Gynecomastia and oestrogen dominance in men

Oestrogen dominance is a growing problem amongst men of all ages and symptoms can range from mood swings, night sweats, poor sleep, depression, anxiety, and poor muscle tone. One of the most obvious symptoms of oestrogen dominance is gynecomastia, more commonly known as ‘man boobs’, which is an enlargement of the male breast tissue.

Obesity or carrying excess fat provides increased levels of an enzyme called aromatase which causes an increased conversion of androgens to oestrogens. Increasing age (associated with low testosterone levels) is also a risk factor. But young men who are not overweight or obese are also suffering from this condition at an increasing rate.

Man with gynecomastia

Research shows that the testosterone-oestrogen balance in males has been declining since the 1980s [1]. Whilst the rise in anabolic steroid use in young males can be partly attributed to this decline, there are other external factors to consider.

The bad news is we live in an age where oestrogens and oestrogen mimickers (xenoestrogens) are literally everywhere. Not only do our bodies produce them in varying amounts (we need a small amount) but we eat, drink and breathe them, too. Xenoestrogens are found in plastic residues like water bottles and food containers, pesticides, industrial waste products, exhaust fumes, soap products, carpeting, furniture and much more.

Whilst it’s impossible to avoid all external influences of oestrogen, there are many things that can be done to ensure that it’s metabolised efficiently through the body. Healthy oestrogen metabolism relies on essential nutrients to support hydroxylation, methylation, glucuronidation and sulphation pathways in the liver to safely process and eliminate oestrogen from the body.

Things to avoid

Soy products - Soy has compounds in it that are very similar to oestrogen and consuming too much of them can have an oestrogenic effect in the body.

BPA (Bisphenol A) - BPA is used in the lining of plastic bottles and cans. If you drink anything out of a bottle or a can, you're likely consuming more BPA than you should and this can also have an oestrogenic effect in your body.

‘Bulking’ at the gym - Remember I mentioned earlier about excess fat containing the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone into oestrogen? The more excess fat you carry, the more aromatase is produced and, ultimately, oestrogen which will seriously hamper your efforts to gain muscle. Getting lean first with a body fat percentage of around 13% or lower is the best way to gain muscle.

Tips for healthy oestrogen metabolism

  • Avoid binge drinking as this places undue stress on the liver blocking essential pathways for oestrogen metabolism. Excess alcohol also increases aromatase.
  • Increase resistance training in the gym. It’s been proven to decrease male oestrogen levels, increase male testosterone levels, and increase human growth hormone levels.
  • Consume ground flaxseeds. They contain phytoestrogens (which have a weak oestrogenic effect) that bind to oestrogen receptors in the body and so the oestrogen in your body is excreted more rapidly.
  • Consume more broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts) as they contain Di-indolylmethane (DIM) which is a beneficial phytochemical and is known to significantly support healthy oestrogen metabolism.
  • Eat foods rich in zinc such as red meat. Zinc is vital for testosterone production and it also stops the aromatase enzyme from converting testosterone to oestrogen.
  • Ensure your methylation function is working efficiently. This is an important pathway in the liver and, without it functioning effectively, you will find it hard to eliminate oestrogen. A functional test via a nutritionist can check your methylation capacity.
  • Last but not least, maximise quality sleep. This is the time that your endocrine system kicks in to regulate your hormones.


[1] Travison, G. Andre B. Araujo, et al - A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men - July 02, 2013. The Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism

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