Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin:
An overlooked biomarker that is so vital to your testosterone levels
Here’s what you need to know about this crucial piece of the testosterone puzzle
It’s a fact. Testosterone is essential...absolutely essential to your good health. When a man’s testosterone levels are reasonable, the results are a healthy libido, a robust immune system, high energy, mental sharpness, powerful muscles and an optimistic approach to dealing with life’s problems.
Conversely, when a man’s testosterone levels are below average he will experience a broad range of symptoms: constant fatigue, elevated stress, moodiness, joint aches and pains, weakened, shrinking muscles, unwanted weight-gain, accumulation of grotesque, repulsive fat, headaches, erectile dysfunction (ED), and a severely diminished sex drive.
Not a pretty picture. The importance of maintaining healthy testosterone levels cannot be over-emphasized.
Many biomarkers play a critical role in maintaining healthy testosterone levels as well as keeping all of your hormones in the correct balance. And that includes the biomarker called Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG).
What is Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin?
Before we go any further, a definition of sex hormone-binding globulin is in order. Sex hormone-binding globulin is a carrier glycoprotein manufactured mainly by the liver. SHBG plays a crucial role in the release of unbound testosterone into the bloodstream.
Why is this so important? Because sex hormone-binding globulin holds the key that unlocks your bound testosterone and turns it into free testosterone. Free testosterone then springs into action and delivers all of testosterone’s many benefits.
SHBG is bound to 17 different sex hormones in the body, including testosterone. When testosterone escapes from this binding, it becomes bioavailable, or free to go wherever it is needed. Free testosterone can cross the blood-brain barrier and can go to work by entering fat cells and muscles.
Here’s the Bad News
Approximately two-thirds of testosterone in the blood is bound to SHGB, and another 30-40 percent of testosterone is attached to another substance called albumin, which is a type of protein produced by the liver.
Do the math. The above numbers mean that a mere 2-3 % of testosterone is free. Here’s a good analogy: This is similar to a Thoroughbred racehorse that is stuck in the starting gate.
The horse is anxious and ready to explode, but can’t get going since the gate is locked.
In other words, if testosterone is bound up, it’s not able to fulfill its life-enhancing role.
The Ratio of SHBG and Testosterone is Also Important to Women
You read that right. As mentioned earlier, SHBG plays an essential role in testosterone availability. Here is a little-known fact: women need testosterone. Women don’t require as much testosterone as men. But if a woman experiences a drop in testosterone, she will suffer the consequences as well.
If a woman has high levels of SHBG, her testosterone levels will plummet just like what men experience. She will also suffer many of the same adverse effects of low testosterone (“Low-T”) as men.
The level of SHBG in your body speaks volumes about your hormones, your insulin resistance, and your stress levels.
Sadly, this all-important metric is often overlooked by too many physicians and deemed irrelevant. This oversight shifts the focus on the body’s full testosterone levels or total testosterone.
The crucial thing to remember is this: free testosterone is the “gold-standard” of testosterone measurements.
Testosterone must be free to do its job.
The Causes of High Levels of Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
Several conditions can elevate the level of SHBG in men:
Liver disorders, especially cirrhosis.
Increased conversion of testosterone to estrogen.
The side effects of specific medications.
Finasteride and other hair-loss drugs.
In women, there are a few different causes of high SHBG levels in addition to the reasons mentioned for men:
Elevated estradiol levels.
Birth control pills.
Pregnancy stress which causes cortisol levels to skyrocket.
Excessive weight-loss as often seen in anorexia.
Fibrocystic disease of the breasts.
However, the SHBG/Testosterone Ratio is a Delicate Balance
That’s right. As awful as it is for having high levels of sex hormone-binding globulin, low levels of the protein are a recipe for a broad range of health problems as well as high levels. Here’s why.
SHBG is a master regulator of your body’s sex hormone levels. There is a fine line between testosterone and estrogen. Both of these vital hormones play a critical role in maintaining our health, especially in older people.
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2 days, 1 hour ago