Growth hormone is the proverbial fountain of youth, but aside from injecting yourself like a body-builder, how do you get more of it? And what does it do for fertility?
Growth hormone (GH) is naturally produced in large amounts in childhood by the pituitary gland. If a child is deficient, he or she will be shorter than average. An excess is called "acromegaly," and the person will be much taller than average and have distinctive features.
GH also plays a role in reproduction, too. For women with PCOS, the higher than normal levels of androgens (testosterone) interfere with normal ovarian function. These women are also typically GH-deficient. What happens here is that the high levels of testosterone stimulate somatostatin release, and somatostatin decreases growth hormone secretion. In medicine, we call that a "negative feedback loop," where one hormone being high causes another hormone to decrease.
What can we do with this information? Some reproductive endocrinologists are adding growth hormone to their IVF protocols for women who have PCOS or who are older. Most information indicates that the number of eggs retrieved is not any higher, but the quality of the eggs is improved, which can make a difference in pregnancy rates.
If you're not going through IVF, can growth hormone help you? It can't hurt, but injecting GH is probably not practical. There are other ways to bump up your growth hormone, and for all of us, that can be a good idea.
One tip to increase GH is to get adequate sleep. Just look at how old you look after a few days of bad sleep--I think the effects are obvious. Studies have also shown that people who don't get enough sleep gain weight. Large amounts of GH are secreted during the third and fourth REM cycle of sleep, so make sure you're getting plenty of sleep.
Another tip is to do vigorous exercise. This can be much easier than you think. You don't need to run 5 miles a day. In fact, that is actually not necessary for growth hormone stimulation. The best way is to do short bursts of intense exercise for 30 seconds, then rest until your heart rate returns to normal, and repeat this a total of 8 times. You can do a quick, effective workout in about 16 minutes twice a week.
Going about boosting your GH naturally is a good idea for all of us, and if you're trying to conceive, it may improve your egg quality.