Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) makes sure that the testosterone is transported to the cells that need it. But what happens if your SHBG levels increase? Is SHBG still able to transport the testosterone? An SHBG test can reveal the causes for your high sex hormone binding globulin levels and help find a proper treatment plan to get them back to normal. So let’s find out what your SHBG levels may mean and most importantly how to lower sex hormone binding globulin.
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What Is Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)?
Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) is a protein that is produced in the liver for the purpose of binding certain hormones including testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and estradiol. These hormones bind to SHBG in order to get carried through the bloodstream, since they are unable to travel any other way. When the hormones are in this bound state, the cells in the body cannot use them. By doing this, your body is regulating these hormones’ levels.
Normal SHBG Levels In Males and Females
The normal SHBG levels depend on factors such as age and gender. Their levels are measured in nanomoles per liter (nmol/L).
- Normal SHBG levels in males – 10-57 nmol/L
- Normal SHBG levels in females – 18-144 nmol/L
Within men, it is normal for the SHBG levels to increase due to the aging process since the testosterone levels normally decline. On the other hand, in women, with the aging process, the SHBG levels normally decrease along with the estrogen and testosterone levels.
Why Is A Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) Test Ordered?
The SHBG test measures the SHBG levels in the blood. Although we previously mentioned that the SHBG function in the body is to bind to three different hormones, it is the testosterone levels that are critical, and most focused on during an SHBG test. If the doctor suspects a case of abnormal testosterone levels, SHBG test is ordered. An SHBG test can help diagnose health issues such as hypogonadism and androgen deficiency. Your doctor will order an SHBG test if you are;
- A man experiencing symptoms such as low sex drive, infertility, and/or erectile dysfunction;
- A woman experiencing symptoms such as the growth of excess body and facial hair, weight gain, acne breakouts, infertility, etc.
How Is The Test Done?
Using a sterile needle, a blood sample is collected from a vein in your arm. Some bruising and tenderness may occur on the injection site. It does not require any special preparations. You should inform your doctor about any prescription and non-prescription medications that you may have been using, including birth control pills, since certain medications have an impact on the SHBG levels.
What Does High SHBG Mean?
High SHBG means that the protein is attaching itself to too much testosterone, making the hormone unavailable to be used by the cells and tissues, causing them to not get enough testosterone as needed.
Your high SHBG levels may be caused due to;
- Liver disease;
- Eating disorders;
- Problems with the pituitary gland within women;
- Problems with the pituitary gland or the testicles within men, etc.
How To Lower Sex Hormone Binding Globulin?
A high-protein diet
A high-protein diet may be able to help, causing your high SHBG levels to lower naturally, according to a study published in 2000.
Rely On Supplements
Supplements such as zinc, calcium, boron, magnesium, vitamin D, and fish oil are recommended to be used on a daily basis.
Taking Proper Medications
If a combination of lifestyle changes and supplements is unable to reduce your high SHBG levels, your doctor can prescribe medications as well. These would include using oral contraceptives, selective estrogen receptor modulators, anti-seizure medications, etc.
How To Increase Sex Hormone Binding Globulin?
Increase Your Blood Sugar Levels
A study that has been done on genetically modified mice that produce SHBG has shown that high sugar intake has efficiently increased the SHBG levels by 50%. However, if you are experiencing issues with your high blood sugar levels, please consult your doctor about your use of a high-sugar diet as a way to treat your low SHBG levels.
There has been a significant increase in SHBG levels within individuals that have undergone a weight loss program. You should consider reducing your weight as a way to enhance your mental and physical health and boost your SHBG levels.
Drink Coffee Regularly
A regular coffee intake is suggested to increase the low SHBG levels naturally. In addition, different types of caffeinated drinks such as green tea, black tea, and cola, seem to have the same effect as well.
From pregnancy, hepatitis and liver disease to HIV, there any many possible reasons why your SHBG levels may be elevated. An SHBG test will help measure your SHBG levels and help the doctor decide on a proper treatment plan in a case of high sex hormone binding globulin. So if you are wondering how to lower sex hormone binding globulin, talk to your doctor about the possible treatment plans that you can use.
Doctor, author and fitness enthusiast, Ahmed Zayed, MD, is a surgery resident with a passion for helping people live a happy healthy life. He is the author of numerous health-related books and contributor to several medicine, health and wellbeing websites.