Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has long been recognized as the best treatment for low testosterone. Proven to improve energy levels and mood, raise libido, and increase muscle mass, TRT is now the first line of defense for men who struggle with hypogonadism and is instrumental in helping patients recapture their sense of vitality. But if you’re struggling with the symptoms of low testosterone, it is natural to want to consider all available treatment options to ensure that you get the best possible care. Now, that’s leading a growing number of men to investigate the potential of another treatment which has been steadily gaining traction among some anti-aging doctors and popular health sites: human growth hormone, also known as HGH.
Human growth hormone is a protein produced by the pituitary gland to signal the muscle and bone growth throughout the body. As a medication, HGH is legally and primarily used to help those who have HGH deficiencies. Human growth hormone also gained notoriety as a common ingredient in the illegal anabolic steroid regimens of professional athletes. More recently, however, men have turned to HGH in their attempts to slow the effects of aging and reverse the effects of low testosterone.
Whether you’re suffering from long-term hypogonadism or experiencing low testosterone for the first time as you enter andropause, the purported benefits of HGH can be intriguing. But does HGH treatment for low testosterone actually work? And, more importantly, is it safe?
Weighing the Benefits and Risks of HGH Treatment
First, it’s important to point out that HGH has very little—if any—impact on testosterone levels, as this particular protein is not involved in the production of testosterone. In the most literal sense, HGH is not an effective treatment for low testosterone.
However, HGH does impact body composition—one of the most common complaints of men who suffer from low T. More specifically, it causes the body to burn fat and increase muscle mass. Researchers have found that a combination of testosterone therapy and HGH significantly increases lean mass, bone mineral density, and fat loss in both men and women who have a documented HGH deficiency. More recent investigations suggest that low doses of HGH are enough to significantly impact body composition and cholesterol levels for those who are deficient. At face value, this is great news, and some small studies indicate that HGH can improve lean body mass in older people without HGH deficiency as well.
However, HGH therapy often comes with disruptive side effects; about 30% of patients with HGH deficiencies experience effects such as joint and muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, gynecomastia, and fluid retention when taking HGH. And risks of HGH supplementation can be even more severe for those who don’t have low HGH levels to begin with—such as the overwhelming majority of men with low testosterone. Excessive HGH causes blood sugar levels to rise, which can result in insulin deficiency and diabetic symptoms. High blood pressure and heart problems are also common side effects. And because HGH speeds growth of all bodily tissues, there is an alarming risk of quickly metastasizing cancer tumors—which is a particularly significant concern for aging adults. We don’t yet have enough data to understand exactly what happens when adults take HGH long-term, but the known risks don’t indicate a positive outcome.
Who Should Take Human Growth Hormone
Given the potential dangers of HGH, treatment must be carefully considered and should only be pursued by those for whom the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. It’s likely that HGH can significantly improve the quality of life for people who have:
- Growth disorders. HGH is known to be a useful therapy for children who have unexplained short stature and other markers of disordered growth.
- Muscle wasting. Patients who struggle with muscle wasting due to HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy can regain strength through HGH supplementation.
- Short bowel syndrome. HGH can help increase bowel function and help patients reduce dependency on parenteral nutrition.
- Rare pituitary tumors. HGH medications can compensate for the HGH deficiency caused by certain cancers of the pituitary gland.
- Brain injuries. Emerging research suggests that HGH supplementation may help those who have suffered injuries to the brain and/or the pituitary gland.
- Other HGH deficiency. True HGH deficiency is exceedingly rare, but can result in muscle loss, fat gain, and heart disease. Supplementation can potentially reverse these effects. It is important to note that while HGH does decrease as we age, the natural age-related fall of HGH is not considered a true deficiency.
The FDA has approved the legal use of HGH medications in circumstances like these. However, plenty of people misuse HGH treatments or use them off-label. For example, athletes take HGH illegally at high doses to speed injury recovery and develop greater muscle mass. And, worryingly, some doctors prescribe HGH as a “bonus” treatment on top of normal hormone replacement therapy. This particular use is not supported by research available today and is strictly prohibited by the FDA.
Should You Pursue HGH Treatment For Low Testosterone?
While you can certainly find providers who will prescribe HGH treatment for low testosterone, using HGH therapy in the absence of a true deficiency or significant medical need is risky and not considered to be evidence-based medicine. If you believe you have a genuine HGH deficiency, we recommend speaking with an expert hormone practitioner to start the process of getting your levels tested and developing a treatment plan to address your symptoms. But if you’re dealing with the fairly common symptoms of low testosterone, you will be far better off pursuing testosterone replacement therapy.
TRT is the most effective treatment option for restoring healthy hormone levels and relieving the major symptoms of low testosterone. For decades, countless men across the United States have received conventional testosterone therapy with great success, and a growing number are now seeking out bioidentical testosterone in search of even better results. If you’re looking for a personalized approach to treatment, consider partnering with a provider who specializes in hormone replacement therapy and can offer customized medications as well as nutrition and lifestyle counseling designed to address your low T symptoms and your overall health. With the right care, you’ll be able to find lasting relief and get back to living the life you want.
Looking to start TRT? BodyLogicMD is a nationwide network of hormone health practitioners who specialize in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. The practitioners in the BodyLogicMD network are dedicated to providing the highest quality care by combining customized hormone therapies with nutritional and lifestyle supports that help you reawaken your vitality and achieve your health goals. Contact a local practitioner near you to schedule your first appointment, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about the impact of hormones on your daily life.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.