First, you might be asking what on earth is SHBG? SHBG stands for “sex hormone binding globulin” – it’s made mostly in the liver and it binds to the majority of the estrogen and testosterone in the body leaving only a small amount to bind with receptors and exert effects on the body.

The role of SHBG is to help regulate the “free” or available estrogen and testosterone in the body. When the level of SHBG goes up, the levels of free hormones go down (which is a good thing in states of estrogen or testosterone excess). ⁠

Finding a healthy balance is key to hormonal health.

SHBG levels are decreased in conditions such as PCOS, hypothyroidism, and obesity resulting in higher levels of free testosterone and estrogen which can cause problems such as:

  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Infertility
  • Acne
  • Excess facial and body hair
  • Low libido

The good news is that there are ways through diet and lifestyle to increase SHBG:

          1. Modest weight loss (6-7%) was shown to be beneficial in the studies, but instead of focusing on the weight loss I think it’s important to go upstream and consider what lifestyle changes impacted the bodies of the participants in this way? Likely this is the most important factor although weight loss is often what is measured and focused on by our weight obsessed culture.
          2. You may want to consider:
            1. Enjoyable movement (30 minutes/day) – garden, dance, walk, yoga, whatever you like!
            2. Choose low glycemic foods (ie. those that are less likely to cause large variations in your blood sugar) which help to lower blood sugar and lower the amount of insulin released.
            3. Get active socially (I know this is tricky in COVID times) however finding enjoyable ways to support your health both physically and emotionally in a social setting with like-minded people can be powerful.

It’s important to note that even after menopause SHBG is important as women with higher SHBG have a lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, as well as better metabolic and cardiovascular health.

I love working with women using a Functional and Integrative approach to optimize hormonal balance and overall wellness. I would love to work one on one with you. Check out my services here.

Dr. Amy Sapola provides a practical approach to Whole Person Wellness through Culinary Medicine, Mindful Eating, and Connecting with Nature. 

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