High testosterone is a hallmark finding in women with PCOS and causes a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Lowering testosterone levels is key to helping reverse symptoms like unwanted hair growth and irregular periods. If you’re wondering how to lower testosterone in women and improve symptoms of PCOS, then you’ve come to the right place.
Read on to learn helpful tips for lowering your testosterone and managing your symptoms naturally.
What to Know About PCOS and Testosterone
Before we dive into how to lower your testosterone and mitigate symptoms of PCOS, let’s first talk about what it means to have PCOS and high testosterone.
PCOS- also referred to as polycystic ovary syndrome or polycystic ovarian syndrome – is a condition that impacts the endocrine system and reproductive system in women. PCOS is associated with high levels of testosterone, which is a male sex hormone.
Diagnosing High Testosterone in Women
What is testosterone, anyways? Testosterone is a male sex hormone, or androgen, that is responsible for influencing sex drive, body hair patterns, sperm production, fat accumulation patterns, and muscle growth. In males, testosterone production occurs in the testes. Imbalanced testosterone levels in men may lead to changes in mood, hair growth, muscle mass, and sexual function. High or low testosterone levels in men may also be connected to testicular cancer or prostate cancer.
Some are surprised to learn that females also produce testosterone. However, the dominant sex hormones in women are estrogen and progesterone. Testosterone is responsible for supporting bone health, sex drive, and energy levels in women. In females, testosterone production occurs in the ovaries.
For both men and women, the pituitary gland in the brain sends signals to the testes or ovaries to produce testosterone. The adrenal glands are also responsible for producing small amounts of testosterone.
Your doctor will assess your symptoms and administer blood tests to diagnose high testosterone and PCOS in women.
Your physician will discuss your symptoms and determine whether they are consistent with high testosterone production. Signs of high testosterone associated with PCOS include:
- Hirsutism: Hirsutism describes abnormal hair growth patterns on the face and chest. Women may notice excess coarse hair growing in the chin, cheeks, and chest.
- Hair loss: In addition to hair loss, women with excess testosterone may also experience hair loss and bald spots.
- Jawline acne: Extra testosterone and PCOS are associated with hormonal imbalances that cause cystic acne on the jawline and lower cheeks.
- Irregular periods: Having high levels of testosterone impacts the normal menstrual cycle. Women with PCOS may have sporadic periods, or they may experience amenorrhea, which is the absence of a period.
- Infertility: Imbalance hormones in PCOS disrupts ovulation, making it more difficult to get pregnant.
Blood tests are valuable diagnostic tools for evaluating the presence of hormone imbalances like high testosterone or androgen levels.
- Free testosterone levels: Free testosterone indicates the amount of testosterone in the bloodstream that is floating freely, meaning it is unbound to other particles.
- Bound testosterone: Bound testosterone includes
- Total testosterone: Total testosterone levels include all testosterone in the bloodstream, including both bound and unbound.
- Sex hormone-binding globulin: Women with PCOS may have abnormal levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and is a helpful hormone level to assess in women.
- Dihydrotestosterone: Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels in the bloodstream may help physicians determine if PCOS is evident. DHT is an androgen produced from testosterone.
Tips for Lowering Testosterone
Here are some helpful tips for lowering your testosterone naturally.
1. Stick to Complex Carbohydrates
Sticking to complex carbohydrates and avoiding simple carbohydrates is one of the best steps you can take for lowering testosterone levels and stabilizing hormone imbalances. Research shows that hyperandrogenism is associated with glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and high insulin levels. (1) Eating loads of simple carbohydrates can worsen insulin function and the body’s ability to metabolize sugars.
What are simple carbohydrates, anyway? Simple carbs are rapidly processed by the body and are considered to have a high glycemic index. When we eat simple carbohydrates, the digestive system quickly releases glucose into the bloodstream, causing significant spikes in blood sugar.
Avoiding simple carbs and sticking to complex carbs may help normalize blood sugar, insulin, and hormone levels.
2. Consume High-Quality Protein
High-quality protein offers optimal ratios of essential amino acids, which are vital for supporting healthy hormone levels and metabolic function. Essential amino acids are used to build numerous biologically important compounds like hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters, and muscle tissue.
Research suggests that essential amino acids may play an important role in normalizing androgen levels. An Italian pilot study evaluated essential amino supplementation in women with PCOS. (2) Findings revealed lower levels of free testosterone as well as lower levels of insulin. (2)
You can ensure that you’re getting optimal ratios of essential amino acids by eating plenty of high-quality proteins. Animal proteins offer optimal ratios of essential amino acids in a single source. Excellent options for animal protein include lean meats, egg whites, nonfat Greek yogurt, and fish. A vegan diet can also offer optimal ratios of essential amino acids. However, it’s crucial to ensure that you consume a variety of vegetable protein sources throughout the day, like beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, and whole grains.
Supplementation with a balanced ratio of essential amino acids is also an excellent way to ensure that you’re getting the amino acids you need. Supplements are also particularly helpful when you follow a plant-based diet, so you can forgo the hassle of planning your proteins.
3. Eat Foods with Inositol
Inositol is a compound like sugar that is produced in the body and obtained from certain foods. A systematic review published in the International Journal of Endocrinology found that taking inositol was associated with ovulation and improvement in fertility among women with PCOS. (3)
Although it’s unclear whether inositol directly improves other symptoms of PCOS aside from fertility, inositol may be a very helpful compound for managing PCOS. The biological mechanism of inositol may also yield clues as to how it can be a component of a diet that manages PCOS. Inositol plays an important role in regulating the signals passed between cells. Hormones are one of the key biological compounds responsible for transmitting signals. It’s possible that inositol improves the function of hormones in the body, allowing them to more effectively transmit messages.
Inositol is actually produced by the body, though you also benefit from the dietary intake of inositol. You can increase your intake of inositol by eating more foods that contain the compound. Research shows that foods like fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts, and beans are rich sources of inositol. (4) Inositol is also available in supplement form.
4. Eat More Nuts
Though there are no foods that kill testosterone, certain foods may play a particularly important role in normalizing hormone levels and lowering androgen levels. Nuts may have a beneficial impact on PCOS. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming almonds and walnuts may help reduce blood lipids and hyperandrogenism in women with PCOS. (5)
Nuts like almonds and walnuts are rich in healthy fats that have an anti-inflammatory impact on the body. Try sprinkling nuts on your oats in the morning or enjoying them as a snack with a piece of fruit between meals.
5. Increase Your Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake
Getting more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet may help lower testosterone levels while improving symptoms of PCOS. A study published in the Iranian Journal of Reproductive Medicine found that among women with PCOS, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids was associated with lower testosterone levels and reports of improved menstrual regulation. (6)
You can increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating more fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, Arctic char, and sardines. The plant form of omega-3 fatty acids can also be obtained from flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and pecans.
6. Get More Micronutrients
Micronutrients are tiny compounds that don’t offer energy but are essential for encouraging the normal function of all cells and organs throughout the body. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are some of the most important micronutrients to get in your diet. Micronutrients may be particularly helpful in fighting hormonal imbalances and symptoms of PCOS because they fight against inflammation. Women with PCOS are often affected by baseline inflammation, causing hormonal dysregulation and metabolic dysfunction.
Nourishing the body with plenty of whole foods like fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to ensure that you are getting to nutrients that the body needs to lower inflammation and oxidative stress.
7. Exercise Regularly
Exercise may be able to help manage PCOS and associated hormonal imbalances like high testosterone. Exercising helps decrease stress while counteracting weight gain and improving insulin function. Aerobic exercise supports cardiac function and lowers blood pressure. Strength training encourages the development of lean muscle, which helps improve your basal metabolic rate.
8. Balance Your Macronutrients
Macronutrients are the three elements in food that provide energy: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. While eating the appropriate number of calories for your needs is important, the breakdown of these calories is also important.
For example, an individual who works out every day is more likely to require a higher proportion of carbohydrates than someone who doesn’t work out regularly. Individuals who engage in vigorous strength training may also require more protein in their diet to support muscle repair, compared to individuals who don’t engage in strength training.
9. Strive for a Healthy Body Composition
Healthy body composition is important for both healthy metabolic and hormonal function. Healthy body composition is one that has a low percentage of body fat and a higher percentage of lean muscle.
If you are overweight, losing weight may be necessary to achieve a healthy body composition. Women with PCOS often benefit from fat loss and muscle gain.
10. Don’t Undereat
Many women striving to lose weight tend to undereat and follow crash diets, which are detrimental for long-term metabolic and endocrine function. Chronically undereating in an effort to lose weight may actually backfire, causing metabolic damage and causing dramatic blood sugar spikes and dips.
Instead, help keep your blood sugar and hormones stable by consuming a healthy amount of energy for your metabolism, age, activity level, and height. Eating small meals regularly throughout the day is also a helpful strategy for preventing excessive hunger that can lead to binging and high blood sugar levels.
11. Manage Stress Levels
Did you know that stress management may help normalize hormone levels? Stress is known to exacerbate PCOS symptoms. There are many strategies you can employ to help regulate your stress levels and encourage hormonal balance and mitigation of symptoms. Here are a few ideas:
- Quality sleep: Getting plenty of good sleep is important for managing stress and hormone levels in the body. In addition to supporting balanced hormone levels, getting lots of sleep also helps lower inflammation and oxidative stress. While we sleep, the body works hard to repair damage and clear waste that may be inhibiting healthy functioning.
- Deep breathing and meditation: Deep breathing techniques and meditation can help some of the physiological effects of anxiety, such as hyperventilation and rapid pulse. Incorporating meditation into your daily routine can help lower baseline stress and anxiety levels.
- Connecting with friends and family: Connecting with loved ones is a powerful stress-reliever. Even if in-person visits are not possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, talking on the phone or organizing a Zoom meeting can help relieve feelings of stress.
12. Spearmint Tea
Spearmint may have anti-androgenic properties. Research published in Phytotherapy found that drinking spearmint tea helped decrease levels of free testosterone in women. (7) Incorporating spearmint tea into your routine may have a beneficial effect on testosterone levels and help mitigate related symptoms.
13. Licorice Tea
Adding licorice tea to your diet may help reverse symptoms of PCOS. A study conducted by Italian researchers found that in healthy women, licorice supplementation was associated with a decrease in testosterone in the blood. (8) Researchers suggested that licorice may be an effective therapeutic agent in the management of PCOS. (8) The findings of a Korean study on rats also found that licorice may help improve imbalance hormones. (9)
Things to Keep in Mind
It’s always best to seek medical advice if you are noticing symptoms of high testosterone or PCOS, such as facial hair, irregular periods, or infertility. Your physician will perform necessary tests, provide an accurate diagnosis, and discuss tailored options for treatment that include medication, diet, and lifestyle changes. Always discuss all medications and supplements that you take with your healthcare provider.
Physicians may also prescribe medications to help manage high testosterone levels and imbalanced hormone levels. Birth control pills can help encourage normal levels of estrogen and progesterone. Spironolactone may be prescribed to lower your androgens, and metformin may be prescribed to manage inflammatory aspects of PCOS, including insulin resistance.
Conclusion: How to Lower Testosterone and Improve PCOS Symptoms
High testosterone and hormonal imbalance are the primary causes of unpleasant symptoms of PCOS, such as unwanted hair growth, irregular menstrual cycles, and infertility. If you’re looking for how to lower your testosterone and manage symptoms associated with PCOS, rest assured that there are many strategies you can use. Dietary and lifestyle changes like increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acids from high-quality protein can help regulate hormone production. Inositol, spearmint, and licorice may also help directly lower androgen levels. An overall diet and lifestyle that is anti-inflammatory can help rebalance hormones, mitigate symptoms, and encourage overall health and wellness.