What is Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin?

We often think of testosterone or estrogen when referring to sex hormones — but have you ever heard of SHBG? Sex hormone-binding globulin, also known as SHBG, is an important protein that binds to sex hormones and carries them through the blood. Although different anatomy and physiology mean different processes and amounts, both men and women produce testosterone, which is measured as total testone. Of that testosterone, you’ll have what’s called your free testosterone, which is the bioavailable form of the hormone that will allow you to use it. Now, both of those numbers are important, but you’ll see a change in the ratio of total testosterone to free testosterone partially linked to sex hormone-binding globulin. So you can have someone who produces a large amount of total testosterone but has a low amount of available testosterone due to the fact this protein — sex hormone-binding globulin — is actually binding up a lot of the testosterone, making it unavailable for use in the body.

So, Is SHGB Good or Bad?

When your SHBG levels are high, your body has fewer free sex hormones that are bioavailable, so the goal is to have lower levels of sex hormone-binding globulin to allow your body more unbound sex hormones that it can use. In males, SHBG levels are considered “good” if you have 10 to 57 nanomoles per liter. For nonpregnant women, the healthiest range for SHBG is between 18 to 144 nmol/L. You can determine your levels by asking your doctor to give you a SHBG test. If you’re struggling with trouble losing weight, acne, fatigue, or low libido — you may want to consider taking a SHBG test.

How Can We Lower Our SHBG Naturally?

Dr. Alice says, “Most of your hormones that you make are going to be bound up. The amount of sex hormone-binding globulin is going to vary — it depends on a lot of factors. So, I ask a lot of my patients, are you stressed? Are you eating enough food? If you’re a female, are you taking oral contraceptives? Nutrient status, inflammation… there are so many things that affect sex hormone-binding globulin and how much you make of it.”

If you’re looking to have more sex hormones bioavailable, you’re going to want to intake higher amounts of protein. Dr. Alice has seen firsthand the correlation between not eating enough protein and the sex hormone-biding globulin significantly increasing. Secondly, you should measure the level of stress you’re currently experiencing in your life. Everyone deals with stress in 2022 — but it’s crucial to learn how to cope with it to be the healthiest you can be. We highly recommend meditation to mitigate your stress levels. People experiencing higher stress levels will likely have nervous systems that determine it’s unsafe for the body to procreate, as it would create another stressor. Lastly, Dr. Alice says she has never been able to lower the sex hormone-binding globulin for women who take oral contraceptives. It may be beneficial to consider other birth control methods if you’re able to!

Dr. Alice emphasizes the importance of rest and repair to keep your SHBG at an optimal level. Stress management and digestion play major roles in keeping your sex hormones readily available! While you may have never heard of SHBG prior to reading this article, we hope this new information will be beneficial to you as you take a deeper look into your health. It’s certainly important to go to the gym and eat nutritious meals — but so much more that goes into a person’s health, there’s a reason Stark doesn’t just start and stop in the gym!