The Master Hormone: Human Growth Hormone
Feeling fatigued? Having difficulty losing weight? Is your abdomen getting larger? Surprised to find you have high cholesterol when your entire life it has been normal? So you say you can’t sleep, huh? Not feeling rested in the a.m.? Any of these symptoms may be a sign off lowered Human Growth Hormone Levels. In this newsletter we will help you understand what Human Growth Hormone is and what options you have to keep your body in balance.
Growth Hormone: The Master Hormone
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is one of the most important of human hormones. Human Growth Hormone creates feelings of health and vitality. It effects almost every system of the body, and a Growth Hormone deficiency will cause all sorts of common complaints seen in aging such as increased abdominal fat, exercise intolerance, decreased muscle mass, reduced vitality, increased lipids and cholesterol, osteoporosis, increased risk of dementia, fatigue, increased wrinkling, a reduction of mental clarity, and even poor sleep.
In this article, I hope to review what growth hormone is, what symptoms might reflect a HGH deficiency, how it is used in replacement therapy, and how it might benefit you. Be sure to read the section on lifestyle habits, supplements and prescriptions that can boost this precious hormone!
What is Growth Hormone?
Human Growth Hormone is a hormone produced by your pituitary gland, a pea sized structure at the base of the brain. The hormone is most abundant in your first 2 decades of life. Indeed, Growth Hormone, as the name suggest, is responsible for spurring growth in children and adolescents. Without Growth Hormone, you would never grow and develop in height and stature in a normal way.
But Human Growth Hormone is necessary for many more functions than just growth and development. It is implicated in helping to regulate body composition, body fluids, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, and heart function. It is indicated in the proper function of every human organ. Cosmetically, it is important for keeping youthful looking skin, avoiding fat accumulation on your back and in your abdomen, and is suggested to give people a youthful glow. In terms of mental and emotional health, Growth Hormone deficiency is theorized to contribute to depression, memory loss, and a loss of vitality. In other words, optimal levels of Growth Hormone help keep us mentally fit and energetic.
Is It Aging or Low Growth Hormone?
Human Growth Hormone reaches it’s height of production around puberty, and slowly it’s production starts to decline as we age starting around age 20. Each decade represents a drop in HGH production anywhere from 10-14% of baseline depending on a person’s lifestyle and genetics. Therefore, a 20 year old may produce up to 5 times more GH than someone at age 60. Since GH is known to reduce fat and increase muscle mass, it is no surprise that people are fitter and more athletic in their youth. Once again, the symptoms of aging are simply a reflection of decreased hormone production—including HGH.
When is Growth Hormone Produced?
Human Growth Hormone is produced in spurts with the largest production (1) during sleep and (2) after a work out. One of the largest spurts occurs while sleeping. If you do not sleep well during the early morning hours, you may miss this crucial GH spurt. Night shift workers notoriously are low in GH since they miss this nocturnal surge in GH.
What are the Clinical Symptoms of Human Growth Hormone Deficiency?
Since HGH effects so many different body systems, there are multiple symptoms that may suggest an adult deficiency. Here is a partial list of most likely symptoms you may experience with this hormonal deficiency as you age:
- Cardiovascular symptoms may include exercise intolerance due to reduced heart muscle contraction and reduced cardiac output, abnormal lipid panels such as high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and an increase in LDL, as well as an increased blood pressure.
- Abnormal body composition will include an increase in visceral and abdominal fat, decreased bone density leading to an risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis, decreased muscle strength and muscle size, decreased lean body mass, and an overall increase in fat mass.
- Physical Symptoms will include a significant lack of energy and increased fatigue, decreased sexual desire, a sense of muscle weakness, difficulty sleeping is a common complaint, and let’s not forget weight gain secondary to reduced muscle mass and increased fat composition.
- Psychological Symptoms of HGH deficiency are some of the worst. Patients will complain of social withdrawal and shyness. Some may feel an increased nervousness or social anxiety. Most find less of an interest in socializing leading to decreased social contact. Common psychological complaints include sadness, depression, and feelings of hopelessness.
- Neurocognitive Symptoms include a reduction in memory, a patient may complain that they feel like their brain moves slower or that they do not feel as alert.
- Cosmetic Signs include increased wrinkles, particularly on the forehead, drooping areas of body fat and tissue such as the upper thighs, increased fat pads on the back, notable abdominal fat, and reduced definition and tone of arms and legs.
Obviously, the general theme of growth hormone deficiency symptoms could be described as a reduced sense of overall vitality. Whether it’s a slower mental processing, exercise intolerance, feelings of fatigue or reduced sexual desire, growth hormone deficiency seems to define “getting older.” If you feel like you currently have many of these symptoms, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Camp HERE for a complete work up or call us, (415) 383-9903 for a lab slip to start the evaluation.
Improving Your Growth Hormone Production: Lifestyle Changes, Prescriptions, and Supplements that Will Help:
No newsletter would be complete without a list of lifestyle choices you can make to improve your own health. When it comes to improving your Growth Hormone (GH) levels, here are a few of the best strategies!
- Avoid carbohydrates and alcohol in the evening: Carbohydrates and alcohol both contribute to a decrease in your GH production. These foods cause a spike in insulin which interacts with your ability to produce this important hormone. Since one of the largest spurts of GH production occurs while sleeping, eating simple carbohydrates and alcohol, like pasta with a glass of wine in the evening, is one of the surest ways to interrupt production of this precious hormone. Following more of a Paleo diet at dinner time—eating protein and veggies only– will improve your GH production, stabilize your blood sugars, and reduce weight gain. If you didn’t have enough reasons to reduce your carbohydrate intake, here is one more!
- Sleep hygiene: ahhhhhhh….sleep…..it not only makes you feel great, it’s important for every system in the body. One of the reasons it’s so important is the spurt in GH that is produced when you sleep. If you are not sleeping well, or are getting to bed frequently after midnight, you may be missing this important wave of hormone production. Some tips for getting good sleep include: routinely getting to bed before 10, turning off TV’s and computers an hour before you hit the pillow and start calming down your nervous system with a good book or a hot bath, avoiding stimulants like chocolate and caffeine in the evening, and dimming the lights at nightfall. Televisions should be removed from bedrooms. Your body is intimately tied to light and the solar day. In modern times, most of us don’t “get up with the sun and go to bed with the sun,” but taking time to mimic these patterns—even by just dimming the lights—can be important to getting some good shut eye! Some people are extremely sensitive to electrical frequencies in their house. If you think you are sensitive to EMF’s, you may need to unplug appliances, sleep without a bright alarm clock next to your bed, and turn your cell phone off.
- Important supplements:
2.Vitamin D: Vitamin D is known to improve athletic performance. How does it increase your HGH? Vitamin D increases the number of fast twitch muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are the ones implicated in the production of human growth hormone during your work outs. We recommend following your levels with a lab test to make sure your levels are optimal. Order your Vitamin D HERE.
3.Inner Power Supplement Powder: This arginine supplement is easy to use and works synergistically when taken prior to either sleep or a work out. Mix one tablespoon in 4 ounces of water prior to bedtime for best results. Will potentiate the use of sermorelin a well. To order Inner Power, please click HERE
- Prescription Options:
(1) Replacement w/Tev-Tropin or (2) Stimulation w/ Sermorelin: In our office we use Tev-Tropin for actual replacement hormone. This is an injectable prescription that replaces your HGH with Tev-Tropin. A second option is the use of Sermorelin. Sermorelin is a Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone that will stimulate your pituitary to release more of your own Growth Hormone. The great thing about sermorelin is that it has little to no side effects.
- Exercise: For those still waiting to start your exercise program, maybe this will give you the motivation you need! High intensity exercise is proven to increase a person’s 24 hour secretion of GH by more than double! Not just any type of exercise will do as interval training is the best form of exercise for increasing your GH. Interval training is a process where the intensity of exercise is maximized for a time frame, then reduced to a regular aerobic pace. This pattern is repeated over a 15 minute time frame. So, for example, let’s say you are out walking–interval training would be where you walk for 2 minutes then sprint for 30 seconds. Repeat this interval 5-8 times and you’ve got interval training. You can do it with walking, running, elliptical machine, and with the bicycle–any exercise that uses the large muscle groups of the buttocks and legs. Interval training will cause your muscles to burn usually by the 5th interval. This burning in medical terms is called reaching “the lactate threshold.” It is this burn during interval training that appears to increase GH production. One benefit to this exercise is that you no longer have to work out for 45 minutes. Do a 5 minute warm up, do your intervals, then do a 5-10 minute cool down and you will be done! It is the intensity of the interval training (such as sprinting) that seems to be the key to GH release. If you would like to read more on this phenomenon, you may purchase Phil Campbell’s book entitled “Ready, Set, Go!”
- Avoid high glycemic foods and insulin surges: Once again, sugars and spiking insulin and insulin resistance will be a hazard to your health. Sugars and insulin absolutely reduce your GH production. So, no simple carbs in the evening and basically, avoiding processed food for most or your meals will make a big difference in your GH production. In fact, to maximize your interval training as discussed above, you should avoid sugar—any type of sugar—for two hours after the exercise to avoid interrupting the sequence of hormones and pro-hormones that will increase your GH production. The benefits of eliminating processed white sugar, white flour and high fructose corn syrup from your diet are never-ending! Production of GH is no exception! Skip the sodas, cookies, pastas and bread and start getting your health back!
- Lose weight, particularly abdominal fat: Abdominal fat is implicated in the development of diabetes and cardiovascular risk for heart attack, increased blood pressure and stroke risk. It is advantageous for all of us to attempt to reduce our fat ratio in our abdomens. Abdominal fat acts like its own endocrine tumor producing the wrong amounts of the wrong hormones, and is implicated in leptin and insulin resistance. Any attempt to reduce this fat whether by overall weight loss or walking if you aren’t in good enough fitness for interval training just yet, will help reduce your risks and improve your GH production. If you need help losing weight, please set up an appointment to discuss your options with Dr. Camp or Marya Grosse NP by calling our office, (415) 383-9903 or clicking HERE to log into your online account with Dr. Camp.
How Does a Patient get Screened for Growth Hormone Deficiency? Labs:
- IGF-1: Your IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor 1) mirrors your GH levels and is a good reflection of your general GH production. Optimal levels are well over 200. We may take 2 of these tests to demonstrate serial low IGF-1 results before treating you with GH.
- GH Stimulation Test: This is a slightly more complicated test which carries some risks and is therefore not used that often. For this test you will fast 10-12 hours over night and get a baseline blood test. Then you will be given glucagon which should stimulate GH production. After the glucagon, you will get a series of blood tests to see if GH was produced. This test shows us if your pituitary is able to produce enough GH. If you fail to produce GH during the stimulation test, then you are certainly a candidate for GH replacement.
- 24 Hour Urine Test: The 24 hour urine test is our favorite for identifying most hormonal deficiencies. The urine test gives you an exact amount of hormone or hormone byproducts created over a 24 hour period and eliminates the need for guesswork. We can best diagnose thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, adrenal, and testosterone hormonal levels with this test, and Growth Hormone is no exception.
The research suggests that this HGH is vital for reducing multiple health risks and complaints associated with aging. Patients who receive GH replacement have been shown in the research to have reduced risks of osteoporosis, improved cardiovascular health, improved inflammatory markers, healthier body composition, less fatigue, and better mental acuity.
If you are concerned about any of these health problems and are interested in assessing your own growth hormone production, please do not hesitate to set up an appointment with Dr. Camp for a thorough assessment! We wish all of you health and happiness!
Written by Marya Grosse, FNP
Nurse Practitioner at Morgan Camp, MD & Associates