Functional Medicine

Women and Testosterone

Testosterone, in women, brings a sense of self-assurance and self-confidence, it supports sexual arousal, cognitive performance, energy levels, and muscle mass. Through the conversion to estrogen, testosterone also supports bone density and lowers lipid levels.

In women, testosterone is produced in the ovaries and the adrenal glands. It is also synthesized from DHEA and androstenedione in skin and fat tissue. Even in menopause, the ovaries and adrenals continue to produce testosterone, with up to half of the testosterone coming from these organs. So why are women in their 40s and 50s seeing a precipitous drop in testosterone?

Here are the five most common reasons I see in my practice:

1) Long-term emotional stress (divorce, aging parents, teenage kids)

2) Oxidative stress (mold, mycotoxins, mercury, parasites, etc)

3) Chronic lack of sleep due to lifestyle choices. hormonal changes or histamine triggers

4) Macronutrient deficiencies – not enough carbs to support exercise, not enough protein to support recovery, and not enough fat to support the synthesis of testosterone.

5) Zinc, magnesium, boron, selenium, and vitamin D deficiencies.

Here are 12 ways to resolve low testosterone without testosterone replacement therapy.

  1. Eat red meat, preferably grass-fed. It is rich in zinc and arachidonic acid, both of which are essential for the synthesis of testosterone. (See note below)
  2. Eat a small portion of carbs. Carbs suppress SHBG to make more T freely available. They also help move amino acids into the muscle to repair damaged tissue.
  3. Eat enough fats. I recommend 2 servings at lunch and dinner. Include nuts and seeds for zinc, magnesium, and boron.
  4. Eat enough protein – not excessive and not too low. If you’re confused about what to eat, pick up my book The Archetype Diet, and follow the meal plans.
  5. Use intermittent fasting wisely. If you don’t respond well to it, don’t do it. In an 8-week female-only study, IF did not drop T levels but In a 52-week male-only study, men’s T levels dropped after IF.
  6. Take trace minerals which include zinc, boron, and selenium as they support the synthesis of T. I like @seekinghealth Trace Mineral Complex.
  7. Resistance train 4x per week for 20 – 45 minutes. Pilates, barre, bands, weights – the choice is yours depending on the body shape you want.
  8. Do not overtrain! You need recovery days. If you move your body into a cortisol-dominant state, you will suppress testosterone and simply feel exhausted.
  9. Take vitamin D (2000 IU) if you do not get enough afternoon sun. There is a direct relationship between low vitamin D and low T.
  10. Prioritize sleep. Aim for a minimum of 7.5 hours. If you can’t sleep, take a look at an earlier post on sleep.
  11. Reassess the BCP as a method of managing perimenopausal symptoms. It can lower freely available testosterone.
  12. Identify and resolve sources of oxidative and emotional stress. Work with experienced practitioners who can guide you through this.

Testosterone is a hormone that is the byproduct of lifestyle choices. You can increase your levels with dedicated dietary choices, stress management, and resolving internal toxicity.

Note, if you are vegan and your T levels are fine, you do need to eat red meat. These recommendations are for women with low T.