Low testosterone: How to tell if it's a problem for you

Did you know that women can also suffer from low testosterone levels? It can lead to symptoms like low libido, weight gain, and depression. Find out how to fix it

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Most women think of low testosterone as being a male issue. The reality is that in women, low testosterone can lead to a variety of undesirable side effects, including decreased sex drive, lack of muscle tissue, depression, obesity, osteoporosis, low memory, heart disease, and painful intercourse. Find out the signs of decreased testosterone in women, and what you can do to help if you have that problem.

Are you low in testosterone?

To determine if low testosterone is a concern for you, take my testosterone quiz below. If you are experiencing more than seven of the below symptoms, your testosterone levels may be lower than they should be:

  • Dry skin
  • Thinning skin, or skin has lost its fullness
  • Painful intercourse
  • Fatigue
  • Poor tolerance for exercise
  • Loss of muscle tone in arms and legs
  • Poor memory or concentration
  • Loss of libido
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Loss of motivation or competitive edge
  • Gaining fat around abdomen or “love handles”
  • Difficulty building or maintaining muscle
  • Loss of bone density or osteoporosis
  • Use of corticosteroids

In addition to symptoms above, if you would rather write out your grocery list than get frisky under the sheets, you may be suffering from low testosterone.

How is low testosterone treated?

If you do discover that your testosterone levels are low, don’t get discouraged. Try using one or more of these tips to top up your testosterone naturally:

1. Remove hormone disruptors

While I have mentioned this before, I can’t stress this point enough: to get back in hormonal homeostasis you must reduce your toxin exposure and improve your internal detoxification systems. Opt for skincare products without parabens and other chemicals, including: methylparabens, propylparabens, formaldehyde, imidazolidinyl urea, methylisothiazolinone, propylene glycol, paraffin, isopropyl alcohol, and sodium lauryl sulphate.

I also advise that you avoid plastics in your kitchen and water bottles/drinks as much as possible, and switch to glass or stainless-steel containers and bowls.

2. Avoid restricting calories

Excessively restricting calories, carbs, fat, or protein will only fuel testosterone decline. Instead, focus on choosing the right foods, at the right times, and in the right amounts, to increase testosterone.

To get off the diet bandwagon, simply select a choice of lean protein, low-glycemic carbohydrates (including green vegetables, whole grains, starchy vegetables, or legumes), and healthy fats for each meal and snack. Be sure to eat every three to four hours, starting within one hour of rising and stopping within the three-hour period before bed.

3. Supplement your levels

In order to give your own testosterone levels a boost, I recommend adding one of the following specific supplements. Talk to your health provider about which supplements and dosages are best for your particular situation.

  • Bioidentical testosterone cream: See your MD, ND, or compounding pharmacy. Standard female dosage is approximately 1/10th that which is given to men.
  • Tribulus terrestris: Also known as puncture vine, research suggests it boosts testosterone by increasing DHEA (our anti-aging, anti-stress hormone, also a precursor to testosterone).
  • Arginine: Arginine may improve testosterone, and could also boost your natural growth-hormone levels when taken at night. Avoid this one if you are prone to herpes breakouts and cold sores.
  • Zinc: This mineral is needed to maintain testosterone levels in the blood. A deficiency of zinc causes a decrease in the activity of LH, the hormone that stimulates the production of testosterone in men; however, I have seen this nutrient help both men and women. Zinc also appears to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to estrogen via the aromatase enzyme. Oysters and mussels are also an excellent source of zinc, which is why some say that they have libido-boosting qualities.

4. Work it out with resistance training

Short, intense, weight training sessions (30 minutes) not only prevent undue stress on the body and increase fat loss, but they also enhance testosterone production. A 2001 study investigated the effects of weight training on testosterone levels in healthy females. The authors noted significant increases in total testosterone levels in women immediately after weight-training. Pumping iron will not only raise your confidence, it will also boost your libido.

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique.