Having high testosterone levels in women can lead to several unwanted complications that can affect a woman’s sense of self and well-being. This article will look into the causes of high testosterone in women and what can be done to treat it. Additionally, we will outline some natural remedies for high testosterone in women.
Testosterone is a significant male hormone required by both sexes. It is important to recognize that both males and females have this sex hormone coursing through their bodies, but produce them in varying amounts. The difference is that females produce much less of it in comparison to estrogen, giving women their defining characteristics.
Range of testosterone in women
Testosterone also goes by the name androgen and is normally produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands in women in small quantities. Testosterone affects the libido of both male and females and plays a role in fat distribution, production of bone mass, muscle size and strength, and red blood cell creation.
When looking at female testosterone levels, it is important to note that they naturally decrease with age, and finding higher levels than normal may indicate an underlying condition. The following are examples of age ranges and expected testosterone levels.
- 20 – 25 years: 0.06 to 1.08 ng/dl
- 30 – 35 years: 0.06 to 1.03 ng/dl
- 40 – 45 years: 0.06 to 0.98 ng/dl
- 50 – 55 years: 0.06 to 0.92 ng/dl
- 60 – 65 years: 0.06 to 0.87 ng/dl
- 70 – 75 years: 0.06 to 0.82 ng/dl
Causes of high testosterone in women
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
A hormonal disorder commonly seen in women of reproductive age. PCOS is characterized by prolonged or irregular menstrual periods and excess levels of male hormones (androgen). True to its name, women diagnosed with PCOS may develop numerous small collections of fluid within the ovaries (called follicles) and fail to regularly release eggs. While the exact cause of PCOS is not known, it is believed that it may be caused by excess production of insulin, low-grade inflammation, or possibly be hereditary. Additional symptoms of PCOS include unwanted hair growth, infertility, and obesity.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
An autosomal recessive disease of the adrenal glands, which produce a certain amount of sex hormones. This abnormality can have significant effects on the development of primary and secondary sex characteristics in affected infants, children, or adults. Common symptoms of this disorder in women include infertility, masculine characteristics, severe acne, and the early appearance of pubic hair.
Insulin resistance and diabetes
Cells that become resistant to the effects of insulin will not only not allow glucose to enter cells, but consequently causes excess levels of underutilized insulin to remain in the bloodstream. This may stimulate testosterone production within the ovary, creating two to three times more testosterone in the female body than what is considered optimal. Considering that the ovaries account for nearly 25 percent of the testosterone in the female body, excess insulin in the bloodstream can have a significant effect on testosterone levels.
When thyroid function declines, developing into a condition called hypothyroidism, it subsequently leads to the decreased production of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). This hormone is normally responsible for maintaining healthy levels of sex hormones within the bloodstream. In healthy women, nearly 80 percent of testosterone is bound to SHBG. This helps to keep the hormone in check, as it must go under additional metabolic actions to be utilized. However, if the total level of SHBG is reduced, free testosterone levels in the bloodstream rises, possible leading to testosterone-related problems.
Stress can lead to a multitude of negative health effects that can affect female hormone levels. Excessive stress levels may even cause hypothyroidism, leading to a decrease in SHBG and subsequently high circulating testosterone levels. Additionally, high levels of stress can cause estrogen and progesterone to perform a counter-balancing function to testosterone, and without it, can cause unhealthy increases in the male sex hormone. Stress has also been seen to increase DHEA-S level production from the adrenal glands. This is a similar acting hormone to that of testosterone.
Lack of exercise
Exercising is believed to play a role in regulating testosterone levels by sensitizing your cells to insulin. It has been documented that having increased insulin levels in the bloodstream can simulate the ovaries to produce more testosterone. So, by exercising, you allow your cells to better utilize insulin.
Fasting after workouts
Intense exercise not only helps to burn off fat but also results in increased levels of the cortisol hormone, a type of stress hormone, as well as increased levels of testosterone. Normally, cortisol levels begin to decline shortly after your work out, but not so much with testosterone. This is more pronounced if you do not eat after exercising. If fasting after working out is a common occurrence, it can lead to problems down the line.
Symptoms and diagnosis of high testosterone in women
Symptoms of high testosterone in women may include:
Acne: High circulating testosterone levels can lead to acne breakouts, commonly around the jaw and chin. This is a common occurrence in women suffering from PCOS.
Irregular menstrual cycles: Due to imbalanced hormone regulation resulting in testosterone masking the menstrual effects of female hormone. This may lead to infertility.
Male pattern baldness: A common phenomenon occurring in men due to actions of testosterone-like hormones.
Blood sugar swings: Increased circulating levels of insulin causes the ovaries to produce more testosterone.
Hirsutism: Excessive body hair in places like the lip, chin, or chest.
Additional symptoms may include:
- Decreased breast size
- Increased muscle mass
- Deepening of voice
- Enlarged clitoris
- Low libido
- Changes in mood
A diagnosis of high testosterone levels will be suspected once a patient presents with any combination of the aforementioned symptoms. This will prompt your doctor to do additional testing to help find a cause. Tests will initially begin by analyzing the testosterone and other hormone levels via a blood sample, and once a suspected cause is found, more specialized testing may take place.
Treating high testosterone in women
Treatment for abnormally high testosterone levels will ultimately depend on the underlying cause. However, the following are some of the most frequently used medications. However, in most cases, doctors first recommend beginning an exercise or weight loss program to see if testosterone-related symptoms improve.
Glucocorticosteroids: Examples include prednisone and dexamethasone. They can help reduce adrenal androgen production. High testosterone levels in women treatment using glucocorticosteroids may help reduce excess hair growth (hirsutism) and improve fertility.
Metformin: A common medication used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, metformin has also seen some benefit for treating high testosterone levels in women, especially those with PCOS. Metformin can aid in weight loss, decrease excess hair growth, and help induce ovulation in women with irregular menstrual cycles.
Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs): Commonly known as birth control pills, they not only help to prevent pregnancy but can also lower testosterone levels. OCPs can also be prescribed for treating acne and excess hair growth (hirsutism). They may also help to regulate periods.
Spironolactone: A medication that indirectly blocks the effects of androgens. Spironolactone was originally developed as a potassium-sparing diuretic, preventing the body from absorbing too much sodium while holding on to potassium. However, it was later discovered that this medication had some additional effects, like its anti-androgen effects.
Lowering high testosterone in women naturally
While most cases of high testosterone levels in women are treated with medication, certain dietary changes can help make a positive impact overall. The following are some tips for naturally reducing testosterone levels.
Eat more soy: Soy is a high phytoestrogen compound called isoflavones, which are proven to be mimic the effects of estrogen. Their estrogen-like effects are considered strong but are not equivalent to estrogen produced by the body. Soy is known for containing a substance called daidzein, which transforms in the intestine, becoming an anti-androgenetic compound. Soy products include cereals, bread, tofu, various beverages, energy bars, and meat substitutes such as veggie hot dogs and burgers.
Eat more flax seed: A widely known health food and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Flax seeds are compounds called lignans that mimic estrogen in the body. This substance also has the ability to reduce total and free testosterone levels in the body while also suppressing the conversion of testosterone into the more potent dihydrotestosterone. Flax seeds have three times more estrogen-like hormones than soybeans do. It is important to keep in mind that flax seeds need to be ground up into a fine powder to be able to utilize the beneficial effects, or else their hard shell will prevent their absorption in the gut.
Adhere to a low-fat diet: Having the right about of fat in the diet is recommended for the release of testosterone as well as to increase sex drive. Studies have shown that low-fat diets contribute to lower testosterone levels, which may help women suffering from increased testosterone levels. Testosterone requires cholesterol to be produced.
Avoid refined carbohydrates: These types of carbs are high in easily digested sugars, which can lead to spikes in insulin levels. This is likely to trigger the production of testosterone from the ovaries due to increased insulin levels in the bloodstream. Products that commonly contain refined sugars include candy, cookies, cakes, most store-bought baked goods, ice cream, chocolate, soda, and other sugary drinks.
Exercise: According to a previously done study, loss of body fat in conjunction with moderate intensity exercise leads to a decline in androgen, testosterone, and free testosterone. By combining this with a healthy diet devoid of processed foods, unhealthy carbs, sugars, and fats, your body will get back on track.
Avoid cigarettes and alcohol: Both of these substances are known for producing changes to hormone levels, which may influence the severity and frequency of unwanted hormone-related symptoms.
If you currently feel you are suffering from the effects of high testosterone, it is advised to speak to a doctor. Your doctor will be able to give you the best possible information about your own unique situation. Additionally, they will help dispel any testosterone related fears and prescribe the best treatment for your particular situation.
Also Read: 19 foods that lower testosterone levels
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