Many people think of testosterone in terms of men, but rarely do we hear it discussed regarding women. But testosterone is an important hormone for all people, and it performs a similar function in every body, affecting mood, metabolism, and muscle growth.
Testosterone can be an issue for young women, often associated with PCOS. When testosterone levels are high there can be hair loss, acne, period issues, and increased body hair. When levels are low – very common during perimenopause – there can be a lack of confidence, libido, and energy. Once you’re familiar with these symptoms it’s easy to spot.
We’re going to talk about testosterone, its effects, how to test for it, and how to naturally change your levels.
When it comes to testing, your natural testosterone levels can vary by age. Levels can start to decline as early as your late 20s. You test something called free testosterone and SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin). It’s best to test early in the morning when your testosterone levels are at their highest. Tests aren’t always done on routine check-ups, so this may be something you end up having to ask for and pay for.
With high testosterone – especially with PCOS – we’ll often see that insulin is involved. Hormones are all interrelated, and around 50 to 60% of those with PCOS also have insulin resistance.
If you have high testosterone, here are some secret weapons or steps to lower testosterone:
If you have a high processed carb diet – bread, crackers, bagels, cereals – or a high sugar diet, the first step might be to work on blood sugar. If you know your testosterone is high, take carbs down to one meal a day and choose better quality carbs. This may need to be lowered even further, but is a good place to start, depending on where you are. In terms of a sugar guideline, many Foodtrainers clients with a weight loss goal are at one cup of low glycemic fruit a day.
Once you’ve addressed carbs and sugar in your diet, you can start to add certain things to help. Ceylon cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, berberine, and NAC can all be useful. Apple cider vinegar can be added to salads or you can take a spoonful in water before a meal (particularly meals with carbs). Spearmint – both in spearmint tea and as an essential oil – has been shown to reduce testosterone levels. We use Ceylon cinnamon in smoothies and in our Boss Coffee recipe (our personal riff on Bulletproof Coffee – recipe below). Also: green tea, by increasing SHBG, can bind excess testosterone, so green tea or matcha is also helpful to lower your levels.
Zinc is important for high or low testosterone – we love our spicy pumpkin seeds for a natural way to get more of it. Reishi mushrooms inhibit 5-alpha reductase which is the enzyme that converts testosterone into the more potent DHT hormone. This natural anti-androgen has many other health benefits including immune enhancement and stabilization of the HPA (adrenal) axis. It can take a long time to resolve testosterone levels (up to a couple of months) with both diet and supplements, so be patient when waiting around to see results.
Like most hormones, you don’t want them to be too low or too high. Low testosterone affects memory, can cause you to lose muscle mass, and can affect metabolism. Some people describe low testosterone as “losing your edge.” Other symptoms include dry or thinning hair, dry skin, and vaginal atrophy.
Some common causes or things that can but don’t always lead to low testosterone are:
- Long term use of pills and patches
- Chemo and its potential effect on women’s ovaries
- Perimenopause and menopause
- Certain meds, including certain SSRIs and asthma inhalers
A study has shown that men with asthma more often than not had lower testosterone than men without asthma. This could potentially be due to the inhalers. Cortisol also causes significant drops in testosterone production.
We suggest a couple secret weapons to raise low testosterone: the adaptogen ashwagandha has slight androgenic effects that can really make a difference with low testosterone (potentially by lowering cortisol), and fenugreek, an herb often used for lactation, can also raise testosterone levels. Be careful with endocrine disruptors and exposure to estrogen-like compounds that may also affect hormone levels. Things like BPA, PFAS, and PFA are in many nonstick pans, cosmetics, and water. EWG has a zip code finder to inquire about the PFA content in your local drinking water.
Other ways to boost testosterone include whey protein. We like a grass-fed brand called Tera’s Whey. Workouts can boost testosterone. Sugar affects testosterone too, with one stat showing that testosterone levels drop 20-30% within two hours of eating sugar.
The big takeaway here is that we need to be addressing the whole quality of our diet. Once you do that, and layer in a few of these secret weapons depending on your goals, you’ll start seeing a much healthier hormone balance.
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup brewed hot coffee
- 1 envelope collagen protein*
- 1 tablespoon MCT oil *
- 1 tsp cacao powder*
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp Ceylon cinnamon*
- Optional 5 drops liquid NuStevia*
For an iced version, use room temperature coffee and add 1/2 cup of ice.
You can skip cacao but you’ll miss out on the skin, weight loss (improves insulin resistance), and anti-cancer benefits.
What to do:
- Add all ingredients to a blender. Start blending at a low speed and then crank it up.
- Pour into a mug or thermos and sip with confidence, knowing you’re starting your day on a healthy note.
*= available for purchase at www.foodtrainers.com/shop
- ILA Ceylon Cinnamon
- Vermont Apple Cider Vinegar
- Foodtrainers® BFF
- Foodtrainers® Everything Pills
- Ghost Pepper Pumpkin Seeds
- Tera’s Whey Protein
- Hirsutism: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment
- Anti-androgenic activities of Ganoderma lucidum
- The serum testosterone level of patients with bronchial asthma treated with corticosteroids and untreated
- Men: How to Approach Your 6 Worst Health Problems
- SimpleLab Tap Score
- Learn more at foodtrainers.com
- Instagram: @foodtrainers
- Facebook: facebook.com/Foodtrainers
- Twitter: @foodtrainers
- Read: The Little Book of Thin: Foodtrainers Plan-It-to-Lose-It Solutions for Every Diet Dilemma