Low testosterone can lead to weight gain, changes in mood, decreased energy levels and a reduction in libido.
What's more important is this:
Many women suffer from low testosterone and this condition is missed by most physicians.
As a result, it becomes very important for you to understand the signs and symptoms of low testosterone to determine if you would benefit from replacement.
In this article, I'm going to go over why testosterone cream may be one of the best ways to replace low testosterone levels and all of the benefits that you may experience during replacement.
Let's dive in...
Both men and women have and need adequate levels of testosterone.
While men do have more testosterone than women, that doesn't mean that testosterone isn't important for women.
Women with low testosterone get many of the SAME symptoms that men get when they have low testosterone.
In addition, replacing testosterone is not that difficult and the benefit can be tremendous.
Not only that but the diagnosis and management of low testosterone is often missed/ignored in women due to a general lack of understanding about hormone management by most physicians.
With that in mind let's go over several reasons that may make you rethink the importance of testosterone for women and consider using it yourself:
#1. Testosterone can help increase libido and sex drive
One of the main reasons that both men and women lose their libido overtime is due to a decline in testosterone.
Testosterone has been shown to INCREASE sex drive (1) and libido in women with low testosterone levels.
Not only does it increase sex drive but it can also reduce time to orgasm and increase pleasure during intercourse.
To see a full list of therapies that can help improve libido and increase sex drive please read this post.
#2. May improve overall mood, reduce depressive symptoms and reduce irritability
Do you feel yourself getting more irritable as you age? Or that you can't control your emotions as well as you used to?
Some of this change may be related to low testosterone levels.
Studies have shown that replacing low testosterone levels can act as an anti-depressant (2).
In addition testosterone in physiologic (normal) dosages actually has a calming effect on the mind and body.
#3. May help increase lean muscle mass and increase metabolism
Supplementing to normal and healthy testosterone levels has been shown to increase lean muscle mass(3) in both men and women.
This has two beneficial side effects:
First, an increase in lean muscle mass helps with weight loss by increasing your metabolism.
Everyone is looking to shed a couple extra pounds and increasing your metabolism is one way to do this.
A higher metabolism means it takes more energy at rest to eat, breath and sleep. Much of this metabolism is mediated through your muscle mass.
So higher muscle mass = higher metabolism = more weight loss.
Second, it improves body composition and can tighten up loose skin in certain areas on the female body.
One symptom of muscle mass is "loose skin", especially in the upper arm area.
As muscle mass declines (termed sarcopenia(4)) and your muscle mass shrink your body will replace that excess space with subcutaneous fat.
This process may result in sagging skin.
Taking testosterone can help replace that loss mass in the skeletal muscle and restore much of the strength that was lost.
This issue is more than just cosmetic.
Reduced muscle mass leads to a higher frequency in falls, inability to maintain balance and weight gain.
Giving you more than just 1 reason to build those muscles up.
#4. May help with weight loss (especially weight gained after menopause)
This is a big one.
Most women tend to gain weight during menopause (5) (sometimes as much as 15 pounds) and this weight gain is felt to be caused by changes in hormone levels.
At least some (if not a huge portion) of this weight gain is secondary to lower testosterone levels showing the impact that this hormone has on weight.
Replacing testosterone levels isn't going to be a weight loss miracle pill, but it can certainly go a long way to helping reduce any extra weight that was gained due to its deficiency.
This is one of the reasons that many women opt to use testosterone cream and other forms of testosterone replacement: to lose extra pounds.
This effect on weight loss is probably mediated through the factors we mentioned previously: changes in skeletal muscle mass and metabolism.
Although testosterone also alters energy levels and helps women stay up and active.
#5. May increase or stabilize low energy levels
If those benefits listed above were enough to at least pique your interest then keep reading...
There are several factors to consider when replacing testosterone levels and different vehicles to make it happen.
Some methods are definitely better than others so it's worth discussing each in detail and giving the pros and cons of each.
You can then use this as a general guide to determine which form of testosterone will be best for you.
Note: all of these various methods of giving a person testosterone should ultimately result in an overall increase in testosterone in the body.
Testosterone cream is probably one of the most common forms of testosterone replacement therapy and for good reason.
When replacing hormones it's best (whenever possible) to mimic or emulate how the body produces hormones.
This is especially important with testosterone:
In the female body, testosterone is produced by the ovaries and the adrenal glands (6).
This hormone is then dumped directly into the bloodstream (avoiding the GI tract) where it hits target tissues and exerts its effects.
Using testosterone as a cream or anything that goes through the skin closely mimics this natural progression through your body.
This should be compared to taking testosterone (or any other hormone) in a pill or capsule.
By taking it by mouth the hormone is absorbed through the GI tract where it hits the liver and is metabolized FIRST before it can hit all of your target tissues (This phenomenon is well known and called the first-pass effect or first pass metabolism).
This reduces the potency of the hormone and also may cause dangerous side effects due to potentially harmful breakdown products in the liver.
For this reason, most physicians and patients tend to opt by taking trans-dermal (meaning through the skin) formulations of testosterone.
Using testosterone cream allows for a sustained and controlled release throughout the day that avoids this first pass effect.
Who should use testosterone cream?
Most women who know they have low testosterone and are experiencing any of the symptoms of low testosterone should at least start with a trial of testosterone cream, gel or a testosterone patch.
Attempting testosterone cream for at least 2-3 months and checking blood tests at the 6-8 week mark will allow for adequate time to determine if it is working for you.
Pros and cons of using Testosterone cream:
Instead of getting testosterone through creams, gels or patches sometimes patients opt to use injections once every week instead.
Using injections is worth considering in the following circumstances:
Generally, I reserve testosterone injections for patients who fall into the above categories.
The benefit to using shots is that you get a higher concentration of testosterone in one sitting, this makes positive (and potentially negative) side effects easier to identify.
One of the downsides is that testosterone levels peak after day 2-3 of the injection and then slowly fall back down over the next 4-5 days.
This doesn't allow for the same sustained tissue levels of testosterone that creams/gels allow for.
Having said that some women just do better on testosterone injections vs creams so it is worth considering this option for most women.
Pros and cons of using Testosterone shots:
Another commonly used form of testosterone replacement (or other hormones) is through pellets.
Pellets are surgically implanted pellets that contain a high dose of hormones that slowly dissolves over months.
Because of this mechanism, there is far less control over dosing meaning that the dose tends to be either too high (causing negative side effects) or too low (failing to cause positive side effects).
Couple this concern with the fact that you need to undergo a surgical incision to place it in your body and pellets look even worse.
In my experience, it's far better to use creams/gels/creams/shots over pellets due to these reasons.
You might consider using a pellet if they have previously worked well for you in the past or if you can't tolerate gels/creams/patches/shots.
Pros and cons of using Testosterone pellets:
Diagnosing low testosterone is actually not very difficult (we will go over it below).
The hard part is getting the right kind of treatment and the right type/form of medication.
The problem with hormones is that most physicians are not trained on how to replace hormone imbalances and so they don't appreciate their importance or the benefit they may provide.
As a result, it's usually better to look for a physician who specializes in hormone replacement therapy for the best results.
Alternatively, if your physician IS willing to work with you, you can simply ask for a couple of tests to determine how your hormones are doing.
To diagnose low testosterone you need to check the following labs:
Ordering the right tests is only half the battle, the other half is understanding how to interpret them correctly.
To illustrate this I've included an example of real lab results below...
Example of obviously low testosterone (falling outside of the reference range):
This case is typical and very obvious.
The total testosterone is low at less than 3 with a range of 3-41.
The DHEA (another androgen) is also low at 26.7 with a range of 41.2 - 243.7.
This is an obvious case of low testosterone and if this patient also had symptoms of low testosterone she should consider replacement.
On the other hand, some patients have what is referred to as "sub-optimal" hormone levels that still technically fall within the "normal" range.
Example of sub-optimal testosterone levels in women (inside the range but still low and needs replacement):
In this example, the free testosterone is sub-optimal at 0.14 with a range of 0.06 - 0.98.
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