Jennifer sat across the table from me. We were discussing some of her hormonal concerns. On our patient history form, each patient is asked to rate his or her libido (sex drive) on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being fantastic and 1 being deplorable.
“So, I notice you marked a ‘1’ on sex drive. How long has that been a problem?”
“Since after the birth of our first child, about eight years ago. There’s just no desire any more. Nothing. I could go six months without sex and it wouldn’t bother me. Am I just broken, or what?”
So this month I would like to tackle that sensitive subject that no one wants to talk about, but is extremely common in the women and men we see at our clinic. Why so common? I could give you 30 reasons, but let me mention just a few.
You may have noticed that infertility issues for married couples have skyrocketed over the last 20 years in the U.S. It’s the same thing affecting sex drive: we call them hormone disruptors. Examples: milk containing hormones, use of birth control pills, meats injected with chemicals to make the livestock grow faster, and even the chlorine bleach you use to scour your kitchen sink with—all these and many more can affect your sex drive, and eventually, fertility.
Here’s Jennifer, in the prime of her life at 27 years old, and she feels like she’s broken. And it’s not just women; any male over 45 years old is probably seeing his sex drive and overall assertiveness and drive go down. What’s the problem here?
In most cases, it’s low testosterone levels. Here are the most common signs of low testosterone in women:
• Low sexual desire
• Muscular flabbiness i.e. inability to have good muscle tone, despite doing resistance training (weights)—aka “chorister’s arm”
• Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
• Cardiovascular problems (weakened heart, poor circulation)
• Reduced motivation
• Sleep disturbances
• Tiredness and fatigue
Now let’s talk about the husband. Several months ago a couple came in to see me. He was the patient; she was there to make sure he told the truth. He is a 56-year-old professional with a very demanding job—lots of employees and responsibility. He lost his first wife to illness eight years prior. His new wife of four years is 41 years old. He’s basically burnt out on life and doesn’t even want to go to work any longer. Lets’ call him “Steve.”
“So, Steve, how would you rate your overall energy levels?”
She quickly interjected, “He doesn’t have any energy! He comes home from work, eats, sits down on the couch with the remote, and eventually falls asleep.”
“OK. Well, how is your sex drive, Steve?”
Again she answers with no small amount of frustration in her voice, “He doesn’t have any! He’s just turned into a grumpy old man.”
You can see how that marriage is going right away. So we sent him in for blood work and it comes back like I would have expected: low normal testosterone and low normal thyroid. (His primary care doctor had tested Steve’s testosterone a year ago and said things were low normal back then—so why didn’t he do anything for Steve?) With those two hormones low in a man or a woman there is just no way a person can feel good. Working together, these hormones help not only with sex drive, but also with overall energy levels and attitude towards life.
We put Steve on natural, bioidentical testosterone and thyroid. Two months later they came back to see me and she gave me a big hug. Steve was back.
Now for one last scenario that replays itself several times per week in our clinic that many of you women will identify with. Jennifer (the girl I talked about at the beginning of this article) has returned to see me. We sent her to get her hormones tested. Because her husband had a vested interest in the poor libido department, at my request, he came with her.
“Well, Jennifer, your lab results are here. Let’s look at the testosterone levels first. The normal levels for a woman of your age are between 6.0 and 8.0. Your level is 1.1.”
There is a deafening silence in the room while they look at each other. “That’s not very good, is it?” she asks.
“No. You couldn’t have a sex drive if you wanted to right now.” Then I turned to her husband.
“Tom, you need to understand something. You may have thought for the last several years that maybe Jennifer doesn’t love you anymore, or that she’s not attracted to you anymore. That’s simply not the case. Her ovaries are just not making any testosterone. She can’t have a sex drive right now, but we’re going to fix that by using bioidentical hormone therapy. So be patient.”
I have actually had men break down and cry when I told them that it wasn’t them that was the problem. Jennifer’s thyroid was also low, so when she would say, “I’m too tired,” she was really telling the truth.
Jennifer’s one concern was something she had heard about women and testosterone. “If I use testosterone, will I get big, bulky muscles and all kinds of hair?”
That’s a common and unfounded concern. We use about 200 mg. of testosterone daily for a man. A woman will use from 2.0 to 8.0 mg. per day. “No, you won’t have to worry about that,” I said, “and gradually your sex drive and overall energy are going to come back.”
Even “more mature” couples need testosterone. I love seeing a married couple, formerly both couch potatoes, turn into younger people with that good old zip back in their step. People with good, healthy testosterone levels have a much brighter outlook on life.
What to do? Have your hormones checked, and make sure they look at your testosterone. Most doctors will check testosterone levels in men only, thinking that it’s not important for women. Not true! It’s very important for both sexes.
Go change your life and get tested!
Dr. Robert Jones is the Clinic Director at the Utah Wellness Institute in Draper, Utah. 801.576.1155 www.utahwellnessinstitute.com
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