HGH stands for Human Growth Hormone. This hormone is one that is made by the body in the pituitary gland. HGH production reaches a peak during the teenage years, and declines slowly throughout adulthood.
HGH is used to promote muscle and bone growth, regulate body fat percentages, and also improves sleep quality. Athletes rely on HGH to stimulate the production of extra muscle tissue and the repair of muscles damaged during exercise.
Most of us produce enough HGH to keep our bodies functioning optimally, but there are some medical conditions that can hinder HGH production, or mean that we need more HGH than a normal person in order to stay healthy. Doctors prescribe IGF-1 or HGH injections in order to regulated those conditions.
Growth Hormone Deficiency
In children, a lack of HGH is referred to as Pediatric Growth Hormone Deficiency (PGHD). Symptoms of PGHD include being smaller than average at birth and continuing to grow at an abnormally slow pace, having poor muscle tone, and entering puberty far later than their peers.
Growth hormone deficiency does not always relate to HGH. Other important growth hormones include Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, Adrenocorticotropic Hormone and Luteinizing Hormone. A shortage of any of these could cause growth retardation and require supplementary treatments in order to encourage normal growth.
Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency (AGHD) manifests itself in a different fashion to PGDH. Adults who are deficient in HGH can experience many different symptoms, including increased blood pressure, decreased cardiac output (and therefore reduced exercise capacity), decreased bone density, increased abdominal fat, muscle weakness, dizziness, fainting and headaches, poor concentration and memory, insomnia, weight gain, reduced libido, depression and anxiety.
It can be difficult for an adult to get diagnosed with AGHD because many of the above symptoms are nebulous or have several potential causes. If you have reason to believe that you have AGHD then the best thing to do is request a blood test. Every doctor has their own threshold for what they consider to be an acceptable level of HGH, so you may need to see more than one doctor to get a prescription for HGH if you are borderline, but it is worth the effort.
Treating Low GHD
If your doctor feels that you do have low HGH, they will take more blood samples over a short period of time in order to confirm that the low reading was not simply an anomaly. If the readings are consistently low then they will prescribe HGH treatments for you.
The most common treatment is Growth hormone replacement therapy, which uses a biosynthetic substance called recombinant human growth hormone (rHGH).
This treatment will use a synthetic version of HGH in order to stimulate the production of natural HGH and restore your body to its natural balance.
Understanding the Pituitary Gland
The pituitary gland is an essential gland that produces several hormones, which in turn control the function of other glands in the body. The pituitary gland is located in an area of the brain known as the hypothalamus.
The anterior of the pituitary gland produces six different hormones, which control your reproductive system, adrenal function, thyroid, growth and metabolism. If your pituitary gland stops working correctly then this will have an adverse effect on the other glands in your body.
Children whose pituitary glands do not secrete somatotropin (HGH) fail to grow properly, while adults experience more subtle side effects. Somatotropin is one of the first hormones affected in pituitary gland disorders, so HGH level testing is common when diagnosing illnesses which include many of the general complaints listed above.
When the pituitary gland stops secreting one particular hormone, this is known as hypopituitarism. If the gland stops the secretion of all hormones, or is completely lost, then this is known as panhypopituitarism. This condition is relatively rare, but can be managed.
Coping With Low HGH
Mood swings and behavioural problems can occur in people with low HGH, and the feelings of anxiety and hopelessness can be difficult to cope with, especially while you are waiting for a diagnosis.
The good news is that help and support is available. Some doctors prescribe antidepressants to help AGHD sufferers cope, especially while they are waiting for the GHRT to take effect. Counselling can also be a helpful option.
In some cases, simple lifestyle changes such as getting vigorous exercise and changing to a low carbohydrate diet can help, because these lifestyle changes encourage the body to produce more HGH.
These lifestyle changes have other health benefits too, so they are worth considering if you feel well enough to try them for yourself.
Of course, these changes may not work if your pituitary gland’s functionality is seriously impaired, but you may find that the general health benefits still make living a healthy lifestyle worthwhile.