High Testosterone in Women...Not GOOD!
PCOS and High Testosterone
If you are a woman experiencing problems with your menstrual cycle, whether it is overly painful or irregular cycles, then this article is for you. One very common cause of these problems with menstrual cycles is an imbalance in hormones, particularly hormones called androgens.
Androgens are male hormones present in female bodies. There are certain levels of androgens that are necessary and normal to have (see below). But elevated levels of hormones, such as testosterone, can really turn normal menstrual cycles into abnormal, even painful ones. Balancing testosterone levels with estrogen and progesterone can be one solution to conditions such as these.
High Testosterone in Women
High testosterone in a woman can be a devastating issue. Symptoms of high testosterone levels can include:
- Hair loss/male pattern baldness
- Excessive hair growth
- Weight gain
- Ovarian cysts
- Low libido
- Mood swings
- Difficulty conceiving
Regular levels of testosterone and estrogen should look like this chart below. You can see day one, which would be the first day of bleeding during menses. The pink line represents estrogen levels, and the green represents testosterone.
As you can see, estrogen levels stay relatively elevated for much of the cycle, but also have various ups and downs. Testosterone levels, on the other hand, stay relatively low throughout the entire cycle. There is a similar spike around the same time as a major estrogen spike, but it remains significantly below the levels of estrogen under normal circumstances.
In contrast, women experiencing PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) see extreme elevations of testosterone, with very low levels of estrogen. It is almost as if their levels have switched, though the testosterone levels remain consistently high throughout the entire cycle.
Many different factors can cause high testosterone, including (but not limited to):
- Bad gut health
- High insulin
- High glucose
- High blood sugar
- Food sensitivities causing low levels of hydrochloric acid
Androgens and You
For the purposes of this article, we will summarize all male hormones together in the term “androgens.” These androgens can be caused by a number of different things, but often the culprits include excessive insulin and genetics.
While there is nothing we can do about genetics, there are many lifestyle changes we can make to relieve the symptoms of high androgens brought about from other causes. In fact, many of the different causes of high androgens, such as diet and smoking, can be taken care of simply through lifestyle changes.
This is why it is so important to take a polytherapy approach to medicine. Often one single change will not make enough of a difference. It is likely you will need five or six different changes to apply in your life in order for you to get better.
Balance and Harmony of Hormones
Testosterone and estrogen are not the only hormones that need balancing. All of your body’s hormones need to be in the right amount in order to create a system of harmony within your body. Imbalance levels of hormone, such as progesterone, can cause your body to function differently than normal.
During ovulation, when the egg leaves the ovary, progesterone levels begin to increase. This needs to happen in harmony with the sudden spike of the pituitary hormones FSH and LH.
When you have high insulin, high testosterone, or you are chronically inflamed, your levels of FSH and LH remain flat. Under normal circumstances, your FSH levels are slightly higher than your LH levels (until the spike). However, if you have any of those aforementioned conditions, your FHS and LH levels may switch and elevate. This is known to cause many, many problems with menstrual cycles.