If your mojo is in park and you just can’t seem to kick it into high gear, it may be due to low levels of a metabolite of testosterone called 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone or DHT.
DHT is one of the major hormones that regulate libido in men and women.
DHT is a stronger testosterone because it has a greater affinity for, and preferentially binds to, the androgen receptor to produce its effects. Increasing libido is one of the most well-known effects but there is more to this hormone.
DHT affects libido because it regulates
- Male sexual development
- Development and growth of the prostate gland, epididymis, vas deference and seminal vesicles
In men and women, DHT regulates libido and more, including:
- Growth of hair on the body
- Sebaceous and sweat gland activity
- Libido or sexual desire and sexual function
Testosterone can convert into DHT and enhance libido through activation of the enzyme 5 alpha reductase. Testosterone also converts to estrogen through the enzyme aromatase.
If estrogen is too high in relation to testosterone and DHT in men, it may lead to the development of breasts and enlargement of the prostate gland. Some estrogen is necessary to maintain bone mass and reduce fat inside the abdomen. Finding the right balance of all of the hormones is key to overall health.
Men and women like how they feel when they have adequate levels of DHT– they have a greater feeling of self-confidence, motivation, and libido. However, too much DHT can have unwanted side effects.
Side effects of high DHT include high libido, as well as:
- Loss of scalp hair at the temples and on the crown
- Increased facial and body hair
- Acne and sweating
- Aggressive behavior
- High sexual desire (libido)
- Sleep apnea
- High red blood cell count
- Increased risk of high blood pressure, abnormal lipids, insulin resistance and diabetes.
Treatment for high DHT
- Lower testosterone (if you’re on testosterone)
- Finesteride, a prescription medication
- Gamma Linolenic acid (GLA)
- Saw palmetto
- Green tea
- Pygeum africannum
- Pumpkin seed oil (Octa Sabal Plus®)
- Lipsterolic extract of Serenoa repens (Prostamol Uno)
- The combination of 5% hexane extract of C. aeruginosa and 5% minoxidil slowed hair loss and increased hair growth. However, the extract of Curcuma aeruginosa is not yet commercially available.
Blocking the enzymes 5 alpha reductase with finesteride can reduce the amount of testosterone that is converted to DHT. Blocking the enzyme aromatase with anastrozole can reduce the amount of testosterone that is converted to estrogen.
Consider having your levels of total and free testosterone, DHT, and estradiol checked if you have any symptoms of high DHT or low testosterone.
Symptoms of low testosterone
- Loss of muscle mass
- Low libido
- Decreased morning erections
- Loss of body hair
- Low bone mineral density (BMD)
- Enlarged breasts
- Small testes.
Treating low libido caused by DHT
If DHT is too low, you can give testosterone to raise it. There are no commercially available preparations of pure DHT. If testosterone is being converted to estrogen you can reduce the amount of conversion with an aromatase inhibitor such as anastrozole. However, some lifestyle measures are highly effective at restoring balance.
Lifestyle measures that may reduce the conversion of testosterone to estrogen and enhance libido are:
- Weight loss
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption
- Correct zinc deficiency
- Change from SSRI antidepressant medication to one that doesn’t affect libido
Having the right balance of hormones will enhance libido, bone, hair growth where you want it and muscle mass in both men and women. Be sure to go to a functional medicine doctor who understands the delicate balance and both natural and medical means to obtain that balance.
Dr. Lorraine Maita is a recognized and award-winning holistic, functional, and anti-aging physician and author. She transforms people’s lives by getting to the root cause of illness using the best of science and nature. Her approach is personalized, precision medicine where you are treated as the unique individual you are. To learn more about how Dr. Maita can help treat low libido and other DHT and hormone-related conditions, contact her today.