07 Oct Testosterone Replacement in Women
Oestrogen is often considered the main female sex hormone and testosterone the main male sex hormone. However, this often creates confusion as it may seem as though women only produce estrogen and men only produce testosterone, which is not the case.
Men and women produce both hormones; the difference, though, is that men produce 10 to 20 times more testosterone than women and women produce more estrogen. Testosterone is produced by the testes in men and by the ovaries and adrenal glands in women.
Testosterone plays a vital role in men and women. It is called an androgenic hormone because it stimulates the development of male characteristics.
What Does Testosterone Do for Women?
Testosterone in women is crucial to the healthy functioning of most tissues in the body. It is also converted to oestrogen which is why women do not develop traditionally male characteristics (e.g., deeper voice, facial hair) with their testosterone production.
Testosterone in women plays a vital role in many areas in the female body, including:
- self-confidence and self esteem
- motivation and energy
- muscle strength
- bone density
Causes Of Low Testosterone in Women.
There are two main causes of low testosterone levels in women: a natural decrease in testosterone production and a deficiency in production.
Natural Decreases in Testosterone Production
Like many hormones in the body, testosterone levels can be affected by factors such as age, time of day, or place in a menstrual cycle.
Perimenopause and menopause are two periods in a woman’s life where hormone levels in the body change immensely. A decrease in oestrogen and progesterone is most prominent during this time, but testosterone also decreases with perimenopause and menopause. Testosterone levels peak in a woman’s 20s but then slowly decline after, and by the time a woman reaches the menopause, her testosterone levels are at half of their peak.
Testosterone can also decrease during the menopause if Hormone Replacement Therapy is used. namely oral estrogen to replenish declining oestrogen levels. This can increase in the binding agent and carrier, Sex hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) which then binds to testosterone making it unavailable for the body to use.
Other causes of low testosterone levels include:
- Surgical removal of ovaries (oophorectomy).
- Adrenal Gland insufficiency.
- Hyperprolactinaemia- a condition where the body produces abnormally high prolactin levels.
- Ovarian failure.
- Stress or extreme weight loss.
- Symptoms Of Low Testosterone.
Women with low testosterone levels can experience several symptoms which may overlap with other hormone deficiencies.
They may include:
- Low mood or depression.
- Decreased sense of wellbeing and fatigue.
- Decreased self-esteem and confidence.
- Decreased stamina, motivation and energy.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Reduced muscle mass and tone.
- Weight gain.
- Aching joints.
- Reduced libido
- Fertility problems.
- Missed or irregular periods.
Treatment Of Low Testosterone in Women.
The optimum treatment plan for testosterone deficiency includes testosterone replacement, using a transdermal (through the skin) bioidentical testosterone cream which is identical to the testosterone a woman produces and lifestyle changes.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).
This therapy replenishes depleted testosterone levels using bioidentical testosterone which is identical to the testosterone a woman produces. The amount can be tailored to that required according to the hormone profile and a range of delivery methods can be offered including topical creams and lozenges.
During TRT symptoms, any side effects and hormone levels are carefully monitored, and doses adjusted accordingly.
Eat Testosterone-Boosting Foods.
Certain nutrients help increase testosterone levels naturally, including protein, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients provide many other benefits to the body but incorporating them into your diet may also help to increase testosterone levels.
Some foods high in these nutrients include:
- pumpkin seeds
- wild oily fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel)
- leafy green vegetables (e.g., kale, spinach)
- beans, especially kidney, black, or pinto beans
Consuming a variety of these foods ensures that you get a wide range of testosterone-boosting nutrients.
Stress and testosterone have an inverse relationship, meaning that when stress levels increase, testosterone levels decrease. This is because the hormone cortisol is produced to excess which comes from the same precursor as testosterone. Therefore, the more cortisol the body produces the less testosterone is made.
To help improve your testosterone levels, it is important to implement habits to reduce stress levels, such as meditation, yoga, and getting enough sleep every night.
Exercise can help to increase testosterone production and focusing on the correct type of exercise is important. A study in young women found that resistance exercises involving weightlifting can increase testosterone levels. Therefore, focusing on increasing muscle mass helps to increase testosterone levels.
Time spent sleeping is crucial for many aspects of wellbeing, including mood, memory, cognitive functioning, stress, and immune function. In addition to its role in these, poor sleep can also negatively impact testosterone levels. A study found that restricting sleep to 5 hours for 8 nights resulted in a decrease in testosterone levels by 10%-15%.
It is best to aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. If it is difficult to reach these goals, try to focus on forming healthy sleep habits, such as turning off electronics one hour before bed, following a set sleep schedule, and minimizing distractions such as noises and lights.
While testosterone is often associated with men, it’s also an essential hormone for women, albeit in smaller quantities. Women can experience some debilitating effects due to low testosterone levels, especially during the perimenopause and menopause caused by the significant changes in hormone levels.
There are many ways to increase testosterone levels, including Testosterone Replacement Therapy and lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep.
If you suspect your testosterone levels may be low book an appointment with our hormone specialists where you can undergo a thorough assessment with appropriate tests to diagnose and treat your hormonal imbalance.