The first time I’d even considered my testosterone level I was sitting in a counselor’s office with my husband.
We had 3 young children, two busy careers and having a very hard time connecting. Dr. Pat Love, author of Hot Monogamy sat across from us like a scene straight out of a movie. The routine questions came first: “What made you fall in love? ” “What did you love about him when you first met?, then a quick segway into hormones – namely testosterone. It had been a big part of her latest book, and she was eager to share some light. Turns out she was right on, and knowing what I know now about testosterone I would have got to work on this sooner. Honestly, our body is smarter than we may think. When our psyche knows that we are overburdened and physically unable to expend the energy, reproduce or care for more offspring – guess what happens? It shuts down our testosterone or libido. It may then make perfect sense to find out that our adrenal glands make testosterone. When then gland is taxed from stress, production goes down. Fortunately I crawled my way out of this hormonal abyss, but there is much to be learned about how we are balancing life, based on the story our hormones have to tell.
The science behind desire. Dr. Pat Love also taught us about sexual style. She estimated that 2/3 of women were more estrogen dominant that testosterone dominant. The women who were lower in testosterone required a feeling of safety, decreased stress and a sense of connection before feeling a sense of desire. Well Dr. Love, I couldn’t agree more. Dr. Shawn Tassone, MD, PhD, calls this hormonal profile, the nun. Its not all bad being a Nun. Let me tell you we are disciplined, focused, spiritual and not to mention extremely loyal. It may be just the set of virtues needed to get through a demanding season of life. Luckily we can hold on to the nun traits we value and overcome those that are holding us back in life. By contrast women who are high in testosterone don’t necessarily need to feel safe or connected to feel sexual. That comes with its own set of issues. Once again, balance or the middle path will help us to connect with the most integrated version of ourselves.
I recently interviewed Dr. Shawn Tassone, OBGYN. He stated that after seeing over 40,000 women in clinic he estimates that over 90% suffer from low testosterone. This was also the experience of my husband Dr. Alan Hopkins in his anti-aging clinic in Austin, Tx. So if you’re feeling like your libido is lacking – your not alone. So what are the symptoms, how can we correct them and why are we having this issue in the first place?
Symptoms of low testosterone in women include decreased libido, lethargy, lowered mood and loss of muscle mass and strength, osteoporosis, sleep disturbance, anxiety and hair loss. These symptoms can sneak up on us and we consider it our “new normal.” When looking how to live your best life however, you want to challenge such norms and reach for the healthiest version of you. According to Dr. Alan Hopkins, MD Free Testosterone should be between 1-3pg/ml and Total Testosterone should between 10-30ng/dl. If your still having symptoms and on the low range, you may want to some of the holistic interventions mentioned below.
I love using biological trends, to uncover universal lifestyle imbalances. Women are starting to speak up about our struggles, and guess what we find out? We are not alone. Self-care and down time are essential to our hormonal health. One thing I personally love about lab testing, is that the body verifies what the soul can’t quite admit – I’m out of balance. Finding out your hormonal levels can give you the impetus you need to focus on self care, with some direction you can make significant changes. Here are a few suggestions in very specific areas. You can check out lab testing here.
Pumpkin seeds are high in both zinc and beta -sitosterol. Both the green and white pumpkin seeds have benefits. Be sure to get some with the hulls on – leave off any artificial flavorings and stick to an organic product. Eggs and Oysters are high in Zinc as well.
Low Selenium levels can also slow testosterone production. Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium, two or three nuts a day will help. Eat lots of fiber and get an extra serving of Broccoli. Broccoli is high in DIM (diindolylmethane), a nutrient known to increase free testosterone. DIM releases “good” estrogen metabolites that bind to the same proteins testosterone uses, leaving more “free” testosterone available in the body. Eggs also give us the building blocks for healthy cholesterol, and the healthy fat we need to produce our hormones properly. Olive Oil is carries a powerful punch. In research participants who consumed olive oil daily experienced an increase in testosterone levels between 17-19 percent over a three week period.( 1) Pomegranate is a beautiful red fruit has been used medicinally for centuries. With high levels of antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E and iron, researchers have found one glass of pomegranate juice a day can increase testosterone levels between 16 percent and 30 percent improve mood, and increase libido. While I’m not a fan of the high sugar content in juice, I do recommend eating the fruit in its whole form regularly. (2).
Vitamin D is also very important to the production of testosterone. Vitamin D deficiency is very common and if you are treating low testosterone with hormone medication, you may want to consider getting your nutrients tested and allowing your body to use its innate intelligence to correct the problem first.
Herbs for Testosterone
Herbs known to help increase testosterone include – you’ll never guess: Horny Goat Weed. You may never have heard of horny goat weed, but the heart-shaped herb is found in the wild in China, as well as Asia and Europe. First mentioned in traditional Chinese medicine texts at least 2,000 years ago, horny goat weed was given the botanical moniker Epimedium and the ancient Chinese name of yin yang huo after a (very) sexually active mythical creature. Farmers noted that goats eating the weed had more excitement for the opposite sex.
Yohimbe is useful in increasing a woman’s libido continues. Studies that have been conducted so far have not been well designed and have not been conclusive. One study published by Dr. Cindy Meston in the August 2002 journal “Archives of Sexual Behavior”(3) found that the active ingredient in yohimbe–did increase sexual arousal when taken in conjunction with L-arginine. However, neither yohimbine or L-arginine alone increased libido. Because the study was conducted on such as small group of women, more study is necessary to determine what effect yohimbe and yohimbine have on the body and whether it is effective for boosting libido.
Hormone replacement is always an option. In my interview with Dr. Shawn Tassone OBGYN and Integrative Medicine physician, he recommends looking at a holistic approach to restoration before reaching for direct hormone replacement. If you feel need further intervention discuss it with your physician. Something to keep in mind is that creams make it testosterone levels easier to control than pellets. Over shooting can cause permanent voice changes, and other unwanted side effects.
Women often experience low testosterone when overburdened in their role as caregiver in chief. Believe it or not this can be a very isolating experience. Taking the time to connect in mutually beneficial relationships that allow you to both contribute and receive can be energetic healing and bring both our soul and biology back into balance. So take sometime to connect with people who uplift you and reconnect you to your best self. I know I needed this in the worst way. I was going from one obligation to the next, with no support or recharge. My body chemistry definitely paid the price.
Exercise to Increase Testosterone Production
Exercise can also help us to biohack our testosterone levels too. Work High Intensity Interval training into your routine 20-30 minutes of intense exercise can help to increase testosterone. You’ll be using bigger muscle groups here like your hips and thighs. Activities that require squats and lifting can engage more muscle groups and encourage testosterone production. (4) Here is a link to our exercise program that has HIT options for your training program.
Addressing chronic stress is also key in restoring your hormone levels. The production of the stress hormone cortisol blocks the production and effects of testosterone. From a biological perspective, cortisol increases your “fight or flight” response, thereby lowering testosterone-associated functions such as mating, competing, and aggression. Chronic stress can take a toll on testosterone production, as well as your overall health. Therefore, stress management is equally important to a healthy diet and regular exercise. Tools you can use to stay stress-free include prayer, meditation, laughter, and yoga. Relaxation skills, such as deep breathing and visualization, can also promote your emotional health
Sleep to Increase Testosterone
We first learned about this relationship from Dr. Kirk Parsley, MD and Navy Seal. His number one approach for increasing testosterone in the seals was to improve their sleep. Magnesium, melatonin and tryptophan levels were all important. Partial sleep restriction lasting one-week (5hr/night) in a laboratory setting has been shown to decrease overall 24-hour testosterone levels in a healthy male to 15%. On a study be Penev et al. the men who slept for – 4 hours had an average of 200-300ng/dL testosterone levels in serum, where as the guys who slept for – 8 hours had closer to 500-700 ng/dL. In a study from Gov et al. they found that out of 531 Chinese men, increased sleep time was highly correlated with higher total and free testosterone levels. Researchers also calculated that each extra hour of sleep led to about 15% more testosterone.
What I valued most about my conversations about Testosterone, was the realization that it is a whole person approach to healing. The most integrated approach will bring the most lasting and meaningful change. So before you head off to fix the problem with a pill, look to see what your body is communicating with you and nurture yourself in all aspects of life to restore your health.
You can see our entire interview on testosterone here:
The Effects of Yohimbine Plus L-arginine Glutamate on Sexual Arousal in Postmenopausal Women with Sexual Arousal Disorder