How to Lower SHBG and Increase Free Testosterone: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Lower SHBG and Increase Free Testosterone: A Comprehensive Guide

The regulation of the availability of sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, largely depends on Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG). Knowing how to lower SHBG levels may greatly affect your sex hormone levels and health, especially if you want to raise your free testosterone levels.

This article explores the subtleties of SHBG, how it affects testosterone, and evidence-based methods for controlling it to maintain the ideal balance of sex hormones throughout.

What is Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG)?

The liver produces the protein known as SHBG, which binds to sex hormone binding globulin such as dihydrotestosterone (DHT), estradiol (estrogen). The biological activity of these sex hormones itself is decreased by this binding. Research indicates that SHBG levels rise naturally with aging, which may be a factor in the age-related reduction in testosterone function.

What are Normal SHBG Levels?

The SHBG levels differ according to age, gender, and medical status. Normal ranges are generally:

  • Men: 10-57 nmol/L
  • Women: 18-144 nmol/L

You must have your SHBG levels evaluated by a healthcare practitioner to determine your baseline and make any required modifications.

SHBG and Testosterone Levels

Within the normal range, SHBG effectively manages hormone levels overall. Higher sex hormone binding globulin SHBG can bind more testosterone, which lowers the amount of calculated free testosterone available for your body’s demands even while it helps manage hormone levels overall.

However, high SHBG symptoms may include tiredness, erectile dysfunction, reduced libido, and loss of muscular mass. Recognizing high SHBG symptoms and abnormal SHBG levels in clinical practice is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, thyroid dysfunction can impact thyroid hormones, which in turn can influence SHBG levels and overall hormone balance.

Causes of High SHBG

high shbg, aging

Understanding the causes of high SHBG is essential for identifying the best strategies to lower it. Elevated SHBG can result from various factors:

Aging: sex hormone binding globulin levels naturally increase as you age, particularly in men. This rise can lead to decreased bioavailable testosterone and associated symptoms of aging male such as reduced libido, energy levels, and muscle mass.

Hyperthyroidism: Overactive thyroid function can significantly decrease levels serum testosteroneelevate serum SHBG+ levels. This condition increases the liver’s production of SHBG, reducing free testosterone levels.

Liver Disease: The liver produces SHBG, so any liver dysfunction, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis, can high SHBG production.

Medications: Certain medications can affect SHBG levels. For example, oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) often contain estrogen, which can increase SHBG. Anticonvulsants and medications used to treat chronic illnesses may also raise SHBG levels.

Hormonal Imbalances: Elevated estrogen levels, whether due to natural hormonal changes, medical conditions, or external sources, can increase SHBG. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women or hormone therapy in transgender individuals can affect SHBG levels.

Genetic Factors: Genetic predisposition can influence the sex hormone binding globulin concentration levels. Some individuals may naturally produce more or higher SHBG concentrations due to inherited traits.

How to Lower SHBG and Increase Free Testosterone

Lowering SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) can increase the amount of free testosterone, improving symptoms of testosterone deficiency. Here are some evidence-based methods to reduce high SHBG in:

Dietary Adjustments

Increase Protein Intake: High protein diets have been shown to lower SHBG levels. Incorporate lean meats, fish, eggs, and plant-based proteins into your diet.

Reduce Soy Consumption: Soy contains phytoestrogens, which can increase SHBG levels. Limiting soy products may help lower SHBG.

Avoid High-Carb Diets: Diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugars can increase SHBG. Focus on a balanced diet with complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins. Additionally, be mindful of your liver health, as a balanced diet can help prevent fatty liver and liver disease, which may affect total testosterone levels.


Resistance Training: Weight lifting and strength training exercises can effectively lower SHBG level. Aim for at least three sessions per week.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT workouts, or moderate aerobic exercise which involve short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest periods, can help reduce SHBG and boost free testosterone.

Manage Stress

Reduce Cortisol Levels: Chronic stress increases cortisol, which can raise SHBG. Incorporate stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness practices to lower cortisol and decrease sex hormone binding globulin levels.

Optimize Thyroid Function

Address Thyroid Disorders: If you have hyperthyroidism or other thyroid imbalances, work with your healthcare provider to manage these conditions, which can help normalize SHBG levels.

Supplements to Lower SHBG

how to lower shbg and increase free testosterone

Certain supplements can help lower SHBG levels and increase free testosterone. Here are some scientifically-backed options:

Vitamin D

Low testosterone levels have been linked to vitamin D insufficiency. Some studies indicate that vitamin D administration may raise testosterone levels and perhaps affect SHBG, but the precise mechanism is still unclear. However, a more thorough investigation is required.


Magnesium is a necessary mineral involved in many bodily metabolic processes. Because of its function in regulating hormones, especially those related to SHBG and testosterone, is an essential aspect of any plan meant to enhance hormonal health. This comprehensive analysis of magnesium’s effects on SHBG and testosterone includes references, advantages, and empirical data.


The trace mineral boron has drawn interest due to its possible advantages in controlling hormone levels, particularly its capacity to affect testosterone and SHBG. While it isn’t as well-known as other minerals, boron is essential for preserving hormonal balance and general wellness.


The possibility that this adaptogenic herb increases testosterone has made it more well-known. Research indicates that ashwagandha may raise testosterone levels and enhance sperm quality; there is also some indication that it may impact SHBG. Nonetheless, further research is required.


Low testosterone and elevated SHBG levels may be associated with zinc insufficiency. Research indicates that using zinc supplements may raise testosterone levels and, in certain cases, decrease SHBG. However, further investigation is needed to validate these results.

Causes of Low SHBG

Low SHBG levels can lead to excessive free testosterone and associated symptoms. Understanding the causes of low SHBG levels is crucial for addressing the condition:


how to lower shbg and increase free testosterone, obesity

Excess body fat, particularly visceral fat, can lower SHBG levels. Obesity is associated with increased insulin resistance and metabolic disturbances that affect SHBG production. Maintaining a healthy body weight both through diet and exercise can help regulate SHBG levels in men and women.

Insulin Resistance

Conditions like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome are linked to reduced SHBG levels. High insulin levels can suppress SHBG production in the liver, leading to an increase in free testosterone and associated symptoms such as acne, hirsutism, and menstrual irregularities in women. Regular monitoring through a blood test is crucial for managing these conditions.


Underactive thyroid function can decrease SHBG production. This condition slows down metabolic processes, including the production of SHBG. Managing hypothyroidism with appropriate medication and lifestyle changes can help normalize SHBG levels.

Androgen Excess

Conditions that cause elevated levels of androgens (male hormones) such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in women or anabolic steroid use can suppress SHBG. High levels of testosterone and other androgens reduce SHBG production, increasing free testosterone.

Genetic Factors

Genetic predispositions can result in naturally low SHBG levels, affecting the balance of free and bound testosterone. Individuals with genetically low enough SHBG concentrations may experience symptoms related to high free testosterone.

How to Increase SHBG

Increasing SHBG can be beneficial for those with excessively low levels serum testosterone, which can cause symptoms of androgen excess. Here are some strategies to raise SHBG levels:

Dietary Changes

Increase Fiber Intake: High-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help increase SHBG levels.

Healthy Fats: Incorporate omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts to support SHBG production.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is associated with hormone balance and immunological function. According to studies, low vitamin D levels are associated with increased free testosterone and decreased SHBG. Get your vitamin D levels evaluated to determine whether you need to supplement.

Hormonal Balance

Address Insulin Resistance: Managing insulin levels through diet, exercise, and medications can help increase SHBG. Low-glycemic diets and regular physical activity are effective in reducing insulin resistance.

Optimize Thyroid Health: Ensure your thyroid function is optimal through regular check-ups and appropriate treatment.

Lifestyle Modifications

Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy body weight can positively influence SHBG levels. Weight loss in overweight individuals often leads to increased SHBG.

Avoid Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Limiting alcohol intake can help improve liver function and support healthy SHBG production.

Exercise: Regular exercise may help boost SHBG and lower free estrogen levels. One research compared inactive women to women who exercised three to four days a week and found substantial changes in SHBG levels after a year. Exercise also promotes a healthy weight and improves insulin resistance, which are necessary for hormone balance.

How Diet Affects SHBG and Testosterone

diet, shbg and testosterone

Cruciferous Vegetables

Examples: Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale.

Effects: Cruciferous vegetables contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM), compounds that support estrogen metabolism in the liver. These compounds help lower estrogen levels, reducing SHBG levels, as high estrogen increases SHBG production. Lower SHBG levels can result in higher free testosterone.

By aiding in estrogen metabolism, these vegetables help balance the ratio of estrogen to testosterone, reducing SHBG and increasing testosterone’s bioavailability.

Healthy Fats

Examples: Avocados, nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds (chia, flax), olive oil, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel).

Effects: Healthy fats, including testosterone, are crucial for hormone production. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, have anti-inflammatory properties that support overall hormonal health.

Dietary fats are essential for the synthesis of steroid hormones, including testosterone. They help maintain cell membrane integrity, which is vital for the function of sex hormone, receptors and production.

Lean Proteins

Examples: Chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, legumes, beans, lentils.

Effects: High-protein diets have been associated with lower SHBG levels. Protein intake supports muscle maintenance and overall metabolic health, which can positively influence hormone levels.

Protein helps regulate insulin levels, and balanced insulin is essential for maintaining optimal SHBG levels and testosterone levels. Additionally, protein provides the necessary building blocks for muscle repair and growth, indirectly supporting testosterone levels.

Foods to Avoid

Processed Foods

Examples: Packaged snacks, sugary drinks, fast food, baked goods with trans fats.

Effects: High in trans fats, refined sugars, and artificial additives, processed foods can lead to inflammation, insulin resistance, and metabolic disturbances.

These foods can disrupt metabolic health, leading to increased insulin levels, associated with lower SHBG levels. While lower SHBG might seem beneficial, it often accompanies other metabolic issues that can negatively impact overall hormone balance.


Effects: Excessive alcohol consumption can impair liver function, disrupt hormone metabolism, and lead to increased SHBG levels.

The liver plays a crucial role in hormone metabolism. When liver function is compromised by excessive alcohol intake, it can lead to an increase in SHBG production, reducing free testosterone levels. Additionally, alcohol can increase estrogen levels, further raising SHBG.

Soy Products

Examples: Tofu, soy milk, edamame, soy protein isolates.

Effects: Soy contains phytoestrogens, plant-derived compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. High consumption of soy can increase estrogen levels and SHBG production.

Phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors in the body, potentially increasing the overall estrogenic activity. This increase in estrogen can lead to higher SHBG levels, reducing free testosterone.

Lifestyle Changes

Balanced Meals

Aim for balanced meals that include lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. This approach helps stabilize blood sugar levels and supports overall metabolic health, which can positively impact SHBG and testosterone levels.

Avoiding Endocrine Disruptors

Reduce your exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals found in some processed foods and plastics. These substances can disrupt hormone synthesis and balance, influencing SHBG and testosterone levels.

Xenoestrogens, a kind of endocrine disruptor present in pesticides, plastics (such as BPA), and some personal care items, can mimic estrogen in the body, raising SHBG levels and decreasing free testosterone. By limiting your exposure to these chemicals, you can promote a better hormonal balance.


Maintain adequate hydration to support metabolic and hormonal functions. Water is essential for all bodily processes, including the transport and metabolism of hormones.

How can I reduce my SHBG levels?

There are many approaches to lowering SHBG levels:

  • Diet: Include nutrient-dense meals, including cruciferous vegetables, healthy fats, and lean meats to promote hormonal balance and perhaps reduce SHBG levels.
  • Supplements: Some supplements, such as boron, have been proven to lower SHBG levels. Magnesium and zinc can also help with hormone balance.
  • Exercise: Regular physical exercise, particularly strength training, can help lower SHBG levels while increasing free testosterone.
  • Medical Consultation: Always speak with a healthcare expert to determine the underlying reasons of excessive SHBG and create a personalized plan to reduce it.

Does reducing SHBG raise testosterone levels?

Yes, reducing SHBG can boost the body’s free testosterone levels. Because SHBG binds to testosterone, lowering SHBG levels can reduce binding and allow more free testosterone to be activated and used by the body. This can help improve symptoms linked with low free testosterone, such as decreased libido, exhaustion, and muscle loss.

Does zinc reduce SHBG?

Yes, zinc can help reduce SHBG levels. Zinc is crucial for testosterone production and hormonal homeostasis. It aids in the manufacture of testosterone and can help manage SHBG levels, increasing the availability of free testosterone. Consuming zinc-rich foods such as meat, seafood, legumes, and seeds, as well as taking zinc supplements, might be advantageous.

Does magnesium lower SHBG?

Yes, magnesium can reduce SHBG levels. Magnesium promotes testosterone synthesis, increases insulin sensitivity, and lowers inflammation, all of which can help to lower SHBG levels. Magnesium reduces SHBG, which helps raise free testosterone levels.

Consuming magnesium-rich foods such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, as well as taking magnesium supplements, can help maintain appropriate magnesium levels and promote hormonal health.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to read this article How Does Testosterone Speed Up Metabolism?

*This information is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical or dietary advice tailored to individual needs.


Dr. Nicolette Natale is a physician, with a background in Psychology, General Medicine, and English Literature, combining her expertise to provide readers with the most accurate, easy-to-understand, and comprehensive information regarding healthcare. She received her Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine from Nova Southeastern University, and her bachelor’s in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Miami. Dr. Natale seeks to empower individuals with knowledge, fostering a greater understanding of holistic health and encouraging a proactive approach to well-being

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Dr. Kimberly Langdon

Kimberly Langdon

Dr. Kimberly Langdon has been an MD for 31 years, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place accolades for her Senior Research Project and Score of 98th percentile on a National Proficiency Test.

During her clinical career, she delivered over 2000 babies and specialized in minimally invasive procedures, menopause, endometriosis, menstrual disorders, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. After retiring from clinical practice, she founded a medical device company to commercialize her two patented and four patent-pending medical devices for both life-threatening and non-life-threatening infections.

Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Coologics, 2010-present
The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine 1987-1991
The Ohio State University Hospital Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program 1991-1995
Private practice 1995-2010

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., received his medical doctorate from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. During his medical school training, Dr. Hsu worked with various patients, including adult and pediatric patients with acute and chronic conditions. Dr. Hsu’s interests include neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, and sleep medicine.

Before medical school, Dr. Hsu finished a master’s degree at Harvard University and wrote a thesis on neuroimaging in schizophrenia patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospital. Dr. Hsu was also a part of the 2008 NASA Phoenix Lander Mission team, which sent a robotic spacecraft to the North polar region of Mars. Dr. Hsu also had research experience on neuroimaging in neonates at Boston Children’s Hospital, another Harvard Medical School-affiliated Hospital.

Since graduating from medical school, Dr. Hsu has worked as a full-time medical writer and consultant. In addition, he has experience writing and ghostwriting books and articles for physicians and health technology start-up companies. Dr. Hsu believes good communication between healthcare providers and patients creates the best results.


-Peer Reviewed Journal Article:
Kounaves, S.P., Hecht, M.H., West, S.J., Morookian, J.-M., Young, S.M.M., Quinn, R., Grunthaner, P., Wen, X., Weilert, M., Cable, C.A., Fisher, A., Gospodinova, K., Kapit, J., Stroble, S., Hsu, P.-C., Clark, B.C., Ming, D.W. and Smith, P.H. The MECA wet chemistry laboratory on the 2007 phoenix mars scout Lander. Journal of Geophysical Research. 2009, Mar; 114(E3): 10.1029/2008je003084.

-Poster Presentation:
2011 Harvard Psychiatry Mysell Poster Session; Boston, MA
Hsu, P.C., Rathi, Y., Eckbo, R., Nestor, P., Niznikiewicz, M., Thompson, E., Kubicki, M., Shenton, M.E. (March, 2011). Two-Tensor Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Acoustic Radiations in Schizophrenia

Dr. Nicolette Natale

Nicolette Natale

Dr. Nicolette Natale is a physician, with a background in Psychology, General Medicine, and English Literature, combining her expertise to provide readers with the most accurate, easy-to-understand, and comprehensive information regarding healthcare. She received her Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine from Nova Southeastern University, and her bachelor’s in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Miami. Dr. Natale seeks to empower individuals with knowledge, fostering a greater understanding of holistic health and encouraging a proactive approach to well-being