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high androgens

High Androgens: Acne, oily skin and facial hair?

Many teenage girls suffer from skin issues including acne, oily skin and facial hair. These symptoms although not life threatening can be emotionally disturbing. I remember having terrible acne as a teen; it was very depressing. If you visit your family physician, they will often prescribe a birth control pill which has been shown to help with acne but also have many disadvantages.  All of these symptoms are indicative of high androgens. Androgens are sex hormones, one of which is testosterone. While testosterone is mainly known as a male sex hormone, it also plays a role in women as well. While medication can help acne, there are many natural ways that researchers have identified to lower androgens in the body. In this blog, I outline the symptoms, and scientifically proven ways to help symptoms and signs of high androgens.

Common symptoms and signs of excess androgens

Below are the common symptoms of excess androgens that I hear from clients:

  • Acne.
  • Changes in female body shape.
  • Decrease in breast size.
  • Increase in body hair in a male pattern, such as on the face, chin, and abdomen.
  • Lack of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
  • Oily skin.

Common signs of high androgens include polycystic ovarian syndrome and ovarian tumours.

Scientifically proven natural ways to help high androgens

If you have 3 or more of the symptoms of increased androgens, try implementing, one at a time, the suggestions below.

Lifestyle changes and supplementation

Exercise and lose weight. Weight loss reduces both insulin resistance and excess testosterone.

Eat for lower androgens. The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how much food will raise blood sugar. Eating a low GI diet reduces androgens by up to 20 percent.

Eat more fibre. Scientists agree that a high fibre diet lowers androgens. Foods that contain fibre include fresh fruits and vegetables.

Eat foods containing zinc. Zinc deficiency is associated with excess androgens and acne.

Avoid dairy and eggs. Evidence shows that milk, cheese and eggs can cause increased androgens and acne.

Eat more protein. Research has shown that a low carbohydrate, high protein diet lowers androgens. I recommend eating grass fed meat, organic chicken and wild caught fish.

Limit sugar. Excess sugar increases insulin, which raises androgens.

Eat more foods high in Omega 3.  Women with more Omega 6 compared to Omega 3 have more elevated androgens. Good sources of Omega 3 include wild Alaskan salmon and taking a good quality fish oil supplement.

Take up yoga. Yoga has been shown to be more efficient than other forms of exercise at improving insulin resistance in women with PCOS.

Take chromium. Chromium helps to lower insulin and blood glucose levels when they are high. I recommend a dose of 200mcg/day.

Supplement with inositol. Researchers have shown that inositol reduces testosterone. I recommend a dose of 600mg twice daily of inositol.

Get more Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with PCOS.

Acupuncture stimulated regular ovulation in women with PCOS, suggesting that they may help reduce insulin resistance and decrease testosterone.

Avoid BPA. Women with PCOS have higher levels of BPA and the amount correlated with elevated levels of androgens.

Herbal Medicine

Cinnamon has been shown to lower blood glucose which helps to lower insulin resistance and lower androgens.

Disclaimer

This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

birth control pills

Birth Control Pills: Advantages and Disadvantages

In my practice, a high percentage of my female clients were prescribed birth control pills (BCP’s) during their teenage years to help control menstruation symptoms or simply for contraception. While BCP’s undoubtedly help alleviated some of the uncomfortable symptoms teenage girls experience and prevent unwanted pregnancies evidence indicates that they have some long-term health consequences. In this blog, I outline the main advantages and disadvantages of taking a BCP.

Advantages of Birth Control Pills

Effective Contraception of 99% if used correctly and taken daily.

Lowers Testosterone. By doing so BCP’s reduce acne, but the pill may lower libido by the same process and may cause painful intercourse.

Cancer reduction. If taken more than one year, taking a birth control pill may reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, five years of BCP use is associated with a 90 percent reduction in future ovarian cancer.

Disadvantages of BCP’s

Does not help PMS, and may make it worse (exceptions are BCP’s that contain drospirenone, a synthetic progesterone, but these are linked to an increased risk of developing blood clots).

More blood clots. According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, BCP’s triple the risk of developing a blood clot.

Lowers Thyroid Hormones. BCP’s increases thyroglobulin, the binding protein that carries thyroid hormone in the blood. Too much binding protein will reduce the amount of thyroid hormones getting to the cells.

Lowers Testosterone. BCP’s increase sex hormone binding protein, a protein that carries testosterone in the blood and makes it biologically inert.

Cause Vitamin B Deficiencies. You need adequate vitamin B vitamins to ensure your hormonal system is working properly. BCP’s lower B vitamins in the body including folic acid and B12.

Delayed conception. For women who stop BCP’s to become pregnant, the return of ovulation is often delayed by months or even years.

May cause weight gain. BCP’s may cause weight gain in some women.

Increased risk of breast cancer. A review of 54 studies in 1996 found that women have a slightly higher chance of breast cancer while they’re using birth control pills that comprise both estrogen and progesterone and during the ten years after they stop taking the pills. Progesterone-only pills also heighten risk, but not as much.

Cause anxiety and depression. Synthetic hormones can have a negative impact on the balance of your feel good neurotransmitters such as GABA and serotonin. You are more at risk if you have a personal or family history of anxiety and depression.

IBS symptoms. BCP’s have been shown to cause constipation and diarrhoea.

Conclusion

If you have made up your mind to take birth control pills, then add a Vitamin B complex to your supplement regime. If you have PMS, consider having your hormones tested for low progesterone. While BCP’s may lower your risk of ovarian cancer they do increase your chance of breast cancer, so take care if you have a family history.

low progesterone

Low Progesterone: Heavy painful irregular periods and PMS?

Estrogen is described as the primary sex hormone in women and as such was labelled as responsible for the plethora of hormonal related symptoms that plague women. But it turns out that progesterone is far more crucial than scientists once believed. In fact, most of the period symptoms that afflict women are due to low progesterone. In this blog, I discuss the symptoms, causes and proven natural ways of helping low progesterone.

Symptoms of Low Progesterone

In my practice, I find that many women exhibit some of the typical symptoms of reduced progesterone:

  • PMS
  • Cyclical Headaches
  • Painful breasts
  • Irregular periods
  • Heavy or painful periods
  • Cyclical bloating and water retention, particularly around the ankles and belly
  • Restless legs, especially at night
  • Cyclical clumsiness or poor coordination
  • Infertility

Four other, more dangerous conditions related to reduced progesterone include endometriosis, endometrial precancers and cancer, anxiety and insomnia.

The top 5 reasons for low progesterone

Aging

From 35 years onwards as you move towards menopause, age is associated with reduced progesterone.

Stress

When you are under stress, your adrenal glands produce cortisol. If this stress becomes chronic, cortisol blocks your progesterone receptors, and your body will produce cortisol at the expense of progesterone and pregnenolone. This process is known as “pregnenolone steal”.

Low thyroid

Proper thyroid function is essential to hormone production. If you have low thyroid hormone production, your body will not make adequate amounts of progesterone. Furthermore, if you have low progesterone, it raises your thyroid hormone requirements, so making your thyroid work harder. If you are already low thyroid, it will worsen your low progesterone symptoms.

High prolactin

Prolactin is a hormone, produced by your pituitary gland, that controls lactation. Some women produce too much prolactin, which can interfere with the secretion of progesterone.

Scientifically proven natural ways to help low progesterone

If you have 3 or more of the common symptoms of low progesterone, I suggest you consider implementing some or all of the lifestyle and supplementation and herbal therapy recommendations described below.

Lifestyle changes and supplementation

Vitamin C is the only over the counter treatment for low progesterone scientifically proven to be effective. In a high-level study, a vitamin C dosage of 750mg/day was shown to raise progesterone in women with low progesterone.

Connect with people. “Closeness” exercises with a partner have been shown in a study to raise progesterone levels.

Hold the coffee. Caffeine increases energy in the body by increasing cortisol, but as I have already explained, cortisol lowers progesterone.

Drink alcohol in moderation. Research shows that alcohol consumption is associated with reduced progesterone symptoms such as premenstrual anxiety, mood problems, and headache.

Herbal Therapies

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus). Several herbs have been used to increase progesterone, such as bladderwrack and saffron, but Chasteberry is the most efficient and safe. Also known by the names, chaste tree, chaste tree berry and vitex, this herb is available in capsule and tincture form. The average dosage is 500 – 1000mg/day. A Standford School of Medicine study shows that women with low progesterone, fertility rates were higher among those taking chasteberry compared to placebo.

Bioidentical hormones

If you have implemented the lifestyle, supplementation and herbal therapies without any significant remission of your symptoms I recommend you investigate the possibility of taking bioidentical progesterone with your family physician or other trusted naturopathic doctor.

Disclaimer

This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.