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Flaxseed Effects on Testosterone: Should You Avoid It?


Flaxseed Effects on Testosterone: Should You Avoid It?

Flaxseed is one of a few foods that get picked on for lowering testosterone. You may have heard it mentioned at the gym in the same breath as soy, two foods that should be avoided if you want to be in good shape.

Unfortunately, that reputation just proves you should be wary when getting health advice at the gym. In reality, flaxseed has a more complicated relationship with testosterone. Regardless, it has the potential to offer a wide range of health benefits.

Key Takeaways

  • Flaxseed may increase or decrease testosterone
  • Flaxseed is a source of enterolignans
  • Enterolignans can replace estrogen in some contexts
  • Flaxseed has a wide range of health benefits
  • Reduces symptoms of PCOS
  • Reduces risk of cancer
  • Helps maintain muscle mass

How Does Flaxseed Affect Testosterone?

While there may be some situations in which flaxseed will lower testosterone, its effects are more complex [1]. Hormone levels overall can be affected by diet and exercise, of course. The impact of flaxseed on testosterone might be more complex.

Flaxseed is one of the biggest sources of lignans, a variety of compounds found in many plants [2]. In your stomach, helpful bacteria turn lignans into two compounds of a type called enterolignans, which are named enterodiol and enterolactone. 

Both compounds are similar to estrogen in some ways. It might be the ratio of testosterone level to estrogen level, not just the amount of testosterone, that makes a difference [3]. Adding enterolignans could swing the balance too far toward the estrogen side [4]

An imbalance in the ratio has been linked to things like:

flaxseed effects on testosterone

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk of stroke [5]
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Weight gain

Enterolignans aren’t estrogen and can take up resources that would otherwise be used to make more of that hormone. This is particularly relevant as testosterone can be turned into estrogen. As a result, their role isn’t so clear-cut. In fact, flaxseeds may actually have the opposite effect, lowering the risk for the problems listed above. 

In Men

The effects of flaxseed and enterolignans are still being investigated and a lot of the research is still being performed using animals. Not all of these benefits have been demonstrated in humans, so a certain amount of skepticism might be warranted. With that said, the list of potential benefits is impressive.

Studies have linked regular flaxseed supplementation with benefits including:

  • Lower risk of cancer: Lower testosterone isn’t always a bad thing, as it can lower your risk of prostate cancer. 
  • Lowered risk of cardiovascular (CV) disease: Risk is lowered in several ways, including lowering blood pressure and increasing healthy, polyunsaturated fatty acids that help clean cholesterol out of arteries [6]
  • Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes: Flaxseed can lower blood sugar, helping to reduce insulin resistance.
  • Lowers risk of metabolic syndrome: The collection of conditions caused by obesity seem to be improved by regular flaxseed consumption, lowering the risk for heart attack and stroke [7].
  • Supports digestive health: Flaxseed is a great source of fiber, in addition to its other effects. It also keeps the helpful bacteria in your stomach happy.
  • Increase testosterone: Enterolignans have been linked to an increase in testosterone and androgen levels in some animal studies [8]. Eating flaxseeds is also associated with increased sperm motility.
  • Helps maintain muscle mass [9]

For a lot of guys, the concern with soy foods or flaxseed seems to be that these foods will impact muscle size or performance negatively somehow. If flaxseed does have an effect on muscle, it’s to help you keep the muscle mass you already have [10].

Can Flaxseed Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

No, there is no link between flaxseed consumption and erectile dysfunction. If anything, animal studies suggest consumption of flaxseed has a beneficial effect on sexual function. 

In Women

Women will see many of the same effects as men. Benefits for them may also include:

  • Reduced risk of CV disease
  • Improved digestive health
  • Lowered risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced risk of breast cancer [11].

Obviously, body chemistry between the two sexes differs, so not everything is the same. For example, flaxseed doesn’t seem to impact the symptoms of metabolic syndrome as much. Testosterone may also not be affected in the same way.

At normal levels of estrogen, flaxseed can act as an estrogen antagonist, reducing the amount of estrogen in the body. At low estrogen levels, they can serve as a replacement for some estrogen receptors, making up for the lack.

As a result, women who have lower levels of estrogen may see more of a benefit. Older women may find that menopausal symptoms are lessened. However, pregnant women may want to avoid flaxseed as it can mess with an already delicate hormonal balance.

Can Flaxseed Improve PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms can be reduced by consuming flaxseed [12]. The condition can increase the likelihood of metabolic syndrome and make it more difficult to get pregnant, so it can have a serious impact on women’s lives [13].

It’s characterized by a hormonal imbalance, specifically in testosterone, estrogen, and another hormone called progesterone. Among its other health benefits, flaxseed supplementation helps balance those levels, which reduces the effects of PCOS. 

Although flaxseed supplements lower both free and total testosterone, it has a greater effect on?

testosterone
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flaxseed supplements
The effect of flaxseed supplementation is greater on total testosterone

flaxseed effects on testosterone The effect of flaxseed supplementation on testosterone levels in women with PCOS

Foods That Lower Testosterone

Foods that can lead to a significant decrease in testosterone include:

  1. Processed food
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Alcohol
  4. Mint
  5. Licorice root

Processed Foods

The one factor that has always been associated with a significant decrease in levels of testosterone is a diet high in fat and carbs. Obese men and women can develop all sorts of problems with hormone imbalances, including lowered testosterone levels. 

Fast food, boxed dinners, and similarly processed food may pose the biggest threat to healthy testosterone levels.  

Alcohol

Small amounts of alcohol can actually increase testosterone. However, drinking large amounts consistently leads to lowered testosterone [15]. Alcohol acts as a testicular toxin–it interferes with the creation of testosterone, with levels being lowest right about when the hangover is at its worst.

Mint

Some types of mint are natural anti-androgens, compounds that inhibit the production of male hormones like testosterone [16]. It is used as a home treatment for PCOS for that reason, a natural remedy that science backs up. 

Licorice Root

The compound that gives licorice its biting sweetness is called glycyrrhetinic acid. It’s been linked to small reductions of testosterone in men, though it may have the opposite effect in women [17].

flaxseed effects on testosterone Effects of licorice root on serum testosterone in women Licorice root lowered serum testosterone in women over two months
Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15579328/

Foods That Boost Testosterone

Certain foods can naturally help raise testosterone, including:

  1. Onions
  2. Oysters
  3. Red meat
  4. Spinach
  5. Almonds

Onions

They are a staple in kitchens everywhere and a tasty way to boost testosterone. Formally called allium cepa, eating onions can lead to an increase in luteinizing hormone that gets turned into testosterone, so increasing one also increases the other [18].

Oysters

They have a reputation for being one of the ultimate aphrodisiacs, despite looking gross. Oysters are a great source of zinc, which is required to make testosterone [19]. Another compound called oyster oligopeptide can also have a positive effect on testosterone [20]

Red Meat

Testosterone is involved in the process that breaks up protein and puts it to use around the body. Red meat is also rich in cholesterol, which is one of the ingredients used by your body to make testosterone [21].

Spinach

Magnesium-rich spinach is another food that can naturally increase testosterone levels. Other dark green and leafy vegetables will also generally be helpful in increasing free testosterone levels.

Almonds

Nuts are little bundles of nutrients and can have many health benefits. Almonds can be another good source of zinc as well as omega 3 fatty acids, both of which are good for the reproductive system.

flaxseed effects on testosterone How an almond-supplemented diet improves sexual functions in diabetic rats Almonds showed to improve sexual functions in diabetic male rats. Almond drupe had a more significant effect than almond seed
Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6928307/

Signs of High Testosterone in Women

A few of the common symptoms of high testosterone in women include [22]:

  • Hirsutism: excess hair, including body hair and facial hair
  • Hyperseborrhea: A condition that can result in oily skin and hair
  • Acne
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Irregular menstrual cycle

How to Decrease Testosterone Levels in Women

High testosterone levels can cause a lot of problems for women. It can make it more difficult to get pregnant, lead to conditions like PCOS, and even affect mood. If you’re wondering how to lower testosterone levels in women, there may be no simple answer.

Medication is often used to reduce testosterone production. Clinical nutrition, using diet to address illness, has also seen some success.

Menopausal women also have to worry about rising levels of testosterone, which can lead to osteoporosis and other problems. Flaxseed has also been used to successfully lower testosterone in menopausal women.

Signs of Low Testosterone In Men

Some symptoms of low testosterone include:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Lower energy
  • Reduced muscle mass
  • CV disease
  • Depression
  • Weight gain

Natural testosterone levels drop as a standard part of aging, so some of these symptoms may just be part of getting older. However, another common cause of lowered testosterone is obesity [23]

How To Boost Testosterone Levels in Men

There seems to be a spiral that some men can get caught in, where weight gain leads to lower testosterone, which makes it more likely they’ll gain more weight [24]. While it’s difficult to escape that spiral, it certainly is possible. 

When the problem is weight-related, making lifestyle changes is the best way to boost testosterone. That means the usual strategies like eating a healthy diet and increasing exercise. Specifically, a dietary fat restriction might be a good idea. Cutting down on alcohol consumption is also a good idea. 

In some cases, hormone replacement therapy may be necessary. It’s usually reserved for extreme cases that are caused by a specific illness. However, there are some less extreme options that are available that might be helpful.

Other androgens might also be prescribed by a physician. Over-the-counter options including some supplements might be a helpful alternative [25]. You can check out our Nugenix Total T review to learn more.

FAQ

A few questions come up commonly when discussing flaxseed. Here are some direct answers to those common questions.

Does Flaxseed Increase Testosterone Levels?

Flaxseed in all its various forms, including flaxseed oil and flaxseed meal, may increase your testosterone levels, though there isn’t a lot of evidence. On the other hand, flaxseed can decrease testosterone for some people, like post-menopausal women and women affected by PCOS. 

What Happens If I Eat Flaxseed Everyday?

There aren’t any known adverse effects to eating flaxseed. On the contrary, making a point to consume flaxseed daily will more likely improve your health. It can:

  • Lower the risk of CV disease
  • Lower the risk of some types of cancer
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Help maintain muscle mass

What Is the One Food That Raises Testosterone?

There probably isn’t one type of food that will raise testosterone for everyone all the time. Two top contenders for the best food for raising testosterone are probably oysters and red meat. 

Oysters are rich in zinc and other compounds that encourage healthy production of testosterone.

Red meat, on the other hand, can supply the ingredients for making testosterone. It can also encourage your body to make more, providing a bunch of protein that needs testosterone to be processed.

Does Flaxseed Increase Estrogen?

Flaxseed does not significantly increase estrogen. Instead, it’s a source of enterolignans, which are sort of like estrogen analogs. Enterolignans can do some of the same things estrogen can, but not everything.

Conclusion

Further research might help us understand the role that enterolignans and other components of flaxseed impact our health. While there are some circumstances in which consuming flaxseed might lower testosterone, it might increase it in other cases. 

Flaxseed seems to help us maintain homeostasis, a balance of factors that ensures optimal health. As a result, flaxseed is a genuinely effective supplement that can improve your overall health. 

References:

  1. Shultz, Terry D., et al. “Effect of Short-Term Flaxseed Consumption on Lignan and Sex Hormone Metabolism in Men.” Nutrition Research, Elsevier, 26 May 2006, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0271531705806876.
  2. “Lignans.” Linus Pauling Institute, 6 Apr. 2021, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/lignans.
  3. Belladelli, Federico, et al. “The Association BETWEEN Testosterone, Estradiol and Their Ratio and Mortality among Us Men.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 5 Mar. 2021, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/and.13993.
  4. Gates, Margaret A, et al. “Sex Steroid Hormone Levels and Body Composition in Men.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Endocrine Society, June 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667256/.
  5. Choi, Jung-Won, et al. “Clinical Impact of Estradiol/Testosterone Ratio in Patients with Acute Ischemic Stroke.” BMC Neurology, BioMed Central, 26 Feb. 2021, bmcneurol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12883-021-02116-9.
  6. Parikh, Mihir, et al. “Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 25 May 2019, www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/5/1171/htm.
  7. “Metabolic Syndrome.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 24 June 2021, medlineplus.gov/metabolicsyndrome.html.
  8. Kataoka, Tomoya, et al. A Review of Foods and Food Supplements Increasing Testosterone Levels. 30 Oct. 2020, oss.jomh.org/jomh/article/20210409-243/pdf/4-14%20JOMH348.pdf.
  9. Carotenuto, Felicia, et al. “Dietary Flaxseed Mitigates Impaired Skeletal MUSCLE Regeneration: In VIVO, in Vitro and in Silico Studies.” International Journal of Medical Sciences, Ivyspring International Publisher, 18 Feb. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4773285/.
  10. Ebrahimi, Babak, et al. “Biomedical Features of Flaxseed against Different Pathologic Situations: A Narrative Review.” Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, May 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8244609/.
  11. Touré, Alhassane, and Xu Xueming. “Flaxseed LIGNANS: Source, Biosynthesis, Metabolism, ANTIOXIDANT Activity, BIO‐ACTIVE Components, and Health Benefits.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 29 Apr. 2010, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2009.00105.x.
  12. Mehraban, Mina, et al. “A Combination of Spearmint and Flaxseed Extract Improved Endocrine and Histomorphology of Ovary in Experimental Pcos.” Journal of Ovarian Research, BioMed Central, 20 Mar. 2020, link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s13048-020-00633-8#ref-CR15.
  13. “About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (Pcos).” Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pcos/conditioninfo.
  14. Wan, Lei, et al. “Dietary Tomato and Lycopene Impact Androgen Signaling- and Carcinogenesis-Related Gene Expression during Early Tramp Prostate Carcinogenesis.” Cancer Prevention Research (Philadelphia, Pa.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4259248/.
  15. Bianco, Antonino, et al. “Alcohol Consumption and Hormonal Alterations Related to Muscle Hypertrophy: A Review.” Nutrition & Metabolism, BioMed Central, 6 June 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056249/.
  16. Franklin, Smith and. “Pakistan Journal of Zoology.” Combined Effect of Aqueous Extracts of Artemisia Monosperma and Mentha Piperita on the Reproductive Integrity of Male Albino Rats, 14 May 2021, researcherslinks.com/current-issues/Combined-Effect-Aqueous-Extracts-Albino-Rats/20/1/3824/html.
  17. Armanini, D, et al. “Licorice Consumption and Serum Testosterone in Healthy Man.” Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes : Official Journal, German Society of Endocrinology [and] German Diabetes Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2003, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14520600/.
  18. Banihani, Saleem Ali. “Testosterone in Males as Enhanced by Onion (Allium Cepa l.).” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 21 Feb. 2019, www.mdpi.com/2218-273X/9/2/75.
  19. Baltaci, Abdulkerim Kasim, et al. The Role of Zinc in the Endocrine System. Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, www.researchgate.net/publication/331438506_Review_The_role_of_zinc_in_the_endocrine_system.
  20. Jin, Qiguan, et al. “Oyster Oligopeptide Improving Cyclophosphamide‐Induced Partial Androgen Deficiency of the Aging Male by Promotion of Testosterone Synthesis.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 6 Jan. 2021, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ggi.14129.
  21. Eacker, Stephen M, et al. “Hormonal Regulation of Testicular Steroid and Cholesterol Homeostasis.” Molecular Endocrinology (Baltimore, Md.), The Endocrine Society, Mar. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2262169/.
  22. Additional informationFundingThis research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public. “Continuum of Symptoms in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (Pcos): Links with Sexual Behavior and Unrestricted Sociosexuality.” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00224499.2020.1726273?scroll=top&needAccess=true.
  23. Adlin, E. Victor, et al. “Testosterone Treatment in Adult Men with Age-Related Low Testosterone: A Clinical Guideline from the American College of Physicians.” Annals of Internal Medicine, 9 Jan. 2020, www.acpjournals.org/doi/full/10.7326/M19-0882.
  24. Hu, Tzu-Yu, et al. “Testosterone-Associated Dietary Pattern Predicts Low Testosterone Levels and Hypogonadism.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 16 Nov. 2018, www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/11/1786.
  25. Jason R. Kovac, Michael Pan. “Dietary Adjuncts for IMPROVING Testosterone Levels In Hypogonadal Males – JASON R. KOVAC, Michael Pan, Shawn Arent, LARRY I. Lipshultz, 2016.” SAGE Journals, 13 Aug. 2015, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1557988315598554. 
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