Dr. Jill Stocker specializes in Age Management Medicine at The Body Well in Los Angeles.
Q. Lately, I feel like I just can’t keep up with life the way I used to. I’m not sure if this is a normal part of getting older or if there’s something else going on. I’ve heard a lot about how low testosterone can cause this feeling in men, but as a woman, is this something I should check into?
A. Yes! Most people don’t recognize that women naturally produce testosterone. In women, testosterone is produced in the ovaries and the adrenal glands. The term “Low T” stands for Low Testosterone. It’s not a term that only applies to men, despite the popular male-based portrayal of it in magazines, advertisements, and more. Hormonal decline in women, particularly testosterone, can start as early as the mid 30’s and can cause a multitude of symptoms. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Fatigue. This can be an overwhelming sense of exhaustion or a feeling you can’t make it through the day without exceeding the daily recommended dose of caffeine. It can also feel like an overall heaviness in your body. You might experience an extraordinary amount of effort to get motivated to do anything, even the simplest of tasks. No matter how much sleep you get, you still feel tired.
- Weight gain. A decrease in testosterone levels as you age can contribute to fat collecting around your midsection (also known as the infamous “muffin top”). This is more than just a cosmetic problem; increased abdominal fat puts a person more at risk for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Low testosterone can also make it harder to lose weight. Not only does the weight not change, it changes composition, resulting in from an increase in body fat and a decrease in lean muscle mass. This may result in an increased chance of osteoporosis, a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile and subject to fracture. Women are particularly prone to this because of hormonal changes/decline.
- Impaired cognitive function. “Brain fog” is a complaint I commonly hear from my female patients who have low testosterone. They frequently say things like “I just seem to be in a fog all the time and can’t quite get things done the way I used to”, or “I have a hard time remembering where I put my keys, finding the words for what I want to say, or recalling what task I was just about to do.” One of the first things I want to check upon hearing this are testosterone levels. Testosterone crosses the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer of tightly packed cells that selectively allows certain substances(including hormones) from passing freely into the brain. Studies have shown that testosterone replacement, and its subsequent ability to cross this blood brain barrier, showed enhanced blood perfusion in the brain, thus improving cognitive function.
- Mood swings/Depression. Low T can cause serious mood swings. You might be happy one moment and crying the next. You may experience excessive worry about things you’re usually able to handle, and become easily irritated easily by things that didn’t used to bother you. Low testosterone can also involve depressive thoughts, a sense of being overwhelmed with life, and a loss of self confidence. Many women are placed on antidepressants for these symptoms rather than addressing the hormonal imbalance itself.
- Sleep disturbances. One of the first symptoms of hormonal imbalances is a change in a person’s ability to sleep and/or their overall quality of sleep. Disturbances can involve difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, maintaining body temperature (night sweats), and a decline in REM sleep. This lack of restful sleep continues the vicious fatigue cycle. When a woman says to me they’re so exhausted that they just want to go to bed, but that when they finally get there, they can’t, I look at their testosterone level.
- Sex drive and sexual function. This is the symptom most closely associated with low testosterone. When testosterone levels decline it causes a decline in a woman’s libido, or desire to have sexual relations. It can further affect her overall sexual function and a decline in her ability to achieve orgasm. Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex can also happen when testosterone levels drop. Optimizing these levels can have a dramatic effect on a woman’s relationship with her significant other.
Many women have seen their primary physician saying things like “There’s something just not right with me”, or “I feel like something’s off”, and have been told that everything was “normal” according to the labs. If you have any of the above symptoms you should talk to an Age Management physician about getting your levels tested and about the option of bioidentical replacement hormone therapy. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is a term used when hormones are specifically designed and compounded in specialized pharmacies to mimic the body’s composition. These can be in the form of creams, pills, and/or injections, and are customized to each person.
Hormone Optimization doesn’t just involve giving hormones to someone (especially if they can’t take hormones for some reason.) That’s why it’s important to see an Age Management physician trained specifically in optimizing hormone levels and not just treating the lab value, but the person and their individualized symptoms.
The Carragher Method that I practice here at The Body Well approaches health through the Four Cornerstones of Age Management:
- Hormonal Optimization
- Nutrition and Nutraceuticals
- Intelligent Physical Fitness
- Mental Agility and Emotional Well-Being
Combining these factors to regulate testosterone levels can be a game changer in a woman’s life, catapulting her from “I feel ok for my age”, to “I feel better than the me I used to know.”
For an evaluation with Dr. Jill Stocker, please call (323) 874-9355 or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org