The British Menopause Society broke a taboo to talk about sex drive in women. In the article, Testosterone on NHS ‘could help boost women’s libido’, they note that women lose sexual desire as they go through menopause, with “15% of menopausal women” having a complete loss of libido. In response, Nick Panay, a gynaecologist, suggests that testosterone products should be prescribed to women, at a lower dose to men, so they can benefit too.
Testosterone is the male hormone and it might be surprising to know that women need this too. In fact, men and women have a balance of both sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone, in their body. In men testosterone is secreted from the brain and the testicles. In women, the hormone is secreted from the brain and the ovaries. When the ovaries stop working or are removed as part of a hysterectomy or partial hysterectomy, then testosterone levels drop off.
Although the loss of libido is the headline impact, when talking about testosterone, there are six other debilitating effects on women. Learning about the symptoms of low testosterone in women might help contextualise the British Menopause Society’s suggestion that it should be prescribed.
Impact one: Low testosterone causes an increased sense of fatigue and exhaustion.
If women find that they are still tired, even after a good night’s sleep, then it is possible that this is a symptom of low testosterone. When testosterone levels drop too low then you can feel exhausted and drained. In fact, disrupted sleep is also a symptom of testosterone and can therefore heighten the exhaustion felt. Hormonal balance is massively important to feel rested and energetic.
Impact two: Weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
There is a reason why bodybuilders have taken testosterone through the ages, it helps to boost lean muscle gain. Testosterone helps muscles to recover more quickly after exercise. However, in men and women, a reduction of testosterone causes fat to gather around the middle. With less testosterone, estrogen levels can boom, which in turn can decrease the density of bones. Osteoporosis is a common result of increased estrogen levels. Therefore, hormonal balance is important to muscle and bone health.
Impact three: Mood swings, depression and low mood.
Testosterone gets a bad rap. It is linked to aggression, which it can induce when there is an excess amount in our system. However, too little and our body is hormonally out of balance. In women, this is true too. Testosterone encourages the production of dopamine. This means that it boosts the happy hormone in our brain. A lot of anti-depressants work on serotonin. If you are going through the menopause, this might not be the hormone that is out of balance. You might be more sensible to take a testosterone supplement – which will give you energy and boost your dopamine. It is worth a try before opting for serious pharmaceuticals, which anti-depressants most certainly are.
Impact four: increased anxiety.
Testosterone is also important in regulating cortisol in the body. This is the hormone that inspires stress. Some stress is obviously important; it prompts us to act. However, too much cortisol and we can be frozen with anxiety and fear. Therefore, achieving hormonal balance is important here too. Testosterone is also incompatible with cortisol. This makes sense in caveman terms – manly testosterone battles away the fear in the face of massive dangers. In terms of low testosterone in women, in a modern age where threats are as imposing, though often not visible – anxiety is a real threat. Therefore, testosterone supplements can make facing life possible.
Impact five: Difficulty when concentrating.
When trying to diagnose low testosterone, doctors are often hindered by the fact that many of the symptoms are considered a normal part of old age. Therefore, when you find your concentration drifting you decide you are just getting dotty. In fact, a symptom of low testosterone is difficulty in concentrating.
Impact six: Loss of hair.
For men, baldness is upsetting but accepted for some into old age. For women, loss of hair has a massive impact on femininity and self-esteem in general. This hair loss might not be so dramatic in women to create a bald patch; it could lead to a thinning of the hair. Women might also notice that they do not have to shave arm pits and legs quite so much.
If the loss of hair is dramatic then it is easy for doctors to gauge that this is a hormonal imbalance. You are likely to receive a prescription for hormonal replacement therapy regimen.
So, testosterone is important
It is a shame that testosterone is linked so tightly to male sexuality. It is in fact just one hormone in all our bodies. These hormones balance the function of our mind and body and an imbalance of any kind can have dramatic impacts on our lives.
For women, the menopause changes the hormonal make-up in our bodies. We suddenly lose a source of testosterone, which in turn increases estrogen and cortisol production. A loss of testosterone also impacts on dopamine production. All in all – the body’s hormones become wildly out of sync. We can accept that this is a part of ageing and deal with the physical and mental effects, or we can take control of the symptoms.
Supplements have existed for centuries, mostly for the use of men to help with libido and sexual function. However, taking a low dose of testosterone supplements can have a massive impact on a woman’s life. Supplements such as Tongkat Ali are herbal, the extract comes direct from the root of the plant that grows in Indonesia and Malaysia. This means that the supplement has few side effects and is well tolerated over a long period. The effects build up over time, so the impact on the body is gentle. This means that you are not going to risk swaying from one extreme to another.
It might be that the testosterone supplements are known for sexual function and improving experience and performance but why get distracted by the headline – when the other effects are so positive.