You are fierce. A force to be reckoned with. Some days you feel as though you could literally take on the world. Others you’re moody and maybe feel a little angry or aggressive. So, what gives? You may be experiencing what’s known as testosterone excess.
Why Do Women Need Testosterone?
Testosterone is often associated with big, burly men or doping athletes. The truth of the matter is that everyone needs testosterone. Women require a smaller amount of testosterone than men but it’s still essential to help your body perform certain functions and maintain a proper balance.
Too Much of a Good Thing…
Testosterone excess is the result of too much free testosterone circulating in a woman’s body. It’s estimated that this condition affects approximately 4% – 7% of women with functioning ovaries (these numbers decrease markedly after menopause). When you are experiencing testosterone excess it can influence your entire being – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Women with testosterone excess can experience some or all of the following symptoms:
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common finding that accompanies high testosterone levels. PCOS (if you have an article or page on PCOS hyperlink it here) is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
Excessive hair growth in unwanted areas is frequently seen with higher levels of testosterone females. This is known as hirsutism.
Unusual amounts of perspiration can be a sign that testosterone levels are higher than they should be.
A deepening of the voice can indicate the presence of testosterone excess.
Frontal balding in women is also a sign that testosterone is running amuck.
Acne on not only the face but also back and chest when it wasn’t a problem before can be an indication of higher-than-normal testosterone.
Some women find they feel more aggressive or are quicker to lose their tempers when their testosterone levels are too high.
Diet is an incredibly important part of rebalancing your hormones. You may not realize it, but many of the foods you eat may be having an impact on your hormone production. It’s been found that eating large amounts of certain foods can actually increase testosterone levels. The irony is that most of these foods are good for you – fatty fish, beans, healthy saturated fats (such as olive and coconut oil), eggs and cruciferous vegetables. This doesn’t mean you should quit eating them; instead, incorporate them with other foods that can help lower testosterone. On the other end of the spectrum, foods that contain high concentrations of simple carbohydrates such as candy, cookies and white bread should be avoided.
Foods rich in phytoestrogens are helpful in countering high testosterone levels. These include foods such as whole soy products (think tofu, edamame and tempeh). Other foods that can help naturally lower testosterone include dairy foods such as cheese and yogurt, chocolate (try to stick with dark chocolate with a low sugar content), whole grains and mint tea. All of these stimulate the enzyme aromatase to convert testosterone into estrogen.
Strenuous exercise can encourage testosterone production. While it may feel awesome to get in that incredible CrossFit workout three or four times a week, you may actually be encouraging your body to produce more testosterone. Consider mixing it up a little with yoga, pilates or other, gentler fitness modes.
While stress can decrease testosterone, it can also wreak havoc on your other hormones, as well. If you’re under a lot of stress regularly, try to find ways to decrease it. This will allow for your body to find a better balance and set you up for success in your other treatment choices.
Your integrative gynecologist can recommend herbs that will naturally lower your testosterone levels. Be sure to follow his or her directions closely – herbs, while natural, can still be misused.
Medications such as spironolactone are used to suppress androgen production. In many cases they’re also used to help decrease the associated symptoms such as acne and excess hair growth.
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