Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) is a carrier protein produced mostly in the liver. SHBG binds to testosterone, DHT and estradiol and circulates the hormones throughout the body.
SHBG levels can be both unduly low (meaning there are more unbound sex hormones available for use) and unduly high (meaning fewer unbound sex hormones are available). Elevated SHBG levels can result from diets low in protein, leading to decreased testosterone bioactivity and deleterious effects on sexual function, fertility and bone density, as well as a higher incidence of certain cancers.
Low SHBG, meanwhile, tends to correlate with obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and hypothyroidism.
Because SHBG regulates how much hormones are delivered to the body’s tissues, it is vital to ensure that your levels are in the normal range. For a man, that’s 10-57 nmol/L, and for a woman, it’s 18-144 nmol/L.
In this article, we’ll discuss ways to optimise your hormonal lower profile by lowering elevated SHBG levels and thereby increasing your amount of free testosterone. We’ll also suggest a few methods for increasing low SHBG levels.
3 Ways to Lower Excess SHBG Levels
1. Eat Cruciferous Vegetables
Eating cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, curry kale and bok choy serves to metabolise surplus estrogen and lower SHBG.
We have long been proponents of the ‘10-a-day model’ when it comes to vegetables and fruit, with 7:3 being an ideal ratio. If you regularly achieve this objective, you’ll already be helping to keep rampant SHBG levels in check.
2. Increase Protein
Countless studies (including this one) have exposed a correlation with protein intake and SHBG levels: the lower the protein intake, the higher the concentration of SHBG.
The inverse is also true – the higher the protein intake, the lower the concentration of SHBG. Make sure you’re eating protein with every meal. If you’re a meat-eater, grass-fed and organic is by far the best choice.
3. Use supplements
Although further clinical studies are required, a number of supplements have shown promise for reducing unduly high SHBG levels. These include magnesium, vitamin D, fish oil, zinc, calcium, boron and tongkat ali.
How to Increase Low SHBG Levels
Reducing one’s daily calorie intake is believed to be an effective means of increasing one’s SHBG production, and so too is exercise.
After one 12-month study, researchers found that serum SHBG increased by 22.4% in subjects who consumed a reduced-calorie diet, and by 25.8% in those who followed the same diet while also abiding by a daily exercise regimen. What’s more, “greater weight loss produced stronger effects on estrogens and SHBG.”
The intake of plant protein also appears to correlate favourably with SHBG levels, as does caffeine intake.
SHBG remains an under-appreciated biomarker of general health, and the only way to know whether your SHBG levels are normal is to get a test.
Speak to your doctor if you are concerned that your SHBG levels are too low or too high, or use a DIY wellness tracker to get a better picture of your state of wellness.
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SHBG regulates how much hormones are delivered to the body’s tissues; it’s vital to ensure your levels are in the normal range.