Testosterone is the predominant male sex hormone, but did you know it plays a role in the female body as well? In small amounts, testosterone helps maintain mood, energy, libido, and other bodily functions in women. In fact, 40% of female Olympians have PCOS. A little extra testosterone is a superpower! However, when testosterone hormone levels get too high in a female body, it has the potential to cause several uncomfortable symptoms. UGH!
This is concerning for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), because PCOS is characterized by an overall imbalance of hormones in the body, including those sex hormones. In fact, most women with PCOS also have high testosterone levels.
You can find out if you have high testosterone by taking a blood test, or, in the meantime, see if any of the high testosterone side effects below sound familiar. If they do, you may have high testosterone and it may be time to take on some new lifestyle changes to help balance it out.
Because so many Cysters encounter high testosterone levels, I’m dedicating this post to listing the symptoms of high testosterone. I’ll also review natural ways you can lower these androgen levels. Here’s what you need to know about testosterone and PCOS:
6 High Testosterone Symptoms and PCOS
Have you ever noticed that men usually sweat more than women? That’s because testosterone triggers sweat glands to enlarge and produce more oil. All that excess oil, combined with inflammation, can clog your pores, which allows bacteria to fester and acne to form. You can learn more about hormonal acne here, but acne with PCOS is one sign you may have high testosterone.
Excess Body Hair
Unusual hair growth on the body and face (AKA hirsutism) is another high testosterone symptom. This happens to Cysters because some of that extra testosterone in the body converts to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which is responsible for facial, body, and pubic hair growth in puberty. When you have too much testosterone, too much of it is converted to DHT, it’s more potent form, thus causing that unwanted hair growth.
Coincidentally, DHT is also responsible for hair loss on the head. Too much of this type of androgen can shrink the hair follicles on your head, which means your hair starts falling out. The growth cycle of each strand is decreased, so you experience balding or thinning hair. Don’t worry, though, remember we can reverse this! You can read more about PCOS hair loss in this post!
Irregular Periods and Infertility
Too much of a male sex hormone like testosterone can disrupt your body’s menstrual cycle and other sexual processes. Testosterone has a place in female fertility, boosting our libido during ovulation. However, when there’s an excess of testosterone, it can interfere with your female sex hormone (estrogen) and make periods infrequent, painful, and heavy. Even more, it may negatively impact fertility, since you won’t be ovulating regularly and consistently.
Whenever your hormones are imbalanced, your mood is probably imbalanced, too. (More on mood swings and PCOS here.) Your adrenal system plays a big part in how you feel both physically and mentally. Some studies even show high testosterone levels in men and women may contribute to female depression and anxiety.
Though the correlation isn’t fully understood yet, researchers see a connection between insulin resistance and high testosterone. Significant weight gain in women is usually accompanied by higher levels of androgens, which suggests some type of cause-and-effect. So, it’s likely high testosterone levels are contributing to your troubles losing weight with PCOS.
Does PCOS Cause High Testosterone?
This question is sort of like the age-old “chicken or the egg” adage. Which came first? It’s unknown whether hormonal imbalances cause PCOS or PCOS causes hormonal imbalances, but one thing is certain, they are related! As mentioned earlier, half of the women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have ovaries that overproduce testosterone causing some or all of the above symptoms. Luckily, there are ways to balance your hormones naturally!
PCOS High Testosterone Treatment
Vitamins and Supplements
There are great supplements and vitamins out there for women with PCOS! They can help with a lot of chronic symptoms and even balance hormones. Here are a few that can help regulate androgen levels specifically:
- Zinc: Zinc doesn’t raise or lower testosterone, but studies show it can actually balance it! So, it can raise testosterone levels in men and lower it in women. Zinc has other benefits for Cysters, too. It can help regulate cholesterol, increase insulin sensitivity, and even manage painful periods.
- Omega-3: Omega-3 works similarly to zinc, where it can balance out your testosterone levels. It’s great for other PCOS symptoms like insulin resistance, mood swings, and inflammation as well. We even have specially designed omega-3 supplements for women with PCOS included in the Metabolism Plus Bundle.
- Ovasitol: Here’s my favorite PCOS supplement. It has been shown to lower testosterone over time, support a healthy menstrual cycle, and more. Order them here as well. It’s a game-changer for so many Cysters out there!
Herbs can be another natural way to lower testosterone and relieve symptoms. I have a full list of helpful herbs for PCOS here. But, the ones best for lowering testosterone include black cohosh, spearmint, green tea, cinnamon, saw palmetto, chaste tree, licorice root, and Chinese peony. You can consume these helpful herbs via supplements or by drinking them in tea. (Who doesn’t love a hot cup of spearmint or green tea?)
Manage Insulin Resistance
As you may know, 80% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance. You’re probably wondering what that could possibly do to our testosterone levels. Well, high insulin levels triggers high testosterone in the ovaries, which leads to PCOS symptoms like infertility, irregular periods, weight gain, ovarian cysts…the list goes on.
Our blood sugar has more of an impact on our health than you think. If you’re looking to reduce your testosterone levels, you have to first make sure your insulin resistance is under control. Try taking ovasitol to help support your blood sugar, along with PCOS friendly diet and lifestyle changes.
Anti-Inflammatory Gluten- and Dairy-Free Diet
The things we eat have a huge impact on how we feel. If you have PCOS and high testosterone, I recommend considering a gluten and dairy free diet. It can help reduce androgen (testosterone) levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and make you feel like yourself again.
Did you know that dairy has shown to increase androgen levels? This can be devastating for PCOS women who already have high androgen levels and struggle with symptoms like cystic acne and hair loss. You can learn more about going gluten and dairy free in this post, download The Cysterhood app for recipes, workouts, and access to our community!
Slow-Weighted, Low-Impact Exercises
Some intense exercises can increase testosterone levels and leave you feeling fatigued and anxious. But, the right exercises can lower androgen levels and make you feel energized instead of depleted. I always recommend opting for workouts like yoga, pilates, light cardio, slow-weighted exercises, and walking.
If you still struggle with high testosterone after trying natural methods, I recommend seeking medical intervention. Just remember to educate yourself on oral contraceptives, metformin, spironolactone, and glucocorticosteroids before you go, so you can make the most informed decision on your treatment.
High testosterone can have devastating side effects in women with PCOS, but you can reverse these symptoms naturally.
Hormonal imbalance is one of the main characteristics of PCOS, but you don’t have to live with it. Lowering testosterone is possible. Once you know the source of your symptoms, you can target the cause and reduce the effects. You can learn more about your symptoms and healing your PCOS naturally on the PCOS Weight Loss Blog and our podcast A Cyster and Her Mister. I reversed my PCOS, and you can too!