Do you feel like you’re going nowhere? Perhaps you have no energy, no sense of joy in your life, no libido, or no progress at the gym or in your favorite sport. Maybe you’re experiencing all four of these problems.
If so, chances are you have low testosterone. Even though women have much lower requirements for testosterone than men, it’s still an essential hormone for your overall health and vitality. So what can we do to restore testosterone as women?
What Is Low Testosterone in Women?
It is estimated that a total testosterone level of 25ng/mL or less indicates a testosterone deficiency in women under 50 years old. This cutoff moves to 20ng/mL or less for women over 50, when you are expected to be past menopause. For free testosterone, the criteria are hormone levels of under 1.5pg/mL and 1pg/mL for women under and over 50, respectively .
If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), your priority may be how to lower testosterone as you have excess testosterone. In this case, correcting metabolic dysregulation through a healthy diet, exercise, and drugs such as metformin can restore normal testosterone levels.
The oral contraceptive pill, particularly formulations with progestin, is able to reduce testosterone production in the adrenal glands and prevent it from becoming more potent .
What Stimulates Testosterone in Women?
There are several ways to stimulate testosterone production in women. For example, zinc has been shown to double the levels of testosterone in postmenopausal women, from 25ng/mL to 50ng/mL. This led to improvements in sexual interest and natural lubrication .
As described below, resistance (strength) training may slightly, but meaningfully, increase testosterone levels in women.
What Causes Low Testosterone in Women?
The biggest causative factor for low testosterone levels in women is menopause. The ovaries produce most testosterone, so all sex hormones levels drop below the normal range when the ovaries become too depleted. If you are in the over 40 age group, it may be time for a testosterone test.
Perhaps you are too young to think about menopause, but instead, you’re on the oral contraceptive pill. Progestin, a common ingredient, can lower testosterone in women by reducing production of hormones in the ovaries. It also increases sex hormone binding globulin, which binds to the hormones and prevents them from working .
Women can be affected by testosterone killing foods too, just like men. If you enjoy licorice candy or tea, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it can reduce testosterone. Clinical studies show that licorice can be an effective treatment for PCOS, where testosterone levels are too high. In one clinical trial, levels fell from 27.8 to 17.5ng/dL in two months, but they quickly returned to normal afterward .
Another common herbal remedy that we often enjoy as a tea is spearmint. Although it tastes refreshing, it has been found to reduce testosterone in women, too .
If you’ve been using flaxseed as an omega-3 fatty acid source or to balance female hormones, don’t worry. Research on women with PCOS shows that flaxseed effects on testosterone are insignificant, but it can improve your metabolic health .
Menopause, taking the oral contraceptive pill, and herbal medicines such as licorice and spearmint can all lower testosterone in women.
What Are the Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Women?
There are several key symptoms of low testosterone to look out for as a woman:
- An impaired ability to build muscle mass. Even though testosterone isn’t seen as important for women, it plays an essential role in building and maintaining muscle mass. This is an area of concern if you are older, in order to prevent age-related frailty .
- Depression is a common consequence of both low and high testosterone levels in women. Beyond sadness, depression features an inability to feel pleasure and a deep, low mood .
- Poor libido, in particular low arousal and sexual desire.
- Cognitive impairments, especially in spatial awareness, can be a consequence of low testosterone, too.
- Increased body fat, while combining estrogen and testosterone in hormone replacement therapy can prevent weight gain in post-menopausal women .
Low testosterone levels cause a range of mental, musculoskeletal, and endocrine (hormonal) problems, from difficulty building muscle to cognitive disturbance.
As testosterone is transported through the bloodstream, you will need a blood test to determine your testosterone levels. Your level of DHEA, the precursor to testosterone, should also be measured. These will be compared to the healthy reference ranges, and with your symptoms. It is possible to receive testosterone therapy even if your hormone levels are normal, if you are showing symptoms.
For many years, physicians have called for testing testosterone and appropriate hormone therapy as soon as a perimenopausal woman complains of fallen sexual desire. Diagnosis may also be important if you have been taking estrogen replacement therapy, but it’s not working for you .
If you are experiencing symptoms such as impaired libido and declining performance at the gym, it may be best for you to test for androgen deficiency.
How To Increase Testosterone in Females
There are several ways to correct an androgen deficiency and increase testosterone levels if you are a woman. They may involve hormone replacement therapy, nutrition, or lifestyle changes.
The most convenient way to increase your testosterone levels is through testosterone replacement therapy. You can take it orally, or topically as a patch or cream. The latter two allow for a slower, more sustained release, similar to natural testosterone production .
An alternative to replacing testosterone is taking DHEA, the precursor to testosterone and other sex hormones. It has long been prescribed in cases of adrenal insufficiency, where your adrenal glands cannot pump out enough hormones. Some preparations can even be bought over the counter .
Foods That Increase Testosterone
As written above, zinc can dramatically boost testosterone so foods that increase testosterone will include those rich in zinc. Shellfish, both crustacean and mollusk, red meat, particularly beef liver, and certain root or leafy vegetables are good sources of zinc. Atlantic oysters, beef, and king crab come out on top .
Theoretically, some cruciferous vegetables may keep up your levels of testosterone. Indole-3-carbinol and diindolylmethane (DIM), found in sources such as watercress and broccoli sprouts, inhibit the enzyme aromatase. This may contribute to androgen deficiency by “stealing” testosterone, and converting it into estrogen .
How Can a Woman Increase Her Testosterone Naturally?
If you want to try more natural ways to boost testosterone than just replacing hormones, you may be wondering, does working out increase testosterone? Research demonstrates that strength training is able to produce a small, yet significant, rise in free testosterone levels for women. Although much smaller, it persists for longer than in men, until at least 30 minutes after exercise .
Testosterone treatment options include directly replacing lost hormones, which can be topical or oral preparations. Milder cases of deficiency may benefit from zinc supplements or cruciferous vegetables, as well as strength training.
What are the most important things we need to know about low testosterone levels in women?
What Are the Symptoms of Low Testosterone in Females?
Low testosterone contributes to weight gain as body fat, prevents you from building muscle, and can contribute to depression, fatigue, and poor libido.
How Can a Woman Increase Her Testosterone Level?
Women can increase testosterone levels through hormone therapy, such as the use of testosterone patches or cream.
What Is the Main Symptom of Low Testosterone?
The number one complained-about symptom of low testosterone in women is a lack of sexual desire, which can lead to both relationship and health problems if left unaddressed.
How Does Testosterone Affect the Female Body?
Women produce testosterone to assist in muscle growth and maintenance, as well as maintaining a healthy libido, energy level, and mood balance. It is important to remember that women are more sensitive to testosterone’s effects, too. Too much testosterone can, however, worsen weight gain and depression, which we can see in cases of PCOS.
What Happens When You Take Testosterone as a Woman?
Testosterone therapy in women causes increased muscle mass, which is often the intended effect. A trial of healthy women found they developed more muscle mass with use of a cream, at an increase of 923 grams instead of 135 grams. As for performance, only aerobic fitness improved, not strength .
Many women struggle with low testosterone levels, which increases in prevalence as we get older. The cause can be anything from menopause or ovarian failure, down to taking the oral contraceptive pill or enjoying too much licorice. Fortunately, there are treatment options to suit a range of causes, from changing your diet to testosterone replacement therapy.
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