with other meds and other medical conditions. Having said all of this, there is no bulletproof evidence out there guaranteeing that increasing your zinc consumption either in food or via a supplement will improve ED or increase libido. Even if a patient experiences an increase in testosterone from such a supplementation, this is not a certain gateway to resolution of theses symptoms as there is more to it than just one hormone level. However for those that are experiencing problems in these areas, it is certainly worth a try for them. The patient should be mindful however that supplements should be treated like any other medication and trying to increase your testosterone shouldn’t be done without consultation with your doctor and pharmacist. You should also check for any interactions with any meds or medical conditions before trying any supplement as well.
Jalali GR1, Roozbeh J, Mohammadzadeh A, Sharifian M, Sagheb MM, Hamidian Jahromi A, Shabani S, Ghaffarpasand F, Afshariani R. Impact of oral zinc therapy on the level of sex hormones in male patients on hemodialysis. Ren Fail. 2010 May;32(4):417-9.
Michael F. Leitzmann, Meir J. Stampfer, Kana Wu, Graham A. Colditz, Walter C. Willett and Edward L. Giovannucci Zinc Supplement Use and Risk of Prostate Cancer journal of the National Cancer Institute. Volume 95 , Issue 13 pp 1004-1007