The endocrine system produces different hormones that circulate throughout the body. Maintaining the proper balance between these substances ensures good health. Excessive levels of the androgen testosterone, for example, can cause unwanted reactions, such as menstrual irregularity, voice deepening and hair growth. Women with polycystic ovary disease and adolescent girls often have these symptoms. Eating certain foods may help lower testosterone, but speak with a doctor for the proper diagnosis and treatment.
The spearmint plant, Mentha spicata, grows freely in Europe and Asia. Used for a variety of ailments, traditional healers suspected that ingesting this plant reduces libido. Such an anti-androgenic effect suggests that spearmint may block testosterone. An experiment outlined in the February 2010 issue of "Phytotherapy Research" tested this hypothesis in women with polycystic ovary disease. Patients received spearmint tea twice a day for a month. Relative to placebo, this treatment caused a decrease in circulating testosterone. It also decreased unwanted hair growth. The women did not experience serious side effects, but the long-term impact of spearmint remains unknown.
Leaves from the bael tree, Aegle marmelos, play a significant role in Ayurvedic medicine. Eaten in salads to relieve constipation, bael leaves may help treat diabetes. This finding indicates that the food may affect hormone regulation. A 2007 article presented in "Contraception" evaluated bael's effect on testosterone. Laboratory animals received extracted bael leaves daily for two months. Relative to baseline, bael leaves suppressed testosterone and reduced fertility in male rats. Ending the treatment reversed these effects, and that change eliminated all signs of toxicity within four months. While suggestive, results obtained in animals may not generalize well to humans.
The pegaga plant, Centella asiatica, also has medicinal properties. People in Malaysia eat this herb raw as a salad green. Preliminary data suggest that pegaga treats symptoms of diabetes and affects the endocrine system. A 2010 paper in "La Clinica Terapeutica" looked at pegaga's impact on male fertility. Rodents were given daily injections of either Centella asiatica or distilled water for three months. The pegaga treatment decreased testosterone production and reduced sperm count relative to the inert treatment. The food did not affect other physiological systems, but patients should wait until scientists collect more safety data for pegaga.
Potatoes and potato products remain some of the most popular foods. Potato fiber is made from the resistant starch contained in the vegetable, and it can prevent colon cancer. This fiber may have other medical applications as well. A study described in the April 2010 edition of "Archives of Animal Nutrition" assessed the effect of potato fiber on laboratory animals. Male and female rodents received a diet supplemented with either fiber or cellulose for six months. Relative to the cellulose-enriched diet, the fiber-enriched diet suppressed testosterone levels and enhanced mineral absorption. Additional tests will reveal the mechanisms underlying these effects.