Human Growth Hormone (or HGH) and testosterone are two critical hormones in our body.
Both HGH and testosterone are needed for the healthy functioning of the human body. People who experience their deficiencies often opt for HGH or testosterone therapy.
However, it is vital to understand the role of these hormones, the symptoms of their deficiencies, who can benefit from which therapy, and also be aware of their side effects before making this decision.
What is Human Growth Hormone (HGH)?
The Human Growth Hormone (HGH), also known as somatotropin, is produced by our pituitary gland. HGH has many roles in our bodies. It supports growth during childhood.
In the teenage years, HGH levels double to create that sudden growth spurt (3).
While HGH helps the body grow in adolescence, in adulthood, it helps maintain the body’s muscle mass and bone density, and help regulate our metabolism.
Summary: HGH has a significant part in stimulating growth and managing crucial functions in the human body. Too much or too little of the hormone will naturally impact your health and wellness.
HGH Test and Treatment
Firstly, it is essential to know that HGH deficiencies are rare, and testing for its deficiency is done only when there is a suspicion of its low production. Your health practitioner will usually tell you to go for a test if they feel the need.
Conversely, if your body is producing too much HGH, a test will help identify the same as well.
There are different types of HGH tests that require you to fast beforehand and discontinue the existing medication or health supplements.
In case the body is found to be producing low levels of HGH, you might have to take HGH supplements (in the form of pills, gels, or injections) or undergo HGH therapy or treatment. During this process, synthetically-prepared growth hormones are injected to help boost HGH production.
Most HGH treatments include injecting HGH through the intramuscular and subcutaneous approach.
There is little evidence to show that supplements consumed orally or injected are beneficial. Most such supplements do not contain HGH and simply have amino acids, which may help boost its production.
The FDA specifically prohibits the use of HGH unless medical intervention is required to treat critical growth-related issues in the patient (9).
Growth hormones are used these days by athletes who are looking to improve their stamina and energy levels. These hormone injections are often used to slow down the aging process or lose weight.
In addition to people who have naturally low levels of the hormone, HGH therapy may be used for the following people:
- People suffering from brain injuries: HGH treatment has shown positive results in cases where a person is suffering from critical brain injuries or other disorders.
- Muscle rebuilding: HGH therapy can help regain strength in those experiencing severe muscle wasting owing to serious medical conditions, treatments for HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy.
- Suffering from HGH deficiency due to pituitary tumors: Any tumors or other severe ailments in the pituitary gland can severely impact HGH production.
- Any other health conditions impacting HGH: Several health conditions, like the Short Bowel’s syndrome, chronic kidney diseases, Prader-Willi syndrome, or Turner syndrome, can lead to muscle loss and may require HGH supplements.
Summary: HGH deficiencies are rare, and a simple test can help you identify one. People with other health conditions may also benefit from HGH treatments.
The Side Effects of HGH Treatment
People with HGH deficiency stand to benefit from its treatment; however, some serious side effects have been observed in several patients.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: The feeling of numbness, weakness, or tingling makes it difficult for a person to hold objects in hand. This is known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- Gynecomastia: Men could experience breast tissues’ enlargement as the side effect of the growth hormone treatment.
- Increased insulin resistance and diabetes symptoms: Excess HGH results in an increase in blood sugar levels, leading to deficiency of insulin, and a person might also experience the symptoms similar to diabetes.
- A higher risk of getting cancer: Since the HGH enhances the speed of growth in all bodily issues tissues, it makes a person more prone to developing something as deadly as cancer.
- Edema: Swelling of limbs due to water retention is a common side effect of receiving HGH treatment.
- Heart and blood pressure: An increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure is also a side effect of the treatment.
These findings are based on short-term treatments and no conclusive studies are available for the long-term effects of HGH treatment.
Summary: HGH treatments have shown patients experience a host of severe side effects.
Testosterone: The Primary Male Sex Hormone
Testosterone is termed as the male sex hormone and is produced in the testicles. The hormone is also found in women, but it is usually in insignificant quantities.
The hypothalamus, which is located in the brain, sends the signal to the pituitary gland about the amount of testosterone that is required by the body (12).
The pituitary gland further transmits the messages to the male testicles to produce the testosterone. Testosterone is primarily responsible for many roles like (13):
- Sperm production
- Regulating the sex drive
- Development of male secondary sexual traits like deepening of the male voice and the appearance of facial and pubic hair
- Muscle growth and bone strength
- Production of red blood cells
- Development of male sex organs
Testosterone aids in forming a boy’s genital as early as the sixth or seventh week of conception (14).
The testosterone levels in the male body are at its peak in the twenties and start experiencing a gradual decline after reaching the age of 30 at roughly 1-1.5% every year (15).
Summary: Testosterone is the male sex hormone that regulated sex drive, among other critical bodily functions. Its production decreases with age.
Testosterone Test and Therapy
Male hypogonadism, or testosterone deficiency, is a condition wherein the testes do not generate enough of the hormone, sperm, or both. The condition can be the result of an inherited disorder or physical injury.
Men with low levels of testosterone experience lower sex drives, erectile dysfunction, hair loss, fatigue, decreased muscle mass, increased body fat, and irritability or depression.
Too much testosterone also leads to health challenges like low sperm count, impotence, liver disease, acne, heart muscle damage, fluid retention, weight gain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insomnia, headaches, and mood swings among other things (16).
Your physician will recommend getting a testosterone test done if they notice any of the symptoms of hypogonadism. The test is done by administering a simple blood test.
However, you might be required to halt any existing prediction medication or supplements temporarily.
Testosterone home testing kits are also widely available these days. You can send in your saliva samples for testing, without having to go to a diagnostic clinic or hospital.
Testosterone therapy is fast becoming a preferred treatment by those experiencing low testosterone levels.
Testosterone therapy is undertaken through various methods like injections, patches, gels, and helps in combating the low testosterone levels.
Young people who have naturally low levels of the hormone or its production is hampered by a physical injury often resort to such treatments.
Remember, not all the cases with low testosterone require treatment. For instance, cases wherein a drop is observed due to natural aging should avoid undergoing testosterone therapy.
Summary: A simple blood test can help determine if testosterone is deficient in the body. Testosterone therapies or treatment can help those with lower levels of the hormone, although not everyone might require it.
The Side Effects of Testosterone Therapy
- Enlargement of breasts
- Acne or other skin-related issues
- Reduced or limited sperm production resulting in shrunken testicles
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or an increase in the size of the prostate
- Growth of existing prostate cancer
- Higher chances of sleep apnea; a condition where the breathing often stops during sleep
- Enlarged heart, liver, and kidney
- Blood clots due to higher red blood cell production or pulmonary embolism; wherein a clot reaches the lungs, obstructing the blood flow
- Increased female traits in males and vice-versa
Summary: There are a variety of side effects in undergoing testosterone therapies and treatments.
HGH vs TRT: Which One to Choose?
Both HGH and testosterone therapy are being widely projected as an answer to stop or reverse aging and restore youth, vigor, and vitality.
The similarity between the symptoms of reduced levels of both hormones makes it difficult to determine the correct treatment. Widespread misconceptions and exaggerated claims of benefits make a choice even more difficult.
Many practitioners use the combination HGH and testosterone together, as it gives favorable results like lean mass, better energy and libido, considerable fat loss, and increased bone mineral density (20).
However, this does not mean that HGH is better than testosterone or vice-versa. The ideal approach is to evaluate the symptoms and need for the treatment under the competent guidance of a medical practitioner.
Thus, proper testing and medical supervision are indispensable in choosing the right treatment for your condition. Since many HGH and testosterone supplements and procedures can only be accessed through subscriptions, adequate testing is even more critical.
Summary: Both HGH and testosterone have their own set of benefits. The choice between HGH and testosterone therapy, or a combination of both, must be taken after due diagnostic tests are performed, and experts are consulted.
The Bottom Line
Both HGH and testosterone play essential roles in our health. Growth hormone supplements are sometimes used by bodybuilders and athletes to improve their endurance and energy.
But rather than attempting such feats on your own, following the advice of qualified medical professionals is essential when dealing with hormone therapies or treatments of any kind.
Testosterone therapy may help those experiencing low testosterone levels. If you are experiencing any low HGH or testosterone symptoms, consult your doctor and get tests done.