You’ve met the hero (progesterone) and the villain (estrogen) of our hormonal health story, and now it’s time for you to meet the underdog—testosterone. It’s often thought of as another villain because, in excess amounts, it can cause masculinization of your feminine features (or back-acne). The truth? That type of testosterone “overdose” is much less frequent than you would expect.
In reality, testosterone is our story’s underdog because when women discuss their metabolism, energy levels, or their ability to shed unwanted fat, most of that credit is given to thyroid function—testosterone is often forgotten about. However, testosterone and your thyroid play really nicely together, and help optimize all those things and more!
What does testosterone do to benefit you? Many things, including:
- Contributing to proper bone health, and lubricated joints.
- Helping to decrease chest pain related to ‘blocked’ arteries—studies have shown it relaxes the arteries of your heart and allows proper blood flow!
- Regulating your metabolism (plays well with your thyroid!).
- Nourishing brain tissue, helping protect against memory loss, and increasing certain neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine).
- Enhancing your libido, and sexual sensitivity (i.e. better orgasms!).
- Improving mood by reducing anxiety and depression.
- Providing pain relief, because it’s anti-inflammatory.
- Supporting the gain and maintenance of proper muscle mass because it’s anabolic.
Most women, when they’re showing signs of testosterone deficiency, blame things on their thyroid. Low energy, foggy memory, decreased endurance and stamina, difficulty losing weight, sadness, lack of motivation… sound familiar?
Find your hormonal balance, naturally.
Why does your testosterone decrease in the first place?
- Aging: Studies have shown that the average testosterone in a 40-year-old woman is less than half that of a 21-year-old woman!
- Stress: This decreases the release of LH (brain to ovary connection), which is also the stimulus for testosterone secretion.
- Caloric restriction
- Brain to ovary connection is lacking
- Low cholesterol—again, mother of all hormones!
- Nutrient deficiency such as vitamin D and zinc.
- Ovarian failure—your ovaries make 25% of your testosterone!
- Too much sex hormone-binding globulin (think of it like the bus that carries around your testosterone)—decreases your free testosterone.
- Over conversion of testosterone to estrogens, commonly caused by inflammation and excess weight.
- Diets high in sugar and grains: Insulin resistance, caused by high sugar intake, can decrease production of testosterone. Grains and high fiber foods can bind to testosterone in the gut, and increase excretion.
- Over the counter steroid medications (chronic use of Nasonex, Flonase, Cortisone injections, or Prednisone), as well as performance-enhancing steroids.
- Opioid pain medications.
- And more!
Many women do not want to improve their testosterone levels out of fear that they will turn into a man. While responsible, appropriate therapies to increase testosterone levels generally do not cause any negative symptoms, you can definitely have too much of a good thing. High testosterone levels can cause aggression, male pattern hair loss, excessive body and facial hair, oily skin, breast tenderness, deepening voice, and back-acne.
Excessive amounts of testosterone can be caused by:
- Over supplementation with herbs, vitamin/nutrients, or testosterone replacement.
- Too much insulin production.
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
- Too much adrenal output and stress.
- Accidently transferring testosterone cream to you from someone else.
Optimal levels of testosterone in women can make a world of difference. When enhanced appropriately, it can add an extra boost of hormone synergy to get you feeling better than ever before.
How do I know if I have low testosterone?
It’s easy to jump on the low-testosterone bandwagon and dive into treatments based solely on your symptom picture. And you may find that you get some benefit with supplemental treatments and diet changes, but how long will they last? And if the treatment doesn’t work, will you blame the natural medicine or assume that you’re just way past repair?
Instead, start with a thorough hormonal workup. It’s always better to test than to guess! I’m all for optimizing your biochemical pathways to get your hormones balanced so you can feel better. But, that takes a well-rounded treatment plan that is personalized to your hormone picture, detoxification abilities, lifestyle, diet, gut health, and more.
So, step one is to make sure you have an accurate picture of what’s going on with your hormonal health story, so you can be in control of the ending. Start with a new patient consultation consultation with an MIMC doctor and we’ll finish your story together!
Dr. Cassie Wilder is a registered Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) and founder of MIMC. Her passion is empowering her patients through education, understanding, and support through their healing journey. After graduating from Iowa State University with a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology and Health, Dr. Wilder earned her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences, a fully accredited and nationally recognized institution in Phoenix, AZ. During her clinical training, she received extensive hands-on training with many leading experts in the field of functional medicine and developed a passion for treating hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular concerns, and adrenal fatigue.