By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
September 03, 2012
- Hormone disruptions from strange places
- How to balance your hormones naturally
- What men can learn from women about hormone balance
In the same way that women need a little testosterone to be healthy –to maintain their sex drive, keep their heart healthy, and have good muscle tone – men need a dab of estrogen.
Estrogen plays a role in bone health and density, sperm production, and even sexual function as it increases the levels of nitric oxide that is the necessary precursor of the male erection.
Men would not want to eliminate estrogen completely any more than women would want to eliminate testosterone. Each needs their respective balance.
However, there are various environmental and dietary factors pushing up the estrogen level in both men and women, causing a condition called “estrogen dominance.”
While women have been aware of fluctuating estrogen levels and often seek treatment, the issue takes most men by surprise. Many of the men who come to my office aren’t expecting estrogen to be the culprit for health complaints, such as low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, enlarged breasts, weight gain and even an enlarged prostate. But it is.
And unfortunately, too much estrogen in men can lead to testicular and prostate cancer, just as it can lead to cancers in female reproductive organs. Turns out what’s bad for the goose is just as bad for the gander.
In the last issue, we looked at the role of testosterone in women, and what women should do if they don’t have enough testosterone. Today, I’ll discuss the problem of estrogen dominance, particularly in men, and what you can do about it…
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While men don’t face menopause, they are certainly challenged by fluctuating hormones as they age. Just as women lose testosterone, men gain estrogen. Plus, their levels of progesterone and testosterone decrease, throwing off their overall hormonal balance. This natural process has even earned its own name: andropause.
But nature isn’t the only factor. Especially in today’s world.
Various foods and chemicals cause estrogen levels to rise in both men and women. This rise is even being blamed for the younger onset of puberty that’s becoming increasingly common.
These foods and chemicals are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals or “environmental estrogens” – and they’re everywhere.
For example, soy foods contain isoflavones, which mimic estrogen in the body. Even if you don’t eat tofu or drink soymilk, you could be eating far more soy than you realize. Along with corn, soy is one of the most commonly used additives in processed foods.
And then there are byproducts of the plastic and pesticide industries—called organochlorines—which are one of the largest sources of xenoestrogens.
Xenoestrogens is a fancy word for foreign estrogens our bodies don’t manufacture, but that we are exposed to from outside sources. They can be found in everything from plastic baggies to dry cleaning to many of our meats and dairy products as a result of the growth hormones fed to animals.
It all adds up to an alarming rate of hormone imbalance for men and women alike.
If you follow some of my recommendations for a healthy diet, you may already be avoiding some of the worst offenders, such as soy foods, commercially-raised meats and dairy, and conventional produce. This will help you reduce your risk of estrogen dominance. But what if you’re already showing symptoms?
Here’s what I recommend:
1) Get Checked: First, get your hormone levels checked. Estrogen levels can be done through blood, urine or saliva. While there are home tests available – and they may be tempting since this can be an embarrassing problem for men in particular – I recommend working with a doctor. Tinkering with hormone balances can be a delicate matter. It will take some trial-and-error to get it just right.
Having said that, you’ll want to use a physician who is knowledgeable about the many natural solutions you can try. I suggest starting with the database of functional medicine physicians at www.functionalmedicine.org to find someone local to you.
2) Try DIM First: DIM is short for the unpronounceable diindolylmethane, a phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables that helps balance hormones. DIM has proven to be effective in the prevention and treatment of breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers…specifically because of its hormone-balancing traits. In addition to eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables, you can also take DIM in supplement form. For men I recommend up to 100 mg. Just be sure to test levels within a few weeks and make sure your estrogen level is moving in the right direction.
There’s a lot of confusion – and some controversy – about DIM. So let me clear it up. DIM is not a hormone, but it is a hormone enabler and adaptor. It helps your body balance your hormones on it’s own by adjusting estrogen metabolites, which in turn, allows the testosterone you have to work more desirably.
And your body craves balance, but with so many forces working against it, needs a little help. That’s where DIM can be useful.
3) Boost Your Zinc: The real reason oysters are considered an aphrodisiac is because they are so high in zinc. The mineral is critical to your hormonal balance, and for men in particular, it both boosts testosterone production and prevents testosterone from converting to estrogen and adding to the imbalance.
4) Correct These Deficiencies: In addition getting enough zinc, your body also needs enough vitamin B6 and magnesium. These three nutrients work together in a symbiotic relationship. They also affect many areas of your system, including your hormonal balance.
Vitamin B6 and magnesium work to neutralize estrogen in the liver, while zinc blocks the enzyme aromatase responsible for turning excess testosterone into estrogen. You can ensure your levels are within range on these by eating squashes, pumpkin seeds, pecans, pine nuts and asparagus. If you are working with a physician, you can have your levels of all three tested and supplement accordingly.
But the most important recommendation I can make to you is this: Don’t ignore the problem…
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Women have been hip to the impact of hormones on their health for a long time. They have been through the advent of birth control pills, have seen the rise and fall of HRT (hormone replacement therapy), and have endured generations of teasing for the emotional swings that can be brought on by their monthly cycle.
Many men, on the other hand, are only beginning to realize how much power hormones have over our lives. Plus, we tend to be do-it-yourself types who like to stay mum about our problems and handle them ourselves.
While these may be manly, admirable traits in some circumstances, it isn’t particularly helpful when it comes to striking the right hormone balance.
If you suspect your have estrogen dominance… if you’re embarrassed by “man boobs,” excessive weight gain around the middle, and diminished sexual function… don’t go it alone. Find a physician who will help you get back into balance, using these and other natural approaches.
- Smith S, Sepkovic D, Bradlow HL, Auborn KJ., 3,3′-Diindolylmethane and genistein decrease the adverse effects of estrogen in LNCaP and PC-3 prostate cancer cells., J Nutr. 2008 Dec;138(12):2379