Luteinizing Hormone and PCOS: Why It's High and How To Naturally Lower It
I think you will agree with me when I say, understanding which hormones in the body are out of balance when you have PCOS can be difficult.
Among these many hormones is luteinizing hormone.
Some women with PCOS have high levels of luteinizing hormone. This, in turn, can cause the ovaries to produce excess amounts of testosterone resulting in PCOS symptoms.
But luteinizing hormone can be decreased.
In today's post, we will look at why luteinizing hormone is high in women with PCOS. You are going to learn what causes elevated levels in women with PCOS and what you can do to lower it naturally.
So, if you want to lower your luteinizing hormone and reverse your PCOS symptoms, read on.
Why is Luteinizing Hormone high in PCOS?
Luteinizing hormone (LH) may be high in some women with PCOS because they have fast Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretions. When a woman produces LH she also produces Follicle-Stimulating hormone (FSH) at the same time. Women should produce an equal amount of FSH and LH (a ratio of 1:1). But in some women with PCOS, twice as much (or more) of LH is secreted at a ratio of 2:1. This can occur for various reasons including low serotonin and dopamine levels. As well as high insulin levels and short term calorie restriction. It is the fast GnRH secretions that can lead to high levels of luteinizing hormone. So by making diet and lifestyle changes, you can slow GnRH secretions and lower luteinizing hormone. This can in turn help reverse your PCOS symptoms.
What is Luteinizing Hormone?
Luteinizing Hormone is produced in the brain and is crucial in the optimal functioning of the ovaries. The hormone is produced when the hypothalamus (a region in the brain) secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This GnRH stimulates the pituitary gland (another region in the brain) to release luteinizing hormone (LH) as well as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
Whilst luteinizing hormone is always present in the body, it has an important role in the menstrual cycle working alongside FSH.
The Phases of a Normal Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle begins with the follicular phase. This is where FSH stimulates the growth of follicles in the ovaries that contain the eggs and also helps these eggs mature. As these follicles grow, estrogen levels increase.
The increase in estrogen tells the pituitary gland to stop producing FSH and instead make more luteinizing hormone (as seen in figure 1), causing a luteinizing hormone surge in the body.
Here, luteinizing hormone causes the egg to be released from the ovary, this is known as ovulation. Straight after ovulation, the female enters the luteal phase, the second phase of her menstrual cycle. As you can see in figure 1, the follicle that contained the egg now becomes a temporary structure called the corpus luteum. This structure then produces progesterone.
Progesterone helps prepare the body for pregnancy. It does this by thickening the uterine lining to create a supportive environment in the uterus for a fertilized egg.
Now, if fertilization (union of an egg and sperm) does not happen, the corpus luteum shrinks away and progesterone levels decrease. This then causes the uterine lining to shed leading to your period.
How high LH impacts the Menstrual Cycle
In some PCOS women, luteinizing hormone is already high when the menstrual cycle begins. Which means that there is no extra surge in luteinizing hormone to signal to the egg to be released. As such the female does not ovulate or enter the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. This is why some women can experience irregular periods.
The high levels of luteinizing hormone can also result in the ovary producing excess amounts of testosterone. Causing PCOS symptoms.
So, as you can see luteinizing hormone in the correct amounts is vital for a healthy menstrual cycle and reproduction.
What Causes High Luteinizing Hormone Levels in Women with PCOS?
High levels of LH in women with PCOS are a result of relatively fast Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) secretions. GnRH is responsible for the release of both follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone from the pituitary gland.
The fast GnRH pulses resulting in high LH levels can occur for various reasons. So, let’s take a look at what factors can influence them.
Low Dopamine Levels Increase LH Levels
Dopamine (controls emotion and thinking), stops the release of GnRH. A study found low dopamine was linked to increased levels of LH.
Low dopamine levels may also be the reason for the depression, anxiety, mood swings and low self-esteem PCOS women experience.
Insulin Increases LH Levels
Research shows insulin works with LH to increase the production of male hormones. Now, there aren’t many studies linking high insulin and high LH. But this one study suggested that insulin may contribute to high LH.
So get this.
Insulin has the ability to stimulate the production of male hormones in response to LH as well as independently trigger the release of male hormones.
Meaning for PCOS women who have normal LH levels but high male hormones, high insulin levels may be the cause.
Researchers found that short term calorie restriction increased LH levels in PCOS women. But reduced LH levels in non-PCOS women. So, following a calorie-restricted diet may not be effective for the reduction in LH in women with PCOS.
Now, the problem with having high LH levels is that it can cause an increase in male hormones like testosterone. Both these hormones interfere with egg development, ovulation and the production of progesterone.
So, you now know what may be causing high levels of LH in women with PCOS. You might be wondering.
How Do You Lower Luteinizing Hormone Levels?
The good news is that luteinizing hormone levels can be reduced in PCOS women. So let’s take a look at what you can do.
Boost Dopamine Levels
Low levels of dopamine have been linked to high LH levels. So increasing it can help lower LH levels and the production of male hormones.
Meditation is an approach to training the mind using techniques like mindfulness. A study found meditation may increase the release of dopamine.
The act of clearing your mind can be difficult, so to help I suggest using a meditation app to get you started.
Lower Stress Levels
Stress can be beneficial for keeping you alert and ready to respond to dangerous situations. But chronic stress is not so good. Long term stress can lead to a decrease in dopamine in the brain.
Now I understand lowering stress levels is easier said than done. But managing your stress may help decrease LH and the production of testosterone. This may, in turn, alleviate the PCOS symptoms.
Researchers have found that exercise can increase dopamine levels in the brain.
Results from a study found that one hour of yoga increased dopamine levels. So, including an hour of yoga practice into your day may be an effective way to increase dopamine levels. Which may in turn lower LH levels in women with PCOS.
Probiotics can Increase Dopamine Levels
As discussed, in the how to ‘boost serotonin levels’ section, probiotics may also help increase dopamine levels. This is because the gut produces almost the same neurotransmitters as the brain like dopamine. So supporting the gut means an optimal production of these key chemical messengers.
Curcumin is the active ingredient found in turmeric. Research shows curcumin can help with the release of dopamine.
However, curcumin is not easily absorbed by the body on its own. So, to increase the absorption, buy curcumin that also contains piperine (a compound found in black pepper). A study found after taking 20 mg of piperine per 2.2 pounds of body weight, the bioavailability of turmeric increased by 2000%.
Tyrosine is an amino acid the body produces from another amino acid called phenylalanine. Researchers suggest tyrosine can increase dopamine levels.
The body cannot produce phenylalanine, so we must get it from food. Once the body receives phenylalanine, it can be converted into tyrosine and be used to increase dopamine levels.
Foods that help with the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine include
- Dairy like Cheese, milk and yogurt
- Meat like Chicken and Turkey
Now, while these dopamine boosting foods may help, simply eating thee foods may still not be enough to increase dopamine levels. So, supplementing with tyrosine may be more effective.
Supplement with Magnesium
Magnesium is a key mineral for both the body and brain. It is needed for the synthesis of dopamine, so deficiency in magnesium can lead to low levels of dopamine.
Before adding any new supplement to your diet, it is best to visit your doctor.
Lower Insulin Levels
To lower insulin levels, you must manage your blood sugar. Some of the ways you can do this:
Choose Low Glycemic Index Carbs
I recommend choosing carbs with a low Glycemic Index (GI). Essentially, the index ranks a carbohydrate by how it will affect blood sugar levels after consumption. So a carb with a low GI value will be digested and absorbed into the body more slowly. Causing a slower rise in blood sugar levels, that will be lower overall. The opposite would be true for a carb with a high GI value.
A low GI is 55 or below, medium 56-69 and high is anything over 70. By choosing low GI carbs, you are better able to balance your blood sugar levels.
Avoid eating a high carb meal. Instead prepare balanced meals that contain all three macronutrients, protein, carbs and fat.
By combining carbs with a protein and/or fat blood sugar levels will not spike resulting in a surge in insulin.
Studies show fiber can lower blood sugar levels by slowing down digestion and the release of sugar. High fiber foods include vegetables, fruits, oats, beans and legumes.
Resistance Training can lower insulin levels
Resistance training is any type of exercise that causes the muscles to contract. Resulting in increased strength, muscle mass and endurance.
Results from a study show each 10% increase in muscle was associated with an 11% relative reduction in insulin resistance. So, the more muscle you have, the better insulin works in the body.
Lower Insulin Levels with High-Intensity Interval Training
HIIT is a vigorous form of exercise. It involves short bursts of energy followed by less-intense recovery periods.
HIIT may be an effective way to lower insulin levels because during HIIT’s intense intervals, your muscles use lots of glucose. During the recovery period, insulin is activated, allowing more glucose to enter the muscles to be used as energy.
Intermittent Fasting Reduces Insulin Levels
Intermittent fasting is a way to schedule you’re eating. It involves not eating for an extended period and then eating all your food in a short and specific time window. Research has found it to be one of the quickest ways to lower insulin levels.
For more about intermittent fasting and how it can help PCOS and insulin levels, check out my post ‘Intermittent Fasting for PCOS: Is it Healthy?’
Inositol is a substance, often referred to as Vitamin B8, that is naturally occurring in most foods, but highest in whole grains and citrus fruits. Research shows it has the ability to create an insulin-like effect in the body. Meaning it can act like insulin and help it to work better. A study found Myo-inositol (one of the nine forms of inositol) lowered insulin and testosterone levels.
Nourish Your Body
Stop following low-calorie diets. As discussed, short term calorie restrictions can increase LH levels in women with PCOS. So it is important that you focus on nourishing your body with whole nutrient-dense foods that promote hormonal balance. Avoid restricting and depriving your body of food. Instead, give your body enough food to fuel it throughout the day and so it can thrive.
Luteinizing hormone is high in some women with PCOS because of fast GnRH pulses. Now, the reason for the fast GnRH pulses may be a result of low dopamine levels, high insulin and short term calorie restriction.
High LH caused by low dopamine levels will require a focus on increasing them. This includes doing meditation, lowering stress, exercising and adding probiotics. As well as supplementing with curcumin, tyrosine and magnesium.
If high insulin levels are causing high levels of LH, balancing blood sugar levels is key. You can achieve this by eating low GI carbs, combining protein and carbohydrates, eating fiber. Including resistance training and HIIT into your workout routine and supplementing with inositol.
Calorie restrictive diets may raise LH levels. So focus on nourishing your body with whole nutrient-dense foods and fuelling your body with enough food.
Before changing anything in your diet or lifestyle, always consult a medical professional.
Hey there! I am Despina Pavlou, founder of PCOS Oracle, certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist. I want to share with you the diet and lifestyle changes I made to naturally reverse my PCOS and achieve hormonal balance. I believe using my holistic approach you too can take back control from PCOS.