When we think of testosterone, we often think of it in relation to men’s health, but it is a crucial hormone for women’s health as well. This important hormone is sometimes overlooked as a therapeutic option in treating women’s hormone issues such as bone health, mood issues, poor memory function, fatigue, and thinning hair just to name a few.
In this first post about testosterone and women’s health, I’ll talk about: the importance of testosterone for women’s health; how too much or too little testosterone can cause health issues; and how, in many ways similar to progesterone and estrogen, all sex hormones including testosterone, are Goldilocks hormones. For optimal health, these hormone levels need to be not too much, not too little, but just right.
The Many Functions of Testosterone in Women’s Health
Testosterone supports many functions in body, some of which are neglected in traditional medicine:
- Muscle mass
- Bone strength
- Memory function
- Mental health
- Skin elasticity
- Hair health
- Weight management
Testosterone is needed for maintaining muscle and bone health. Low levels of testosterone are associated with the formation of osteoporosis and loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) as women age.
This key hormone supports cognitive functions such as memory and mood levels. Testosterone elevates norepinephrine levels in the brain, causing an antidepressant effect in women. So not only are estrogen and progesterone important to consider for women’s mental health, but testosterone also plays an important role.
The role of testosterone that people tend to think about most is its association with increased libido and sexual interest. It’s supporting role in emotional well-being, self-confidence and motivation are sometimes neglected.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
What are some common signs and symptoms that your testosterone may be low?
- Decreased libido
- Droopy eyelids
- Thinning hair
- Thin lips
- Weight gain
Inadequate testosterone can cause a loss of elasticity in the skin, and may also be an underlying cause of thinning hair. So not only are estrogen and progesterone important for hair health, testosterone is as well. As women age, and testosterone levels drop, they may notice their lips thinning and a tendency to gain weight.
Causes of Low Testosterone in Women
Some reasons for inadequate testosterone are:
- Chronic stress
- Oral contraceptives
- Poor sleep quality and duration
There are several big causes for low testosterone levels in women. Levels typically do drop as women age. Chronic stress, through its effects on the adrenal gland, can reduce testosterone and is frequently passed over as a cause. So not only does testosterone support positive mood and cognitive function, but in the reverse, chronic stress can feed back and cause lowered levels of testosterone. Other causes include the use of oral contraceptives, poor sleep quality, and depression.
Natural Ways for Women to Boost Testosterone Levels
So what are some things you can do to help your body produce more testosterone naturally?
- Get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep
- Effectively manage stress
- Lose weight
- Eat a nutritious diet for proper nutrition, which may include supplementation
The best thing to do to increase testosterone, as well as to balance hormones in general, is to get a good night’s sleep if you are not sleeping well already. Stress reduction supports the balancing of your adrenal gland, which in turn aids in healthy hormone levels. Exercise is a great way to boost testosterone and, actually, caloric restriction has been associated with elevation of levels of testosterone also.
Nutrition plays a key role in all areas of health and is no exception here. Eating a balanced diet of whole, unprocessed foods with healthy fats, protein, and colorful plants is a foundational way to support your body’s hormone production. Finally, certain supplements such as arginine, leucine, glutamine, and zinc have been shown to help increase testosterone levels in women.
Next in this Series
So now that we’ve talked about testosterone deficiency, next week we’ll talk about the flip side. In the following post, we’ll discuss elevated testosterone in women and the issues that can cause, most commonly, PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
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Take care and be well.
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.
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