Having TOO Much testosterone as a women can make you feel very out of sorts!
While we need some testosterone (it is great for sex drive, muscle making, energy levels and feeling good) but in excess it can make us feel terrible!
There are some of the things women notice when their testosterone levels are high:
- Male pattern hair loss i.e. thinning hair on their scalp and pubic regions, more hair on their face (in particular the chin and upper lip) and hairy arms, hair on the tops of the feet and toes and around their nipples
- Acne or pimples on the chin, back or chest areas
- More competitive urges, aggression, rage and irritability
- Cysts on her ovaries, loss of ovulation and possible infertility
- Deep voice
- Tummy fat
- Muscle definition
Can you relate to any of these? You might have too much testosterone. I do find stressed women, working women and athletes have high testosterone levels.
Just why this happens is unknown but testosterone is an important female hormone and there is a definite link about women in survival or stress mode and elevations in their testosterone levels.
Why are western women stressed? Why are testosterone levels on the increase and what does this mean for fertility fitness?
Stress is a normal physiological occurrence. It is the body’s way of going on alert and preparing all the organs and body parts for a fight (stand up and slay a beast) or flight (run for your life).
Even when you are exposed to little everyday stresses, such as changing lanes in your car, taking money out of the bank, or dropping your kids at school, the stress system is activated. The degree to which you feel stressed in situations depends on many things – previous experiences, nutritional state, influence of drugs and alcohol, time pressures, expectations and how much sleep you have had.
Stress activates your adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline and noradrenalin, which then orchestrate another series of hormone reactions, including a rise in insulin. The adrenals also secrete the hormone cortisol and probably testosterone.
Stress and its corresponding hormonal effects are a huge problem in western cultures. More, quicker, faster, better are all things that will cause stress in your body.
Give yourself permission to go half sail occasionally and enjoy the fruits of your labour. This will not only increase your happiness and sense of satisfaction but it will also decrease your stress hormones (and your body will love you for that).
The medical name for elevated testosterone levels in women is poly cystic ovary syndrome. I prefer to call it female hormone disorder.
Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or Female Hormone Disorder (FHD) affects up 75% of women in Australia trying to failing to conceive.
The main causes of FHD appear to be (there is no equivocal study to prove these theories as right or wrong):
- Masculine thinking (especially in the work place, doing budgets, doing traditional male jobs and roles)
- Stress, rushing, over committing, trying to do 30 hours worth of activities in a 24 hour day
- Eating or drinking lots of carbohydrates
- Elite female athletes (i.e. those engaged in strong competition)
FHD disorder typically leads to increased testosterone levels (many of the women I consult have levels higher than their male partners), dysfunctional insulin levels and various other hormone imbalances and physical problems. They may have cysts on their ovaries, they may have no periods and they usually have some of the elevated testosterone symptoms I outlined before. Or they may have none of the ovary issues, and may just be a tom-boy!
Very high testosterone levels can be deceiving and while the classic PCO or FHD woman with a humped back and hair growing out of her chin does occur, more and more I am finding size 10, “normal” appearance woman are presenting with hidden FHD and PCO. Women with PCO or FHD can struggle to become pregnant without addressing the lifestyle measures (stressing less, eating more protein, relaxation etc).
In essence, Female Hormone Disorder (FHD) is the same condition as PCOS BUT I believe with a change in the name, people will start moving away from the presence of multiple ovary cysts as a key feature (before a diagnosis can be made) and will start to appreciate the other key characteristics of FHD (hormone and stress imbalances):
1. Oestrogen changes (typically elevated)
2. Elevated testosterone
3. Insulin and glucose intolerance or impaired glucose intolerance (which currently affects 1 in 4 Australian adults)!
4. Cortisol changes or the presence of stress.
Other common symptoms and signs of FHD (and PCOS):
- Acne and oily skin
- Anger, rage or irritability
- Irregular menstrual cycles or no periods
- Obesity or stubborn fat loss (particularly around the middle)
- Acanthosis nigricans (dark pigmentation common in skin folds)
- Sleep apnoea
- Blood sugar problems
- An under active thyroid
- Stress and high cortisol levels
- High testosterone levels
- Facial hair, thinning of the hair on top
- Multiple ovarian cysts
- Pelvic pain
- Enlarged ovaries
Of those of you whom do seek out medical advice, be prepared to be told that there is nothing wrong or that the treatment is the OCP. The doctor may offer some routine electrolyte and liver function tests, a full blood count and maybe an ultrasound of their ovaries, which may or may not give a positive or negative diagnosis for FHD or (PCOS).
How do you know if you have high testosterone levels?
Anything over 10 is not great! And while it may not mean your testosterone levels are high, it certainly may mean you have a hormone imbalance.
2. You can read more about it my book/video
3. You can ask your doctor to do a blood test but blood testing can give false results. Testosterone binds to SHBG in the blood and this level can be affected by many things. Saliva is a more accurate way.
4. You can have your hormones tested via saliva testing. And for all my research and talking with other practitioners this seems the best way to measure. The test can be collected in your home, then you post to Melbourne (in the provided envelope) and the results take approximately 2 weeks to get back from the laboratory. We then discuss your results on the phone.
This is the best method. It is the most accurate way of finding out your hormones. In this package, I measure your estrogen levels, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
Detecting and measuring women with high testosterone levels is a special area of medicine and natural medicine. Most clients find it is the best information they find out about themselves as often it helps them understand their symptoms but more importantly how to treat it.