We all age. It’s part of life.
But most of us hope that as we age, we can maintain the highest quality of life possible. That we can keep as much of the energy, strength, and and appearance we enjoy in youth. At the same time, most of us hope to be spared the impairment that comes with chronic, degenerative diseases. Hormones are key players in our ability to feel and look young – as well as stave off the degenerative diseases of aging.
You see, as we age, hormone levels change. Typically, the hormones we like at high levels – fat burning, energy producing hormones – will fall. And the hormones we like at low levels – fat storing, energy depleting hormones – tend to rise. With this change, we look and feel older. Hormones often fall into a deficiency range, below the levels associated with the best health outcomes. This is when intervention with hormone optimization (through diet, the right amount and kind of exercise, sleep, lifestyle modifications, and hormone supplementation) can be extremely beneficial.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is one of these hormones. Unfortunately, it isn’t available to everyone who needs it, largely due to its price tag.
There is now a less expensive alternative. I’ll talk about that. But first, I’d like to talk a bit about HGH.
What Is HGH and What Does It Do?
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is a hormone that is secreted by a small gland at the base of the brain called the pituitary. It works on several different body tissues to promote healthy metabolism. HGH is an essential hormone in childhood to ensure proper growth and development; without HGH, you’d be a dwarf. HGH levels start to decline gradually from about age 21 onward. It is widely believed that many of the changes associated with aging are due largely to this decline in HGH.
Much of the work of HGH is done by a related hormone called Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). After HGH is secreted by the pituitary gland, it travels to the liver (and some other tissues) and is converted to IGF-1. IGF-1 travels to body tissues where it stimulates cell growth and proliferation. The easiest way to assess the HGH level in your body is by measuring the IGF-1 level in your blood.
What Are the Symptoms of HGH Deficiency?
- Increased body fat, especially around the waist
- Sleep disturbances/insomnia
- Anxiety and depression
- High LDL “bad” cholesterol & high triglycerides
- Decreased sexual function and interest
- Greater sensitivity to heat and cold
- Decreased muscle mass (lean body mass)
- Less strength, stamina and ability to exercise without taking a rest
- Loss of bone density
Why Is Human Growth Hormone So Sought After?
Growth hormone replacement therapy using HGH has been used by many Age Management practitioners as one of the most effective ways to treat Adult Onset Growth Hormone Deficiency, which often occurs with aging. Its beneficial effects have made it one of the best ways to treat age-related decline.
Benefits of much sought-after HGH include:
- Improved energy levels
- Decreased body fat
- Increased lean body mass
- Enhanced skin thickness and elasticity
- Increased collagen production
- Improved sleep
- Improved healing time and reduced infection rates after surgery
- Increased bone mineral density
- Improved cholesterol profile
- Improved exercise capacity
- Decreased recovery time between workouts
- Improved mood and overall well-being
Sounds pretty good, right?
So Why Aren’t We All Taking It?
The biggest barrier to pharmaceutical HGH use is cost. HGH is very expensive and therefore typically available only to people who can afford it. Also, most doctors don’t know how to evaluate and monitor patients accurately for HGH deficiency. It is important you be evaluated by a physician experienced in Age Management and optimizing HGH levels. Too much can be as dangerous as too little, so it’s important to be monitored by an experienced physician as well.
There are lots of products on the market that claim to raise HGH levels: pills, creams, sprays and powders. These were designed to take advantage of the fact that most people can’t afford pharmaceutical-grade injectable HGH. But buyer beware! The above list of benefits of HGH were observed using pharmaceutical, injectable HGH. None of these benefits have been objectively measured with the use of pills, creams, sprays or powders.
Sermorelin: A Lower Cost Alternative to HGH
One medication alternative to HGH is the use of Growth Hormone Releasing Factor 1–29 NH2-acetate, or Sermorelin, which has recently become available to physicians for use in Age Management Medicine. Sermorelin is an analog (similar molecule) of naturally occurring Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone (GHRH) whose activity also declines during aging. Unlike injectable HGH that causes production of the bioactive hormone IGF-1 from the liver, sermorelin simulates your own pituitary gland to increase production and secretion of your own body’s HGH. Then the secreted HGH travels to the liver to cause production of IGF-1 so it can do its work for your body.
So basically, instead of injecting HGH, you inject sermorelin, which causes your body to secrete more of its own HGH.
One of the advantages of using sermorelin is that the cost is significantly less than HGH.
How is Sermorelin Used?
Sermorelin is administered by an injection under the skin with a tiny needle once daily prior to bedtime, just like HGH. The time of injection is important because sermorelin complements the stimulation which naturally occurs during sleep and thereby facilitates the nighttime release of HGH that is characteristic of youth.
How Will You Know It’s Working?
Patients usually report improved sleep quality within the first few weeks of therapy. This usually comes along with improved mood and increased energy levels. After 3-6 months of therapy, most people report noticeable body changes like increased muscle tone and a leaner physique.
Like most peptide hormones, sermorelin takes about 6 months before full effects are noticed. Like HGH, sermoerlin is metabolized quickly and therefore requires daily dosing. Its action causes a chain reaction that results in elevated and sustained HGH and growth factor levels. So it does take some time to become optimal and see the benefits you’re looking to achieve.
Do You Need To Take It Forever?
In many instances, no. Sermorelin has an ongoing effect in which HGH levels can be sustained after the last injection. Initially, like HGH, it needs to be injected every day. But once optimal results are achieved, you can often be switched to a maintenance protocol eliminating the need for daily injections and further reducing the cost of therapy.
How Do You Get Started?
The starting place for any hormonal optimization program is a thorough evaluation including a blood draw to measure current levels and see if you are a candidate for therapy. Hormones do not exist in a vacuum, so a complete hormonal profile should be obtained. As well, diet, medical history, exercise, lifestyle factors and supplementation should all be taken into account before a protocol is initiated. By addressing these other factors, dosing can be kept to a minimum.
I strongly recommend an evaluation by a physician specializing in Age Management Medicine to determine a program best suited for your goals and to be sure you receive appropriate and responsible recommendations and monitoring.
You owe it to yourself to proactively take charge of your health before disease and decline take charge of you.