Testosterone and Stress

In our bodies, we have both types of male and female hormones in different quantities. Testosterone, for example, is the name given to the male hormone which is an androgen. This hormone is required in the female body to be converted to oestrogens, female hormones!

One of the correlations, which we probably don't readily associate with each other, is the one between raised levels of androgens and stress.*

When we are stressed, in either physical or emotional ways, through strenuous activity, infection, or injury even,   our cortisol levels rise which trigger insulin resistance to insulin to use sugar from other sources. The quick  increase in blood sugar levels and increased cravings for carbohydrates and sweets is the consequence. So we get cravings for sweets and carbs and as a result , over prolonged periods of high cortisol levels, we gain weight.**

How does it work? Stress, either physical or emotional, sets of reactions in our bodies that trigger the increased production of our "fight or flight" response.  The increased insulin resistance leads to reduced muscle glucose uptake and an increased liver glucose production. This results in an elevated blood glucose level. The higher insulin levels then causes increase in testosterone production.

Androgens, are directly responsible for many types of acne. They increase the production of sebum ( a type of oil) in the tiny glands in the skin. Too much sebum, cloggs up follicles and results in spots.so both men and women produce male hormones but in men it's up to 60 percent more.

It's well known that insulin regulates testosterone ***and it's possible to improve your skin by manipulating your body's testosterone levels. One way to do this is to avoid dairy products. Many dairy products are made from the milk of pregnant cows, which contains hormones that the human body converts to the equivalent of testosterone.

Another way is to reduce sugar consumption. Sugar increases insulin which then increases testosterone production, increased sebum production and more spots outbreak.

In general the most common symptoms of high androgens in women are:
Hirsutism (excess facial or body hair)
Persistent acne and/or oily skin.
Alopecia (thinning hair on the head)
Insulin resistance
Acanthosis nigricans (rough, darkly pigmented areas of skin)
High blood pressure
Polycystic Ovaries
Reduced fertility

Many studies have been carried out that show avoidance, or reduction, of your daily intake of certain foods will reduce the androgens levels in the blood. This makes sense if you consider the consequence of insulin increase in the system due to certain foods.

Such foods include sugary foods and drinks and refined, white flour carbohydrates like white bread and other white-flour foods. Good carbohydrates include fiber-rich foods such as whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice as well as non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, spinach, onions, peppers, garlic, squash, peppers and cucumbers.

Vegetarians have lower levels of male hormones**** than meat-eaters. High intake of plant foods, particularly fiber-rich whole grains, appeared to lower levels of insulin and thus the androgen production response.

There is also much evidence that higher intake of animal products such as protein and fats are associated with higher androgen levels.*****

Having said that there is problems with having a low androgen level as much as having a high level.

 The following chart shows the effect of high or low testosterone  (androgens) in women.

Insert chart

*R Rosmond, MF Dallman… - The Journal of Clinical …, 1998 - press.endocrine.org http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jcem.83.6.4843

*JL Rains, SK Jain - Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 2011 - Elsevier
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891584910014115

** November 2009 Issue

Cortisol — Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy
By Dina Aronson, MS, RD
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 11 No. 11 P. 38

*** The Clear Skin Diet," written by Harvard Medical School doctor Alan C. Logan and nutritionist Valori Treloar

**** Allen NE, Appleby PN, Davey GK, Key TJ. Hormones and diet: low insulin-like growth factor-I but normal bioavailable androgens in vegan men. Br J Cancer. 2000;83:95–7.

***** The American journal of clinical nutrition, 84(6), ...The effect of animal protein on stress hormones, testosterone, and...