Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG): What You Need To Know
Men today are faced with very different social and environmental hazards than their father’s generation. Yet, advancements in men’s health have helped guys maintain their health in ways the previous generation couldn’t have imagined. Everything from hair loss to sexual dysfunction can be combated with new methods. Male hormones, once a taboo topic, are more openly discussed which is a great thing. SHBG is one of them.
Guys interested in improving their overall health are now diving deeper into understanding how their hormone levels can affect bodily functions. Sex hormone-binding globulin levels can become unbalanced and could be the culprit of several different issues for men. In this article, we’ll look at SHBG and discuss how it can affect men’s health.
What is SHBG?
Sex hormone-binding globulin, SHBG for short, is mostly produced in the liver and, to a lesser degree, the testes. Its main function is to bind certain hormones, namely estradiol, testosterone, and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). SHBG carries these sex hormones through the bloodstream. They aren’t available for the body to use in this bound state. This is one of the ways the body regulates hormone levels.
What Does SHBG Do for Men?
SHBG regulates how much of a particular sex hormone is available for the body. When levels are low, more of these hormones are available. However, when levels are high, the opposite occurs. SHBG binds sex hormones together, which renders them unusable. The only hormones the body can use are those that SHBG doesn’t bind.
SHBG levels must be within a certain range. When they’re either too high or too low, men can experience a wide range of adverse conditions. This highlights the need to ensure that your levels are optimal.
What Is the Normal SHBG Range for Men?
The normal range for SHBG in healthy men is 10 to 57 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). Why a guy’s level falls is related to a few different factors. The most common factors for men that can affect their SHBG levels include:
SHBG levels for men are typically lower than those in women. However, as men age and their testosterone levels naturally decline, their SHBG levels will increase. This is normal; however, a man’s SHBG levels could sometimes be too high or too low. Both ends of the spectrum can cause men’s health issues.
Signs of Low SHBG Levels in Men
Low levels of SHBG in men mean that there are more sex hormones available for the body’s use. While you may think this is good, all hormones must be within a certain healthy range. When out of balance, a host of negative effects can occur.
Since SHBG controls how much of a particular sex hormone is available for the body, low levels of SHBG can lead to excess available testosterone. Higher than normal testosterone levels can cause:
- Mood swings
- The retention of fluids
- Unusual development of acne, both on the face and body
- An increase in appetite and unwanted weight gain
Low levels of SHBG can also affect how much estrogen is available for your body. Low SHBG levels can result in higher levels of estrogen in men. High levels of estrogen can lead to:
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Lower or loss of sexual desire
- Loss of energy
- Loss of muscle mass
- Abnormal breast tissue growth (Gynecomastia)
Several different factors can cause low SHBG levels. The most common causes of low SHBG include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Fatty liver disease
- Steroid use
Signs of High SHBG Levels in Men
Just as low levels of SHBG can cause unwanted health issues in men, the same can be said for when they’re too high. High SHBG levels result in the body not having enough sex hormones available for use. High SHBG levels mean less testosterone for men. Lower than normal testosterone levels can cause:
- Loss of sex drive
- Decreased energy
- Erectile dysfunction
- A reduction in testicle size
- Bone density and muscle mass reduction
High SHBG levels could come from various reasons. A possible culprit could be liver disease since most of the body’s SHBG is produced in the liver. Some of the most common culprits for high SHBG levels also include:
- Anorexia or other eating disorders
- Low growth hormone levels
What Should I Do if My SHBG Levels Are Unbalanced?
Unfortunately, the lists of symptoms for both high and low levels of SHBG are varied, and it’s impossible to diagnose based on symptoms. Unbalanced hormone levels can cause too many issues to be properly identified without first seeking an expert opinion. Imbalances in hormones and other biomarkers can send out numerous red flags, each one pointing to a different condition.
The only way to ensure your SHBG levels are within the acceptable range is to have a blood test performed. You can ask your physician to schedule blood tests to determine whether your hormones are imbalanced.
However, there’s an easier and less painful way to check your SHBG levels and other important hormones and biomarkers. You can order an in-home testing kit for SHBG levels and also these other hormones and biomarkers:
- Total Testosterone
- Free Testosterone
- Luteinizing hormone
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) – Prostate cancer screening
After sending your sample using a nearly painless device, you’ll receive a full report of the tested hormones and biomarkers. Once you understand your hormonal levels, one of the Vitality Rx healthcare professionals can determine which treatment will provide the best results. You’ll receive your test results digitally and can schedule an online video call lab review with a men’s healthcare professional.
Are There Any Natural Methods to Help Men Maintain Normal Hormone Levels?
Fortunately, there are several ways to maintain healthy hormone levels.
Maintain a Protein Rich Diet
Consuming protein with each meal is required to stay healthy regardless of hormonal levels. Proteins provide you with essential amino acids that your body cannot produce independently. However, our bodies also need to produce peptides. The proteins you eat can influence the hormones that control appetite. A high-protein diet is likely to help lower SHBG levels.
Any vigorous physical activity will strongly influence hormonal health. Regular exercise can not only improve blood flow to the muscles, but it can also increase hormone receptor sensitivity. Almost everyone knows a sedentary lifestyle isn’t healthy, but it can also negatively affect hormonal balance. A lifestyle without movement can cause liver problems, and since the liver is the body’s main source of SHBG, a damaged liver will affect SHBG levels.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity and abnormal weight gain can be linked to hormonal imbalances, typically related to a lack of testosterone, but could be due to other culprits. The benefits of a healthy body weight and BMI (Body Mass Index) with the help of proper nutrition and healthy exercise routines go well beyond hormonal health. They are crucial for optimal overall physical and emotional health.
The importance of regular checkups with your primary healthcare physician cannot be stressed enough. Maintaining an open dialog with your doctor is key to staying fit and healthy and helping to diagnose health issues early. Men should openly discuss sexual dysfunction, hair loss, and other conditions that could be linked to imbalances in SHBG or other hormones.
Who Should Check Their SHBG Levels?
Typically, men should have their SHBG levels tested if they’re experiencing any issues caused by too much or too little testosterone. The list of symptoms for testosterone imbalances can be quite lengthy. However, some are more common than others. Understanding your SHBG levels is crucial to beginning a course of treatment that will be most beneficial.
Men with one or more of the following conditions make excellent candidates for SHBG testing:
- Low sex drive
- Fertility issues
- Inability to achieve or maintain an erection
- Difficulty losing weight
- Mood swings
- Aggressive behavior
- Abnormal body hair growth or acne
In general, men with difficulties maintaining an erection or those who believe they may have fertility issues can get quality information about their SHBG and testosterone levels by asking their men’s healthcare professional for a hormone level test. Fortunately, these tests will also produce results from other hormones and biomarkers, which can present an overall picture of your hormonal health.
The Importance of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin Levels: The Bottom Line
As men age, it’s normal for us to experience lower testosterone levels. This is a natural part of the aging process. Unfortunately, for some men, the level dips below where it should be and can cause several different health-related conditions, each of which is difficult to find its root cause. However, it’s important to understand why this hormone’s level is dropping and if it’s related to SHBG levels.
Men with high levels of SHBG will have lower usable testosterone in their system, along with other necessary hormones. They could experience various symptoms, from erectile dysfunction to excessive mood swings to weight gain. However, from a medical viewpoint, it can be difficult to understand why these conditions are occurring.
Fortunately, ordering an at-home hormone test kit can easily pinpoint imbalances in men’s hormone biomarkers. Obtaining a sample is less painful than the old-fashioned finger prick method and can be done in the privacy of your own home. Once the sample has been processed, you can discuss the results with a men’s healthcare professional and determine if you require treatment.
SHBG: Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have more questions about the Sex Hormone Binding Globulin? Look below and get the answers you need!
1. Is it better to have a higher or lower SHBG level?
Having lower levels of SHBG is associated with several health conditions in both men and women, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. On the other hand, excessively high SHBG can be troublesome, particularly for males and athletes, as it reduces the availability of free testosterone.
2. Does low SHBG influence fertility in men?
When SHBG levels are low, it reduces sperm count and sperm mass, consequently increasing the risk of male infertility.
3. Can you balance your SHBG levels with food and supplements?
If you wonder whether some foods affect SHBG, the short answer is yes.
Consuming cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, curry kale, and bok choy aids the metabolism of excess estrogen and reduces SHBG levels. Moreover, eating more protein with every meal also decreases your excess SHBG levels. A third method of keeping your rampant SHBG levels in check is using supplements such as vitamin D, fish oil, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and boron.
On the other hand, a lower-calorie diet, regular exercise, and a medically-supervised weight loss plan greatly contribute to the increase of low SHBG levels.