Antiandrogens: Identifying & Avoiding Endocrine Disruptors
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Mon 24 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Stefano Pizzo, MD
Antiandrogens are compounds either natural or synthetic, that have the ability to lower the levels of testosterone and DHT (the androgens) and/or prevent the natural androgen pathways and their functions by blocking the androgen receptors in tissue.
Limiting your exposure to antiandrogenic compounds plays a key part in natural hormone optimization, and in my opinion, it’s far more important than say; supplementation would be…
Sure, I get that it isn’t nearly as cool to tell people to avoid this chemical and that drug, when I could be putting this energy into promoting some ancient herb that would increase your testosterone levels by 10-50% with only three gel-caps, according to the old memoirs of an Indian Shaman…
…But really, this stuff is more important.
There are far more compounds we are exposed to on a daily basis that can lower our testosterone levels, than there are those of that could increase testosterone.
Antiandrogenic Prescription Drugs & Medication
I’m not a doctor, nor do I intend to play one online.
Keep that in mind when you’re reading this information about antiandrogenic drugs. This is certainly not medical information, and you should always discuss with your doctor before stopping or switching medication to more suit your needs and goals.
With that being said, there are many commonly used prescription drugs that have the ability to lower testosterone levels and block androgen receptors. Sometimes these are well-known side effects, and sometimes people have absolutely no clue how badly their medication can suppress their hormonal health.
Here is a short list of some of the more common antiandrogenic drugs;
- Corticosteroid and opiate-based painkillers.
- Most of the tranquilizers and beta-blockers.
- Serotonin raising antidepressants (SSRIs).
- Sulfonylurea (suppresses thyroid and testosterone).
- Spironolactone, a commonly prescribed blood-pressure drug.
- Long-term use of NSAID’s; ibuprofen and paracetamol (but not aspirin).
- Acid reducer Cimetidine (Tagamet, etc), suppresses testicular enzymes.
- Hair-loss drugs primary used to reduce androgens (finasteride, dutasteride).
- Drugs that interfere with natural cholesterol synthesis (statins, etc).
- NSAAs or non-steroidal antiandrogens (Flutamide, Nilutamide, etc).
- Some anti-fungal drugs, such as the commonly used ketoconazole.
- GnRH antagonists (all estrogens, premarin, cetrorelix, high dose progestrone).
Like said, if you are being prescribed some of the drugs above, don’t just blindly stop taking them. Discuss with your doctor if there are better alternatives for you and respect their views. So many people self-diagnose on the internet (poorly) and doctors are used to battling with these people on a daily basis. Don’t be like the ones that read some woo-woo and immediately think all doctors are evil. Work with yours and respect each other’s opinions instead.
Antiandrogenic Supplements and Nutraceuticals
Testosterone boosting supplements are a big, big, massively humongous multimillion-dollar business.
Most of the supplements from this branch of over the counter nutraceuticals, however, don’t do a thing for testosterone production. Some certainly do work to slightly increase testosterone levels, but did you know, that quite many of them actually are antiandrogens?
Yes, that’s right, an alarming amount of natural supplements can lower testosterone levels, and to top it all of, many of these are actually sold as testosterone boosters.
It’s absolutely insane if you ask me, but as long as people empty their wallets to the companies manufacturing bullshit T-boosters in a shiny bottle, nothing is going to change.
Below are antiandrogenic nutraceutical supplements to avoid;
- Soy protein isolate – potent goitrogen, highly estrogenic and has a tendency to suppress testosterone levels.
- Licorice root – claimed to be beneficial for stress levels and overall health, really just dramatically lowers testosterone levels.
- Hemp, flax, and chia seeds – sold as “superior sources of omega-3 fatty-acids”, but are still full of antiandrogenic PUFAs.
- Green tea catechins – EGCG, EC, ECG, and the like are dose-dependently antiandrogenic in mice and men consuming them.
- Chaste tree (Vitex Angus) – often sold as a testosterone booster, actually is an LH suppressant, leading to the suppressed synthesis of T.
- Reishi mushroom – this has become really popular as a supplement and is claimed to cure almost anything, however, it’s extremely antiandrogenic.
- Fenugreek – this is a major ingredient in most of the T-boosters on the market. Slightly increases testosterone but at the expense of DHT.
- Saw palmetto – this is also a key ingredient in many testosterone boosting supplements. It’s a 5-a blocker, only boosting T by lowering DHT.
- Bitter melon – used a lot as an insulin sensitivity supplement, the “Momordica charantia” actually induces oxidative damage in testes.
- White peony – sold as immune system booster and also used as an ornamental plant. Shows antiandrogenic activity by blocking the androgen receptors.
- Red clover – commonly used for cardiovascular, bone, and menstrual health (yet some guys take it), contains the same estrogenic isoflavones as soy.
- ATD (1,4,6-androstatriene-3,17-dione) – was all the rage as anti-estrogenic T-booster some years ago. Later showed to be antiandrogen (oops).
The list above isn’t definitive, as there are plenty of other natural compounds that have antiandrogenic activity in terms of blocking testosterone and DHT synthesis or acting as androgen receptor antagonists. Which is why when taking supplements, it’s good to do some research on the compounds hormonal effects before buying into other health claims.
Antiandrogenic Chemicals and Compounds
Last but not least, there are several antiandrogenic compounds in our everyday items and groceries.
Mostly these are man-made chemicals and/or already banned compounds which are still stuck in the soil and are therefore transferred to our foods and produce.
Not only in foods but chemical antiandrogens such as the popular “xenoestrogens” can also be found in many types of plastics, receipts, toilet paper, air fresheners, you name it…
Here’s a list of the most common ones;
- Bisphenol A (BPA) which is a monomer used heavily in plastics and epoxy resins. Since BPA has a ‘hardening’ effect on plastics, its used generously in many industries, making BPA one of the most produced chemicals in the world. It also has hormone-like properties in the body and has been linked multiple times to low-testosterone and erectile dysfunction (study, study, study).
- Parabens (methyl-, butyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, heptyl-, etc) which are preservatives used in nearly all kinds of cosmetics, such as; sun lotions, moisturizers, personal-lubricants, shampoos, shaving gels, toothpaste, and even as food additives. They’re classified as xenoestrogens and can have a weak affinity to estrogen receptors in the body.
- Phthalates which are commonly used to make plastics more flexible, but they are also used as stabilizers and emulsifying agents in many personal care items. Increased urinary phthalate traces have been strongly correlated with decreased testosterone in men, women, and children. Recently, one study found surprisingly high amounts of phthalates in fast food.
- Benzophenones (BP-1, BP-2, BP-3…) which are permeability enhancing UV-stabilizers are used in a wide range of personal care items, but most commonly in sunscreens. Concerns have been raised of their effect in reducing the activity of enzymes needed in testosterone production. This has been studied for BP-1, BP-2, and BP-3.
- Triclosan and Triclocarban, both of which are antibacterial agents found in many antibacterial soaps, lotions, hand sanitizers, etc. Not only are they highly ineffective at reducing bacteria, but they also have a direct mechanism in lowering testicular testosterone production.
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) were used as lubricants many years ago, however after it was revealed that they were potential health hazards and traces were found from our bodies, the production and use of these compounds were for the most part seized in the 80’s. However, due to the persistent nature of these compounds, they haven’t still bio-degraded from our environment and can be commonly found in various products (most notably in seafood and fish oils due to large deposits of PCBs being in oceans). Modern studies have shown that PCB exposure still lowers testosterone levels and that high intake of fish from PCB polluted areas results in antiandrogenic effects.
- Air Fresheners – if your house or car smells like shit, don’t mask the smell with air fresheners, clean it instead. You see, an alarming amount of the popular scent candles, air freshener trees, and the like, contain various phthalates that are highly estrogenic and lower testosterone levels.
- Various Pesticides – Chlorpyrifos, Glyphosate, Vinclozolin, Atrazine, and many many other herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides have been extensively studied for their antiandrogenic effects. Some of them directly suppress testosterone production by increasing oxidative damage in the testicles and destroying the steroidogenic enzymes, whereas some have been shown to block the androgen receptors, others show estrogenic activity and are comparable to xenoestrogens. Many of the antiandrogenic pesticides are the kind that we stopped producing tens of years ago (like DDT), yet they still remain in the soil and possess a hormonal health hazard to the everyday consumer.
With tens of millions of different man-made chemicals in production, it’s impossible to identify all of the antiandrogens. While many of the chemicals are likely very safe, there will still always be the ones that are antiandrogens and thus lower testosterone and DHT levels and activity. It would be easy to blame the manufacturers, but the fact is that these chemicals are also incredibly useful and working to stop their production would be a fight against the impossible. You as a consumer have the ability to largely choose what you consume and what you’re exposed to…
…Small things like switching to metal drinking bottle (affiliate link), getting rid of air fresheners, eating less processed foods, and switching to natural personal care items will greatly reduce your exposure to antiandrogenic compounds with barely any work needed on your part.