Human Growth Hormone, Testosterone, Estrogen: Healers or Harmers? Part 1.


Let’s face it, nature wants us dead. We were born to die. That may seem a bit harsh but I don’t make the rules. Can the use of human growth hormone and sex steroids help us delay this inevitability? Maybe.

After birth most living things are programmed to develop physically and sexually, to rise to dominance in their environment, pass on their genetic material as fast and as frequently as they can…then die. The species which masters these simple principles rules the earth. As well they have. I refer to cockroaches, ants and other creepy crawlers. Then comes us, the humans. We lag behind because we are slow reproducers and possess a stubborn refusal to die.

I am imagining most of you nodding your head in agreement as you read the programmed stages of life…develop sexually (yes), dominance (yes, yes), pass on genetic material fast and furious (oh yes, oh yes). Then comes the frown and gnashing of teeth… death you say? Death can’t be part of the plan. How could we be programmed to die?

Scientific support for a natural death wish comes from several angles. For example, there is a suicide gene in our cells. The term for programmed cell suicide is apoptosis. When the genes for apoptosis are turned on in a cell, the cell dies. These genes (some are termed “reaper” genes) are responsible for cell suicide. From another perspective we learn that the machinery for cell repair and replication has a built in limit. After a certain amount of replication the cell machinery runs out of supplies and the cell will die. Together these irreversible features of cells guarantee death.

During the development years (up to age 25 or so) the apoptosis genes mostly serve constructive purposes like removing tissues that stand in the way of growth or to prevent cancer cells from reproducing. The chemical messages of growth and development produced in our endocrine glands (known as hormones) are released into our blood in abundant amounts. These hormones include growth hormone, sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen), and adrenal hormones such as DHEA. After that these hormones gradually decrease and our abilities and physical attributes begin to decline.

The role of growth hormone in the adult remains controversial. Once the bones have grown to full adult size some experts claim that there is no other important role for growth hormone. I disagree. There are many tissues in the body that have “receptors” for HGH so that growth hormone can continue to play a role in maintenance of bone, muscle, brain, immune cells and other tissues. I believe that nature intended “growth” hormones to maintain, sustain and repair the body that it helped create during the development years. Without them the aging process through cell suicide, starvation, or disrepair is unopposed, and decline and death are not far behind.

To cripple the body a good starting place would be elimination of the machinery for making the caretaking hormones. The onset of menopause is the most obvious example of natural ending of the hormone making process. The changes of menopause due to estrogen deficiency that occur in the skin, hair, bone, arteries (arthrosclerosis), are all very well known. Not to mention hot flashes, moodiness and loss of libido which reduce the quality of life. Less obvious but just as critical hormonal declines associated with aging are the steady dwindling of testosterone in men, and the reduction of growth hormone and DHEA levels in both sexes.

The questions before us are whether or not replacement of these hormones will delay aging or improve the quality of our lives.

Important Notice: Hormones such as growth hormone, testosterone, and T3 are prescription drugs to be prescribed by a licensed professional within a doctor patient relationship. Prescribing or using growth hormone for the purpose of enhancing athletic performance, or using these hormones without a prescription is illegal and punished by fines and possibly jail. Metabolism.com and Dr. Pepper continue to support a lively debate about the appropriate use of these medications to help patients with true medical needs.

Gary Pepper, M.D.
Director, Metabolism.com

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  • Tasha

    Am I dont growing. I am 4’7 23 yrs old and everyone else thats like 10 and up are taller than I am and I mean they are in their 5s. Is it possible that my bones are not fused? Is it possible that hgh can help me gain height? Do they have oral HGH thats affective?

  • Sally Anne

    Dr. Pepper,
    I would like to hear some feedback on HGH secretagogues/precursors which are amino acids that purportedly help the pituitary gland secret human growth hormone. My physicians believe there no proven benefit to HGH after our 30’s and some say it is outright dangerous and there are unsubstantiated claims it can facilitate dormant cancer cells. In 2006, after my gastric bypass was canceled, in a year I took off over 80 lbs. I was using these supplements off and on (l-lysine, l-ornithine, GABA) and taking on an empty stomach at night. My skin was clear, my hair was shiny, my undereye bags diminished, my eyes were bright and I looked significantly younger than my age. I was working out consistently at the gym and then my thyroid got “sick”. My endo said it is no longer producing any hormones and that the medication (Armour) is how my body gets thyroid. I would love to have some feedback regarding this. I have lost my health insurance but I am thinking of starting these again, I still have some of them (GABA and l-lysine). I am at a loss as to what else to do and I am also interested to find out if there is a “tie-in” to sleep disorders. Thanks in advance for any info. Sally Anne

  • Dr. G. Pepper

    Sally Anne

    I say watch out for sellers of snake oil and growth hormone releasers. Much of the false advertising on the internet involves promoting products for increasing growth hormone levels in adults. A few decades ago studies showed that the amino acids arginine and lysine taken together by mouth caused a rise in growth hormone levels in adults, but follow up studies did not confirm this. Perhaps there are strong individual variations in the lysine-arginine effect and the small research studies conducted could not detect this. I can tell you that an early and almost obsolete blood pressure medication, clonidine, is used as a test for growth hormone release because it can cause growth hormone elevations. Clonidine has some nasty side effects and I doubt most people would want to use it to raise their growth hormone levels. An agent such as that would have to be taken daily since its effect is of very short duration.

    For now, to increase growth hormone the most effective approach appears to be prescription medications administered via injection (under the care of a physician, of course).

    Thanks for your question.

    Dr. P