All About Testosterone For Women
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone ( androgen ) that is usually associated with the stronger sex. Testosterone levels in a woman's body are 10 to 20 times lower than in men, but it can also have a significant effect on a woman's health and well-being .
Testosterone is most commonly associated with sexual desire / libido and plays an important role in sperm production in men. Testosterone is less well known to affect bone and muscle mass and red blood cell formation. Respectively, if a testosterone deficiency occurs in the body, not only the woman's sexual health may deteriorate, but also her well-being and mood, and the risks of various diseases may increase.
In men, testosterone is mainly produced in the testicles. In women, testosterone is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, fat cells, skin cells and the placenta during pregnancy.
Testosterone production begins to increase significantly during puberty and pregnancy. Upon joining menopause, testosterone levels in the body gradually decrease, but it still plays an important role in maintaining health and libido.
How does testosterone affect a man's and a woman's body?
In men, testosterone affects:
- Distribution of body fat;
- Bone density;
- Hair on the face and body;
- Muscle growth and strength;
- Production of red blood cells;
- Semen production;
- Sexual desire / Libido.
In women, testosterone affects:
- Bone health;
- Production of red blood cells;
- Breast health;
- Sexual desire / Libido;
- Cognitive health;
- Menstrual health;
- Vaginal health.
Testosterone and other androgens work differently in a woman's body - they are quickly converted to estrogen, so most women do not develop secondary male characteristics such as lower voice and facial hair.
However, if a woman has high testosterone levels, her body may not be able to convert it to estrogen effectively. As a result, masculinisation (also called virilization) may develop and the following may occur:
- Facial hair;
- Voice reduction;
- Male pattern baldness
- Clitoral enlargement;
- Breast reduction;
- Irregular or absent menstruation;
What are the normal testosterone levels in women?
Testosterone and other androgenic levels can be determined by a blood test.
"Normal" or healthy testosterone levels can vary greatly depending on thyroid function and other factors.
In healthy women over the age of 19, normal testosterone levels range from 15 to 70 ng / dL (nanograms per deciliter of blood). There are also sources where it is in the range of 8 to 60 ng / dL.
In other words, if you suspect that you have a health problem associated with a low or high testosterone level, do not make the diagnosis yourself, but consult your family doctor and / or endocrinologist.
Decreased testosterone levels (below 15 ng / dl) can cause:
- Changes in breast tissue (breast reduction);
- Difficulty getting pregnant;
- Decreased libido;
- Menstrual disorders;
- Vaginal dryness;
Elevated testosterone levels (above 70 ng / dl) can cause:
- Increase the amount of acne;
- Blood sugar problems;
- Hair growth on the face;
- Lack of menstruation;
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Why increase testosterone levels?
The main reasons why women want to increase testosterone levels are:
- Increasing muscle mass - testosterone is responsible for muscle growth and the larger your muscle mass, the faster your metabolism (more calories are needed to keep your body even at rest). Read more about how to speed up your metabolism HERE;
- Mood swings, anxiety, depression - testosterone affects the part of the brain that is responsible for stable mood and concentration;
- Weight gain - As testosterone levels fall, muscle tone and bone density change, which in turn can lead to sudden and seemingly unexplained weight gain, especially in the waist;
- Sleep Disorders - Testosterone deficiency causes hormonal imbalances that can lead to a variety of sleep disorders, including insomnia, constant waking, and sleep apnea. Read more about how much sleep we need HERE;
- Hair Loss - testosterone deficiency can cause sudden, in some cases intense, hair loss;
- Osteoporosis - at persistently low testosterone levels, bone density decreases (they become brittle). The development of other bone diseases is also possible;
- Irregular menstrual cycle - as testosterone levels fall, menstruation may become irregular and menstruation will be much weaker than usual. In cases where testosterone levels are very low, menstruation may disappear completely;
- Low libido - low testosterone levels can lead to a sudden decrease in libido, dry vagina or even a complete loss of interest in sexual intimacy.
However, it should be borne in mind that there are other possible causes for these symptoms. For example, low libido can also be caused by:
- Sexual dysfunction;
- Relationship issues.
How to raise testosterone levels naturally?
Traditional testosterone replacement therapies, such as injections, implants and gels, deliver ready-made (synthetic) testosterone to your body.
But there are foods, minerals, vitamins and herbs that can help raise testosterone levels by helping your body produce more testosterone.
There is little evidence of the efficacy of these natural alternatives compared to traditional testosterone therapy. They are used more to relieve symptoms and, if you take any medication - it can also cause unintended side effects. So be critical of what follows.
Ashvaganda (Withania somnifera)
In traditional Indian medicine Ashvaganda (also called winter cherries) is used very widely, including for the treatment of sexual dysfunction and infertility. Tea, extracts and capsules are made from the roots and berries of the plant.
In the study, in which men with diagnosed infertility participated, it was found that ashwagandha helped to improve:
- Testosterone levels;
- Sperm count;
- Sperm motility;
- Sperm antioxidant levels.
In another study, a significant increase in testosterone from baseline was observed in men receiving ashaganda extract.
Vitamin D (also called cholecalciferol) helps the body:
- Fight bacteria and viruses;
- Helps absorb calcium and protect bones against osteoporosis.
Vitamin D is also thought to help raise testosterone levels.
A study in 2011 found that testosterone levels increased significantly in vitamin D-deficient men who received daily vitamin D supplementation throughout the year. However, vitamin D intake will only work for those who are deficient in this particular vitamin, as another study found that men without vitamin D deficiency did not have an increase in testosterone levels after taking vitamin D supplementation. This conclusion was confirmed by another study conducted in 2017.
Recommended Vitamin D the daily dose for ages 19 to 70 is 15 mcg per day. Exposure to sunlight also help the body produce the necessary vitamin D.
Zinc is an essential trace element that helps our body:
- Fight against invasive bacteria and viruses;
- Produce DNA and genetic material;
- Heal wounds.
Zinc is also involved in the production of testosterone - so if you have too little zinc in your body, it is very likely that you also have low testosterone levels.
There are studies linking zinc deficiency to testosterone levels. Respectively, normalizing zinc levels also increases testosterone levels. It should be noted that the situation is similar to that with vitamin D - it only works if your body is deficient in zinc. If there is no zinc deficiency, taking additional zinc will not work.
You can maintain a healthy diet of zinc by taking:
- Red meat;
- Poultry meat;
- Dairy products.
It should also be remembered that too much zinc can cause both short-term (nausea, seizures and headaches) and long-term (weaker immunity, copper deficiency, etc.) side effects. Therefore, if you are thinking of taking zinc supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor first about the dosage you need.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic can be used as a natural remedy:
- For the prevention of atherosclerosis;
- For lowering high blood pressure;
- For the prevention of heart disease;
- For cancer prevention;
- To improve the immune system.
There have been several animal studies in which garlic has been associated with elevated testosterone levels. However, it is important to note that no human studies have been performed on the effects of garlic on testosterone levels.
DHEA not yet fully explored. That is, we do not know everything it does or affects in our body.
But it is known that it acts as a precursor to sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen (substances that the body converts into hormones). For women, DHEA is one of the main sources of testosterone.
Studies on the effects of supplemental DHEA intake on testosterone levels are controversial. For example, there are studies that show more or less significant changes that have not been replicated.
Although some studies suggest that DHEA has the potential to improve symptoms of low testosterone levels, such as mood swings, obesity, or low libido, much of the evidence is contradictory or insufficient.
You can increase your DHEA levels naturally:
- Being physically active. Especially physical activities with high energy consumption (resistance / strength training, running, etc.) increase the natural release of DHEA;
- Reducing daily stress levels. Stress is a big killer of both hormones and your vitality;
- Improving sleep quality. The quality of sleep, like stress, has a significant impact on both our hormone levels and our vitality and well-being in general;
- Limiting the amount of calories you eat increases the amount of DHEA. By "limiting", in this case, is not meant a calorie deficit, but the balance of calories ingested and expended. It is considered that Calorie restriction can also increase life expectancy.
Pine Bark Extract (Pinus pinaster)
Pine bark extract contains natural compounds called proanthocyanidins.
Pine bark extract can help:
- Lower cholesterol;
- Improve cardiovascular health:
- May reduce the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
In some medical studies, pine bark extract has been used in combination with L-arginine aspartate. It has been shown that this compound can have some effect on testosterone levels. However, more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of pine bark extract in increasing testosterone levels.
In a study in which men took a combination of pine bark extract and L-arginine aspartate for six months, they had higher total plasma testosterone levels than those who received placebo.
Another study, in men with erectile dysfunction, the combination of pine bark extract and L-arginine aspartate for 8 weeks reduced the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and resulted in slightly higher salivary testosterone levels.
This dietary supplement should not be used:
- During chemotherapy;
- When using anticoagulants;
- When taking immunosuppressive drugs.
L-arginine is an amino acid that our bodies make themselves.
L-arginine is also found in foods such as:
- Red meat;
- Poultry meat;
- Dairy products;
Some animal studies suggests that L-arginine may help increase testosterone levels. However, it seems that L-arginine does not directly increase testosterone levels in humans, but may help treat low testosterone symptoms such as erectile dysfunction.
Saw Palmetto Extract (Serenoa repens)
The results of studies on the effect of saw palmetto extract on testosterone levels are conflicting. It is thought to help increase libido, increase sperm production and improve the symptoms of low testosterone.
Malaysian Ginseng (Eurycoma longifolia)
Malaysian ginseng (also known as Tongkat ali or E. Longifolia) is a plant in Southeast Asia used as:
- Antimalarial agent;
- Antidiabetic agent;
- Antimicrobial agent;
- Stimulator of sexual desire
There are several studies linking Malaysian ginseng to an increase in serum testosterone levels in men, an increase in total and free testosterone levels and muscle strength in both men and women.
There are also studies on positive effects of Malaysian ginseng on the mood of men and women and other low testosterone problems such as osteoporosis.
Indian spinach (Basella alba)
Indian spinach is used in traditional medicine to promote fertility. Indian spinach extract is thought to stimulate testosterone production, but there are no scientific studies to prove it.
Why lower testosterone?
The main reasons why women may want to lower their testosterone levels are:
- Disorders of body hair, such as on the face, chest and back, grow more hair than is typical of women (hirsutism);
- Increased hair loss;
- Breast size reduction;
- Decreased voice - the voice becomes deeper than usual;
- The occasional appearance of abnormally many pimples;
- Weight gain without changes in diet or activity;
- Too masculine body structure (increasing muscle mass throughout the body);
- Irregular periods. For example, there are no periods in a month, or there are two periods in a month, or menstruation lasts longer than usual;
- Changes in sexual health, such as decreased libido, vaginal dryness or difficulty getting pregnant;
- Mood changes such as irritability, anxiety or depression.
Causes of high testosterone levels in women
The most common causes of high testosterone in women are:
- Hirsutism - causes excessive growth of body hair;
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - produces too much androgen, including testosterone;
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) - the adrenal glands produce more hormones than usual, including testosterone.
How to lower testosterone levels naturally
Although many factors are involved in the regulation of testosterone, a healthy diet is key to controlling testosterone levels naturally. And there are some products and plants that can help lower it as well.
Soya and soya products
Some studies suggest that regular consumption of soy products, such as edamame, tofu, soy milk, and miso can lower testosterone levels.
Soy foods are also high in phytoestrogens, which are herbal substances that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body by altering hormone levels and possibly lowering testosterone levels.
Despite the fact that there are some studies, for example, on soy protein isolates that lowered testosterone levels in 35 men, there are other studies with conflicting results. This suggests that soy foods may not be as effective as isolated soy components.
That is, there are some compounds in soy foods that can lower testosterone levels, but research is not yet conclusive.
Peppermint is known for its soothing properties, and some studies suggest that peppermint may also cause lower testosterone levels.
There are studies that show that Peppermint and mint - directly affect testosterone levels.
There have been animal studies showing a decrease in testosterone levels due to peppermint essential oil.
However, it should be noted that most studies on the effects of mint on testosterone have been performed in animals.
Licorice root is commonly used to sweeten sweets and beverages.
It is also a popular remedy in holistic medicine , where it is used to treat almost everything from chronic pain to cough .
In recent years, several studies have shown that licorice can also affect hormone levels, which can cause testosterone levels to drop over time.
A study in men found that daily intake of 7 grams of licorice root reduced testosterone levels by 26% after 1 week.
A study in women found that taking 3.5 grams of licorice per day reduced testosterone levels by 32% after just one menstrual cycle.
Note that these results refer to liquorice root and not to liquorice candies and other liquorice-flavored products, as they often have nothing to do with liquorice root.
Many vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, soybean, corn and cottonseed oil, are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (good fats).
These fatty acids are a source of healthy fats and, according to several studies, can also lower testosterone levels.
A study of 69 men showed that frequent use of polyunsaturated fats is associated with significantly lower testosterone levels.
Another study looking at the effects of diet on post - workout testosterone levels found that intake of polyunsaturated fats is associated with lower testosterone levels.
Linseed contains good fats, fiber and many vitamins and minerals that are important to us.
In addition, flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to lower testosterone levels in several studies.
Some studies have found that alcohol consumption can lower testosterone levels in men, but there are also studies to the contrary.
It has been found that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to low testosterone levels, especially in men.
There is a study in which acute alcohol intoxication was associated with elevated testosterone levels in women but decreased levels in men.
Respectively, the evidence for the effects of alcohol on testosterone is unclear.
Most nutritionists believe that moderate alcohol consumption, for example, a glass of red wine at lunch or dinner can have a positive effect on our health. However, moderate doses of alcohol are unlikely to have much or no effect on testosterone levels, but high doses of alcohol are unhealthy and can affect women and men differently.
Nuts are a great source of many important nutrients. They are high in fiber, healthy fats and minerals (folic acid, selenium, magnesium…).
And, there are studies that some types of nuts can lower testosterone levels.
For example, walnuts and almonds raised sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels of 12.5% and 16%, respectively. SHBG is a type of protein that binds to testosterone and may cause a decrease in free testosterone levels.
Nuts are also high in polyunsaturated fats, and as I mentioned in writing about vegetable oils, there are studies that link them to low testosterone levels.
Other testosterone lowering agents
Folk medicine also uses a number of products to reduce the symptoms of high testosterone levels, for which no convincing scientific studies are available.
The most commonly mentioned are:
- chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus);
- Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa);
- Green tea;
- Lingzhi (Ganoderma lingzhi), also known as reishi;
- White peony.
As you can see, there are several products, minerals, vitamins and herbs that can help change high or low testosterone levels, or at least reduce the symptoms it causes.
However, it is important to remember that in most cases, studies on the safety and effectiveness of these therapies are still very limited.
Yes, some alternative testosterone control methods are promising, but they can also pose risks. For example, when you interact with medicines or supplements that you use to treat other health problems. Therefore, always consult your doctor about the possible effects of the described products on you.
Remember, we are all created to move, not to sit at a computer, television, or phone - so it is our physical activity that can best help us maintain hormonal balance, health, vitality, and joy of life.