What causes excess facial hair in women?The presence of excessive bodily and facial hair in females is often called hirsutism. Hirsutism may develop in children or adults as the result of androgen excess due to tumors or due to the increased production of androgen in the adrenals which affect the female reproductive organs with a masculine influence.
Causes of hirsutism
There are many conditions that may lead to high levels of androgens, the following are a list of possible causes, however it is recommended to seek a definitive diagnosis.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- long term use of body building supplements which contain testosterone
- excess DHEA production
- thyroid disorders
- an adrenal gland disorder called Cushing's syndrome
- congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- side effects of hormonal medications which have an androgen effect
Hirsutism tests to determine the causeIt is recommended to perform a blood test looking at hormones present in the blood such as raised levels of DHEA, testosterone and androgen and testing for thyroid dysfunction or tumors. If high levels of these hormones are present, diagnosis of the underlying cause needs to be established and may be due to adrenal gland disorders. An ultrasound to determine if there are tumours or cysts present on the ovaries or adrenal glands may also be of assistance. It may also be advisable to test your blood glucose levels as insulin resistance may be implicated in the developement of hirsutism.
Orthodox doctors may prescribe estrogen based pills which act on the ovaries to decrease the production of androgens or by prescribing androgen receptor blockers or androgen suppressor agents. Naturopathically it is advisable to treat the cause of the condition by addressing not only the symptoms but also the underlying hormonal imbalance. It is recommended to treat the adrenals as well as the ovaries and reproductive system in the case of hirsutism.
Other symptoms of hirsutism
These are all symptoms of androgen excess and mascularization of the female reproductive system.
- increased hair growth (facial)
- decreased breast size
- enlarged clitoris
- increased muscle mass
- amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)
- deepening of the voice
Diet tips for hirsutism
- Increase 'alive' growing foods like wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina, sprouts and soaked grains and seeds into your diet. This allows the liver to conjugate any excess hormones and remove them from the body and to also free up the channels of elimination
- Reduce foods which contribute to lymphatic and liver congestion such as dairy, wheat, sugar, preserved and processed foods, alcohol, tea and coffee
- Diet - low fat, whole food, mostly vegetarian diet and estrogen free. Choose an alkaline diet such as fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, green leafy vegetables, tofu products/ soy milk, and grains (millet, brown rice, buckwheat)
- Vegetable juices rather than fruit juices to cleanse the lymphatic system and encourage liver detoxification
- Increase the amount of water intake in the form of herbal teas and filtered water
Lifestyle factors for hirsutism
- Balance hormones
- Liver detoxification to remove excess androgens
- Avoid alcohol and quit smoking
- Acupuncture to reinvigorate stagnant chi affecting the reproductive system
- Consider a liver detoxification to support the removal of excessive androgens in the body and to increase the removal of wastes in the blood, circulation and lymphatic system
- Please remember that any hormonal balancing requires time, so please dont expect miracles in the first couple of months. For optimal reproductive support it is best to continue any supplementation for a period of at least 6 months to reinforce hormonal changes and reproductive health.
This information is of a general nature and is not intended as a diagnosis or treatment plan. Make an appointment with a Healthcare practitioner for support and advice.
Natural remedies for hirsutism
- Reproductive herbs which may be used for hormonal imbalances and to address excessive testosterone production are: Paeony, False Unicorn Root, Bupleurum, St Marys Thistle, Saw Palmetto, Licorice, Damiana, Sarsparilla and Vitex agnus castus.
- B vitamin Complex - as a gentle anti-oxidant, regulation of the menstrual cycle, reduce excessive amounts of androgens from the adrenals
- The mineral Chromium is also of importance when there is an insulin resistance problem (hyperglycaemia - blood sugar imbalances and sugar cravings. Chrominum is important for regulating blood sugars and the production of insulin, dysregulation of these may be a contributing factor to hirsutism by increasing the production of androgens.
- There are some vitamins and minerals which are helpful for normalizing insulin and androgens, or reducing the effects of testosterone. They include chromium, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, copper, and vitamin B6