While you may likely consider testosterone to be a ”man’s” hormone, testosterone is actually present in both males and females in different levels. If you think that you will have facial hair, a deep and booming voice, be big or bulky, or broad-shouldered and manly, there are a few things you need to know about the benefits of adequate levels of testosterone in women.
Testosterone is a naturally-occurring steroid hormone made in the ovaries, adrenal glands and peripheral tissues. Women produce about one-tenth of the amount of testosterone that men do and it is important for healthy bone and muscle mass. Testosterone strengthens our bodies, enhances our memory, motivation and focus. It creates an essential sense of well-being that makes us feel wonderful and alive regardless of our age. It keeps skin and nails beautiful, regulates sex drive and the menstrual cycle.
These days, immune health is on just about everyone’s mind. Testosterone optimizes white blood cells and the immune system. Sounds like a great hormone, right? Before you go racing to the pharmacy, remember that the body craves homeostasis or balance. Testosterone does not trigger weight gain, but instead is an accessory to it. Here is what happens when the female body has too little or too much testosterone.
Low Testosterone causes weight gain.
Between the ages of 20 and 40, many women experience a huge drop off in natural testosterone levels, so by the time you are 45 you can have clinically low levels of testosterone. No wonder many women feel like their “get up and go” has “gotten up and left”. Low testosterone can lead to loss of muscle mass. Since muscle burns more calories than fat and keeps the metabolism working well, decrease in muscle mass contributes to weight gain. Studies have also shown that women with lower testosterone levels suffer from appetite dysregulation and the hormone leptin, which tells your body it’s full, becomes less active contributing to overeating and resulting in weight gain.
High Testosterone causes weight gain.
In menopausal women, the situation is quite different. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop and testosterone levels may remain the same or slightly increase. High testosterone causes insulin resistance and increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. Excess testosterone can convert to estrogen thus causing weight gain resulting in the loss of that cute little waist in favor of a squarer shape, thicker waist and heavier upper body.
Other Factors: Age and stress can significantly reduce the testosterone levels in women. Increased stress and inflammation lead to additional fat accumulation. The sad part is that most women consider these problems a normal part of the aging process. But it doesn’t have to be.
Don’t’ Guess, Always Test: Diagnosing low testosterone is actually not very difficult. What should you do? The best place to start is by having testosterone levels checked. You will need your Free Testosterone and Total Testosterone levels. Women with testosterone levels that fall outside of the reference range and well as sub-optimal testosterone levels will benefit from replacement. Keep in mind that if you have one hormone imbalance, you are likely to have other hormonal imbalances as well so consider getting a complete hormone panel to ensure proper treatment. You can find a complete hormonal panel to do from home here. Once imbalances are discovered, it is important to work with a professional that has specific training in bioidentical hormones. They can guide you and what needs to be replaced and make proper recommendations.
Testosterone Levels: When you get your labs back it may look like you fall in the “normal range” but normal isn’t always optimal. You want to aim for 25-40 ng/dl. Bear in mind, however, each woman is different. The goal is finding the amount of replacement hormone you individually need to make you feel your best.
Decrease Testosterone Naturally: Eat a lower carb diet to reverse insulin resistance. Add in high-intensity interval training or weight training – building muscle mass sensitizes tissues to insulin levels.
Supplements like Berberine has been shown in scientific studies to help reverse insulin resistance as well as metformin (400 mg 3x a day). Natural progesterone can help to lower androgens & improve insulin sensitivity.
Increase Testosterone Naturally: Engage in regular weight-bearing exercises, get more sleep, and lower stress.