FSH & Women
FSH & Men
Proper FSH Levels
What Causes FSH Imbalance?
In both men and women, having a balanced level of hormones is essential to proper fertility. FSH, or follicle-stimulating hormone, is a naturally occurring hormone that is made by the pituitary gland in the body.
If the FSH levels are either low or high, it is a clear indicator that something is out of balance within the reproductive system and may be causing issues with the couple being able to conceive. While FSH levels are used to determine if there is an imbalance, low or high FSH is not the direct cause of fertility issues, just a sign that there may be one.
FSH in WomenFor women, follicle-stimulating hormones help to control and regulate the woman’s menstrual cycle and is also partially responsible for the production of the ova, or eggs, in the ovaries. It is normal for a woman’s FSH levels to vary throughout her monthly cycle, with there being a spike in the levels immediately before ovulation.
However, if FSH levels are generally too high or too low, it can signal fertility issues for the woman which can prevent conception from occurring. For menstruating women, the normal FSH levels during the follicular and luteal phase should range between 5 and 20 IU/L (international units per liter). Right before ovulation during the mid-cycle peak, FSH levels should be between 30 and 50 IU/L. If a woman is post-menopausal, her FSH levels will be naturally higher, at 60 IU/L or more.
At about the age of 40, most women begin a new phase of life and hormone changes begin to take place in preparation for menopause. The ovaries begin to lose their ability to produce mature follicles, estrogen and progesterone. This may be signaled by higher levels of FSH.
High levels of FSH in women is a signal of poor ovarian function, polycystic ovary syndrome or can indicate that menopause has begun or is currently taking place. All of these conditions have a negative impact on fertility. Low levels of the hormone can indicate that eggs are not being produced, that the pituitary gland is not functioning correctly, that there are significant levels of stress present or that the person is severely underweight which can also cause fertility problems to occur.
FSH in Men
It is also essential for men to have normal levels of the FSH hormone. An imbalance of this hormone in men can contribute to infertility, so if a couple is having trouble conceiving it may be wise to have the FSH levels of both partners tested. For men, FSH controls sperm production which is of course essential to fertility.
Unlike women, a man’s FSH levels remain relatively constant rather than fluctuating throughout the month. Typically, a man’s follicle-stimulating hormone levels should be between 5 and 15 IU/L. High levels of FSH in a male could indicate that the testicles are not functioning properly, or may have been damaged by some condition. They can also indicate the presence of Klinefelter syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes the presence of too many X chromosomes in the male. Low levels of FSH usually indicate that sperm is not being produced.
How Do You Know If Your FSH Levels Are High or Low?
FSH levels are determined by a blood test which is usually combined with other tests to diagnose hormonal levels and depending on the results may indicate reproductive problems such as low sperm count, lack of menses, or anovulation.
A low level of FSH may indicate an imbalance in the pituitary or hypothalamus.
A high FSH level may indicate an imbalance with the testes or ovaries ability to function properly.
In women, the FSH test (it is a blood test) is taken on the 3rd day of the menstrual period. Doctors believe levels higher than 10-15mIU/L may indicate diminished fertility, poor egg health or low ovarian reserve.
When looking at an imbalance such as high FSH or low FSH holistically, remember that these hormones are secreted and regulated by the endocrine system (hypothalamus, pituitary, ovaries, testes). It is not that imbalanced FSH levels are the problem, it is the health and current state of the endocrine system that needs to be looked at.
Both FSH and LH secretion are affected by the hormonal balance of other hormones in the body and vice versa. High doses of estrogen or testosterone therapy/medications have been shown to suppress FSH and LH.
What Can Cause FSH Levels to Become Imbalanced?
The possible causes for low or high FSH are many, so it is hard to give a reason why FSH levels may be high or low. In the holistic world we do not look at the FSH levels as the “cause” of the fertility issues, but more as a result of an underlying imbalance. Imbalances such as these are a signal or sign that the body is out of balance.
When it comes to hormones, it is a delicate balancing act. The glandular system is one of the most important and complex systems in the body. It can be easy to get caught up in wanting to increase one hormone so your levels are back to normal. The problem that can occur with this approach is a hormone in another area, which is just as important as the first, may become out of balance as a result. This is why natural therapies can be so helpful. They are complementary, and help to support the body instead of forcing it into an action or adding one hormone.
Natural Therapies For Low FSH and High FSH
What we focus on is helping the body to function at its best. When working to support the hormonal glands it is important to help the body to rid itself of excess hormones and maintain healthy weight while also focusing on some key areas we find helpful… These therapies can be used by themselves or in conjunction with medical therapies. Talk to your doctor about natural therapies first if you are taking hormonal drugs.
Support the Pituitary and Hypothalamus Glands Through Nutrition
Good Nutrition Supports a Healthy Pituitary and Hypothalamus Gland- Nutrition for the Hypothalamus
Insulin resistance and blood sugar levels have a big impact on the endocrine system and hormone levels. This is one of the reasons maintaining a healthy weight is important for healthy hormonal function. Following the Natural Fertility Diet to make sure you are getting proper nutrients in your diet will help a lot. Here are some specific nutrients and foods you should incorporate into your diet:
The hypothalamus is fed by essential fatty acids (EFA’s) and other nutrients. The glandular system utilizes essential fatty acids to produce hormones. If you are deficient, the body doesn’t have the building blocks to make the proper hormones. A sign that you may not have enough EFA’s in your system is if you have dry skin and hair.
Sea Vegetables and dark greens
Sea vegetables such as kelp, nori, and wakimi contain large amounts of minerals which are essential for endocrine health. You can eat these in a salad, with sushi, they even come in dried strips that you can eat right out of the package.
Bee pollen is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat. It contains proteins, minerals, vitamins, immune system compounds, and much more.
Spirulina is a dense green food which is mineral and protein rich. It is high in two essential minerals needed for proper endocrine system function – magnesium and potassium.
Herbs to Help Support and NourishAdaptogen herbs are some of the best therapies to support the endocrine system, the pituitary and hypothalamus specifically. They contain no hormones but have a nourishing and balancing effect on the pituitary and hypothalamus. This in turn helps to balance the delicate hormonal system which then causes FSH, LH, Progesterone, Testosterone, etc. to be secreted in proper amounts at the correct times. Think of adaptogens as pituitary and hypothalamus food. They can be taken for long periods of time and their effects can be life changing. Remember as with most herbs, they should be taken for at least 3 months before you see the results you seek, and may need to be continued long-term.
Panax and American Ginseng
These herbs are adapotgenic and help to nourish and support the hypothalamus and pituitary gland (and all the glands in the endocrine system). Ginseng is generally used by men to help with low FSH levels, low testosterone, or other hormonal imbalances.
Maca is an adaptogen herb that has an effect on the endocrine system as well. In women, maca works by controlling estrogen in the body. Estrogen levels that are high or low at the wrong time can keep a woman from becoming pregnant or keep her from carrying to term. Excess estrogen levels also cause progesterone levels to become too low. Taking maca may help to increase progesterone levels which are essential to carrying a healthy pregnancy.
Estrogen in men produces erectile dysfunction or lack of libido, low sperm count, and lowered production of seminal fluid. Men who use maca have been seen to have an increased libido and healthy sperm.
Vitex encourages luteinizing hormone production while mildly inhibiting the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This indirectly boosts progesterone production and the chances of achieving and maintaining a successful pregnancy.
Vitex decreases high prolactin levels, which are associated with breast pain. Prolactin is a hormone that stimulates milk production and breast growth during pregnancy. High levels in the absence of pregnancy are often the result of a very common women’s endocrine disorder called hyperprolactinemia. High prolactin levels are also linked to fertility problems.
Vitex is an incredible hormone balancer, which adapts to women’s different needs.
Natural Body Therapies
Acupuncture normalizes the dysfunction of the Hypothalamus- Pituitary – Ovarian Axis. This improves ovarian function creating more follicles, and better egg production. It has also been suggested that the concentrations of central opioids may regulate the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis via the central sympathetic system, and that a hyperactive sympathetic system in anovulatory patients could be normalized by ElectroAcupuncture (Chen and Yin, 1991). It has been assumed that various disorders in the autonomic nervous system, such as hormonal disturbances, may be normalized during auricular acupuncture (Gerhard and Postneck, 1992).
Massage encourages healthy communication between the pituitary, hypothalamus, and ovaries. This is called the “feedback loop”. It controls the levels of hormones produced in the body. By massaging the ovaries and including the stress relieving benefits of massage, a healthier balance can be found in the body. In Self Fertility Massage™ the liver is also massaged, which is another important organ for hormonal balance.
Promote hormonal balance
Too much estrogen or testosterone can cause FSH levels to be low. Cleansing the liver is one of the best things you can do for your hormonal health. The liver is responsible for taking the excess hormones from the body which are then excreted through elimination. Liver supporting herbs help the liver to function optimally so excess hormones are not circulating in the blood. Fertility cleansing is one of the best ways to cleanse your liver.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being underweight and overweight can cause FSH levels to be off. Being 10% below the ideal body weight can cause FSH levels to be low and cause many other fertility issues. Being overweight can also effect FSH and hormonal levels. The Natural Fertility Diet is a healthy way to move towards a healthy weight.
The release of stress hormones have a big impact on hormonal balance and health. If you are constantly stressed out, stress hormones are released and general hormone production is reduced. Taking steps to reduce your stress through yoga, meditation, prayer, massage, or exercise can help to keep your hormonal system healthy.
1. Serge A Jabbour, MD. (8/2007). Follicle-Stimulating Hormone Abnormalities. Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Thomas Jefferson University.
2. Aso T, Motohashi T, Murata M, Nishimura T, Kakizaki K. (1976). The influence of acupuncture stimulation on plasma levels of LH, FSH, progesterone and estradiol in normally ovulating women. Am J Chin Med. Winter;4(4):391-401.
3. Yu, J., Zheng, H. M., & Ping, S. M. (1989). [Changes in serum FSH, LH and ovarian follicular growth during electroacupuncture for induction of ovulation]. Zhong xi yi jie he za zhi= Chinese journal of modern developments in traditional medicine/Zhongguo Zhong xi yi jie he yan jiu hui (chou), Zhong yi yan jiu yuan, zhu ban, 9(4), 199-202. Retrieved online from: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/2503254
4. Mo X, Li D, Pu Y, Xi G, Le X, Fu Z. (6/1993). Clinical studies on the mechanism for acupuncture stimulation of ovulation. J Tradit Chin Med. 13(2):115-9.
5. Stener-Victorin, E., Waldenström, U., Andersson, S. A., & Wikland, M. (n.d.) Uterine arteries of infertile women. Retrieved online from: http://www.acupunctureshop.com/artikler/uterine-arteries-of-infertile-women.html