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Welcome to the website for Jim Chialtas, L.Ac., and Laurel Acupuncture Clinic of Functional Medicine, located in San Diego.

Click on the tabs above to learn more about what Functional Medicine is, and about many of the health concerns I specialize in. Or scroll down for my blog. You might find it helpful to use the labels in the lower right column to find topics that interest you.

In addition to seeing clients privately in my clinic, I also offer many of the same services remotely to US residents. Please feel free to contact me to set up a consultation or appointment. Thank you!

10/27/10

The Testosterone - Brain Connection

We men are often times accused of thinking with our penis and not our brains. Though I admit to such accusations at least on some occasions the fact is that we do indeed think with our brains. But if you consider how testosterone works on our brain the accusation of us thinking with our penis isn’t all that far from the truth. Indeed both our brains and our reproductive organs have a high sensitivity to testosterone. We think like men because our male hormone testosterone has very significant impacts on our brains. In this article I want to explore some of these concepts and hopefully offer the man (or woman) reading this a little more insight into how we men experience the world.

The first thing to understand about a hormone like testosterone is that it is nothing without its hormone receptor. These hormone receptors are located on the surface of the many different cells throughout our body. Think of this interaction like a key and lock scenario. The hormone is the key which turns the mechanism of a lock on a cell in the body to produce some significant result. You can’t have a functioning system without having both the hormone and the receptor functioning well together.

As men, our brains are loaded with testosterone receptors, which is why we experience the world through the stereotypical male point of view. The frontal lobe of our brain in particular is rich with testosterone receptors, and it is this part of our brain where we process much of our sense of reason. So when we see, hear, taste, smell or touch something our brain decides how to respond to the stimulation based upon how well our frontal lobe is firing. If for example we are low in testosterone our frontal lobe will not fire well and we will begin to lose the response of what we have all known as typically male. Included in this concept could be things like low libido and/or poor motivation for other activities such as work or relationships. This could even include wanting to put positive energy towards the children, or how you interact with your wife. Significant stuff! Remember, our hormones greatly effect how we view and respond to our surroundings. We understand things only as much as what comes through the testosterone filtered actions of the frontal lobe.

Low testosterone in men is also a common cause of depression and is mostly associated with the Dopamine pathways. So these men are often on medications like Wellbutrin or Abilify. Depression from a neurological perspective can be described as a low firing rate of the frontal lobe. And without adequate exposure to testosterone the firing rate will decline rapidly. So you must ask yourself if you are taking these medications if you are treating the core problem or just the symptoms. And at what cost? It is an important concept to consider because without working on the core problem you might be required to take the symptom masking medications indefinitely.

Lastly, it has been well reported in the literature that loss of testosterone in men is correlated with brain aging and cognitive decline. This can lead to poor memory, cloudy thinking, dementia and eventually Alzheimer’s. This is not something you want when there are children to be present for and not to mention the enjoyment and quality of your personal life. Other studies show that poor testosterone status in men can hinder the healing and recovery from brain related injuries. Testosterone can therefore be considered neuro-protective in men. From a brain health perspective, it is imperative that men have healthy testosterone status.

So having said all that one might want to run out and get on some testosterone replacement therapy. In fact, your doctor will most certainly recommend it. This may be necessary for some individuals, but please understand that hormones are very strong and I can tell you that I see hormone therapy overdose all the time in my clinic. It is one of the things that I often help people recover from in fact. If you end up with testosterone levels higher than what is normal in a healthy male, you will begin to induce receptor site resistance. Remember the hormone receptors? This means that though there will be elevated hormone present, the person will experience life as though he were low in that hormone. If you are currently taking testosterone and have ever felt the need to increase your dose this is a bad sign. You are probably becoming resistant to your hormones and more is definitely not better! Please contact me if this is the case for you.

Instead of starting out on a replacement model for Testosterone status, I would hope that you would first consider the Functional approach. It is always better to produce your own hormones naturally. This leaves your body stronger and more able to function on its own without the added stress to your system. The replacement model almost always leads to a weakened system that is dependant on hormone replacement for the rest of your life. It also leaves you open to other more serious problems like cancer for example. If you like your prostate, I recommend avoiding artificially elevated male hormone status as you can experience with hormone replacement therapy. Digging out from such a thing is often difficult and uncomfortable to say the least. There are many natural ways out there to stimulate healthy testosterone physiology in your body without the use of such medications. And if you can keep the interplay of testosterone and brain function squarely in mind you can achieve amazing results. And in the end you will be a better man for it.