What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word testosterone? Men? Ripped bodies and chiseled physiques? Well, that’s not quite the truth. The reality is that everyone has testosterone – both men and women in every shape and size. Since everyone has it, let’s dive deeper into testosterone and its importance in the body!
Testosterone is a sex hormone and steroid that is synthesized from cholesterol. It is formed in the gonads, which are the testes for men or in the ovaries for women. The typical amount of testosterone produced in men is between 270 and 1070 nanograms per deciliter. This number typically peaks at 20 and then slowly declines from there, so their average testosterone level is 679 nanograms per deciliter. Women experience much lower levels of testosterone than men. Women may see levels of 15-70 nanograms per deciliter. In men, testosterone is mainly responsible for their sexual development, as it helps reproductive organs form and change during puberty. It plays a key role in sperm production and sex drive, but also in body fat distribution, bone density, red blood cell production, hair growth, mood, and muscle growth and strength. In women, though testosterone is produced in much lower amounts, it still has an important role in bone health, breast health, fertility, sex drive, menstrual health, and vaginal health.
When there are normal levels of testosterone in the body, these processes work without complications, and our body is happy. It’s when we have either low or high amounts of testosterone that things don’t work as well and our body starts to freak out and do things it wouldn’t normally do. Low and high testosterone also can effect the body differently depending on gender, even though many of the effects can be very similar. When men have low testosterone, they may experience erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, infertility, rapid hair loss, reduced muscle mass, increased body fat, enlarged breasts, sleep disturbances, fatigue, brain fog, depression. Then on the other hand, when women have low levels of testosterone, they may experience sluggishness, muscle weakness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, reduced sex drive, weight gain, fertility issues, irregular menstrual cycles, vaginal dryness, loss of bone density. The common issue with low testosterone in both men and women is feeling tired or fatigued and a low sex drive. When there are high amounts of testosterone in men, they may experience Acne, changes in blood pressure, decreased sex drive, lowered sperm count, excessive body hair, early balding, irritability, anxiety, and depression. While women experience Acne, increased hair growth on the face, chest, and back, increase in muscle mass, irregular periods, reduced sex drive, difficulty getting pregnant, irritability, anxiety, and depression when they have high amounts of testosterone. Many of the similarities between men and women with high testosterone revolve around their mood and emotions.
Our body never necessarily wants us to have high or low testosterone. It would rather us be in that ideal range that I mentioned above. Sometimes we may put ourselves in certain situations where our body is forced to produce more or less testosterone. Then, there are also other times where our bodies just go crazy on their own and cause stress that then causes changes to our hormone levels.
So, what are some natural ways to help control testosterone levels? Many of the symptoms associated with low testosterone involve decreased sex drive. Restoring sex drive can naturally happen through stress reduction techniques and rest. Overall stress and lack of sleep could be causing you problems. Research has shown that high testosterone can be lowered naturally by eating different kinds of food.
This includes flax seed, green tea, mint, nuts, and soy. It is important to find what works best for you, and makes you feel better!
-Shirlene Hilt, Fontbonne dietetic intern