Functions of Testosterone in Women
Through ongoing research, the medical community is learning that testosterone serves many purposes, ranging from the commonly understood sexual functions to surprising findings that it may help to control blood sugar and may also have an anticoagulant effect. In addition, testosterone's well-known role in building muscles and bones is especially important for women facing age-related disorders such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
Testosterone's most obvious purpose is sexual, for both men and women. During puberty, it stimulates the physical development of the sexual areas of the body, such as the growth of pubic and underarm hair. Female testosterone receptors are found in the nipples, vagina, clitoris, and brain.
In the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan and Trude Owett, CSW, state that testosterone levels dictate the desire (or lack thereof) for sexual activity. They report that our reproductive behaviors are stimulated in much the same way as our eating behaviors. Our sex hormones drive our "sexual appetite" similar to the way that blood sugar drives our appetite for food. Simply put, testosterone's effect on the brain is to make women more sexually receptive.
Many post-menopausal women lose interest in sexual activity, primarily due to diminished testosterone levels. Yet, research over the last 50 years clearly indicates that testosterone supplementation produces a marked increase in libido for women.
Researchers have consistently reported that women who receive testosterone replacement therapy after menopause have an increase in:
- Sexual drive and response
- Frequency of sexual intercourse
- Number of sexual fantasies
- Level of sexual arousal.
But, there's no reason to wait for menopause before investigating the issue. Many women may be able to regain a more joyful and satisfying sex life with testosterone replacement.
Medical research has yielded accumulating evidence that testosterone plays an important role in cardiovascular health, especially in protecting us against atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Dr. Wright's summary of Danish research indicates that bioidentical testosterone actually decreases cholesterol levels, improves circulation, and slows the tissue break down associated with aging. As a result, bioidentical testosterone supplements can help to restore the body to a more youthful condition.
Dr. Wright also notes that cholesterol-reducing drugs may sometimes do more harm than good, since testosterone and other steroids are derived from cholesterol. By reducing cholesterol, such drugs can actually throw the body's hormones off balance and lead to other disorders, such as chest pain and impaired cardiac function. Bioidentical testosterone supplements may be able to reduce circulating cholesterol more safely than these drugs.
It's a well-known fact that athletes and body builders have used testosterone-like drugs for years to strengthen and enhance muscles and bones. While we still don't know how it works, recent research suggests that testosterone may increase the bone's ability to retain calcium. What we do know is that women who experience rapid bone loss are typically deficient in both estrogen and testosterone.
According to Dr. Wright, a recent study indicated that "women with osteoporosis who took a combination of estrogen and testosterone increased their bone density, an effect previously only demonstrated with progesterone." In The Testosterone Syndrome, Dr. Eugene Shippen and William Fryer concur that the total hormone picture increasingly shows that both testosterone and estrogen are "independent and additive determinants of bone density."
Muscle Tone (Leaky Bladder)
Testosterone contributes to our overall muscle tone. Well before menopause, some women begin to suffer from the confusion and embarrassment of a leaky bladder. This problem most likely relates to diminished testosterone levels, because the pelvic muscles are particularly dependent on testosterone. Many women find that using a testosterone cream, coupled with Kegel exercises, helps to strengthen and tone those muscles again.