A lot of people associate estrogen as being a “female” hormone and testosterone as being a “male” hormone, but high estrogen in men is increasing.
The key to all hormones is having them in the right balance, and high estrogen in men can lead to a wide range of unwanted symptoms from weight gain to mood changes.
So this article looks at both the cause and treatment of high estrogen levels in men.
The symptoms of high estrogen in men can be similar to the symptoms of low estrogen, also you may have normal estrogen levels but low testosterone which will also cause similar symptoms.
When trying to treat any hormone imbalance the first thing that you must do is proper hormone testing, this tells us exactly what hormones are out of balance which takes the “guesswork” out of your treatment program.
Women with high estrogen should read this article.
There has not been a lot of research into why men need estrogen, but over the past few years, that is starting to change as researchers recognize that estrogen is important for health in other ways besides reproduction.
Men need a small amount of estrogen for a variety of reasons, both physical and neurological. It is unusual for men to be low in estrogen unless they are taking estrogen blockers like Arimidex, or there is a problem with the pituitary gland.
Most men will not have an issue with low estrogen unless they are taking estrogen-blocking medications, this is why natural estrogen lowering treatments are safer with fewer side effects.
High estrogen levels are more of a problem for men, especially as they get older so let's look at the problem with high estrogen in men.
While the benefits of estrogen in men are important, you have a much greater chance of having high estrogen levels, and the chance of high estrogen in men increases with age and the amount of body fat that you have.
Noteworthy: High estrogen will affect body composition, mood, and overall health so it is important to address.
High estrogen in men usually corresponds with lower testosterone levels which will make symptoms worse, this is another reason why testing is important to check if you have both high estrogen and/or low testosterone levels.
Symptoms of High Estrogen Levels:
So as you can see high estrogen levels in men can leave you feeling crappy, as well as being out of shape with increased weight and man boobs - and even if you don’t care too much about how you look it is going to increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.
If you are ticking too many of the high estrogen symptoms let’s look at what is causing high estrogen in men, then we can look at treatment, while the treatment will be similar to women with excess estrogen there is going to be a couple of differences.
Estrogen levels in men will usually increase as we age, mainly because of an increase in the aromatase enzyme and there are many different reasons for this with higher levels of body fat being the number one problem.
The common causes of high estrogen levels in men:
The signs and symptoms of high estrogen can be similar to low estrogen or simply low testosterone, so before you start to try and lower your estrogen levels a good idea would be to test your sex hormones as this takes out the guesswork.
Men can commonly have high cortisol levels which can contribute to high estrogen and low testosterone symptoms, high cortisol can also produce similar symptoms to high estrogen in men so testing is important.
There are 3 main ways of assessing your estrogen levels and they all have their pros and cons
Blood testing which is often done by your doctor can be a great way to assess your levels of estradiol which is the more potent form of estrogen, but estriol and estrone levels are often not tested for. One of the downsides to blood testing is that it only gives your total estrogen and not the free hormone levels, and does not show how well your body is detoxifying estrogen.
A blood test can also measure LH and FSH which are the messages from the brain to the testes telling your body to make more hormones, this can help to work out why your hormone levels are low.
Saliva testing is easy and convenient and does not require a visit to the doctor, it also measures the 3 different types of estrogen. Saliva testing only shows your levels of estrogen and also misses out on showing you how your body is detoxifying estrogen, problems with detoxification are one of the main causes of high estrogen levels.
Urine testing is also easy and convenient as it does not require a visit to the doctor, and can easily be done at home with a DUTCH hormone test kit.
This is my favorite way to test estrogen levels, not only because it is so convenient to do but because it measures the 3 different types of estrogen AND how your body is detoxifying estrogen, as well as progesterone and testosterone levels.
The DUTCH hormone test also measures your levels of 5a-DHT which is the more androgenic form of testosterone, like all hormones you don’t want too little of this and excess levels, especially combined with high estrogen in men can lead to hair loss, prostate problems and increased cancer risk.
There are three ways that the liver can detoxify estrogen, there is the 2-OH Estrogen pathway which is the healthy way to detoxify estrogen, but there is also the 4-OH and 16-OH Estrogen pathways that are associated with an increased risk estrogen dominant cancers, even in men as this can be a contributing factor to prostate cancer.
The DUTCH test also measures how your body is methylating estrogen, this is important for phase 2 of liver detoxification. There is a lot of research into methylation and people who have genetic SNPs in the MTHFR or COMT genes can have problems with the methylation of estrogen. B12 and B6 are both important for methylation and these markers are now measured with the DUTCH hormone test.
Finally, the DUTCH test is also the best way to assess adrenal function, high cortisol is another cause of high estrogen so assessing adrenal function is another great way to find out the underlying cause of high estrogen and low testosterone.
Other tests to consider are insulin and HbA1C for blood sugar control, also assess for nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin D, iron studies, zinc, and copper.
Once you have done the testing to give you a full assessment of your hormone health, and you understand the different causes of high estrogen in men, then you will have a better idea of the best treatment plan for you. Because everyone’s hormone tests will be different and the underlying cause is going to be different there is no one size fits all treatment plan, but there are some general principles that everyone needs to follow.
Noteworthy: At Planet Naturopath we can help guide you through the testing and treatment process
If you are overweight, even by a few kilograms this can lead to increased estrogen levels, and the more weight that you have the more you have to focus on reducing body fat. Reducing carbohydrates, intermittent fasting, increasing vegetables can all have a positive effect on reducing weight, with my clients at Planet Naturopath I combine a specific intermittent fasting protocol with improving estrogen detoxification through the liver to lower body fat and estrogen levels quickly.
Cruciferous vegetables can help to promote estrogen detoxification through the liver, this includes cabbages, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and broccoli sprouts. They can be added to the diet in the form of smoothies, soups, and any meal.
Weight training and high-intensity exercise will also help to lower body fat and increase your testosterone production. You don’t need long training sessions and the sweet spot seems to be 20-40 minutes most days of the week depending on your other activity levels.
Even 20-40 minutes of higher intensity exercise is not going to help if you're sitting at a desk all day, you need to also move around regularly during the day and make sure you get close to 10,000 steps a day. This does not have to be all at once and simple changes to your routine like walking meetings, standing desks, and moving around when you're on the phone can help to increase your activity levels and help to lower estrogen levels.
Healthy digestion is important for healthy hormone levels, this is especially true if you have constipation or other IBS type symptoms like bloating, excess gas, or reflux. The GI-MAP test is a stool test to help to identify the underlying cause of your digestion problems, it also tests for beta-glucuronidase and high levels of this enzyme can cause high estrogen in men as your body reabsorbs the estrogen back into circulation rather than eliminating it through your digestive tract.
This includes the types of skincare products, shampoos, and soaps that you use on your skin, your skin can absorb environmental chemicals very easily. Eliminate plastics as much as you can and do not reuse plastic bottles or heat food in plastic containers.
This is easier said than done but some simple things to start with are meditation and breathing exercises, one my favorite ways to reduce stress and optimize performance that combines both of these is the Wim Hof Method, the Wim Hof Fundamentals course is a step by step guide to improve your breathing, mindfulness and overall health.
There are a number of different supplements that can help you to reduce your high estrogen levels, but remember that supplements are not a “magic fix” and that you will have to make the diet and lifestyle changes too, otherwise you will not get optimal results.
Also, you don’t need to take all of these supplements, what you need will depend on the results of the DUTCH hormone test as that is going to help identify the cause of your high estrogen levels, and the specific supplements that you will need.
Diindolylmethane or DIM for short is the best supplement to help promote estrogen elimination through phase one of liver detoxification. This is a concentrated version of the active ingredient from broccoli.
Calcium d Glucarate helps with phase 2 of estrogen detoxification by lowering your levels of beta-glucuronidase
B6, B12 and folate in the active form help to promote estrogen clearance by improving methylation, it is important that you get a quality brand of B vitamins and it is not necessary that a higher dose equals better results.
Creatine is commonly associated with improving muscle strength and size but it can also help improve methylation
Zinc will help to reduce the aromatase enzyme to prevent testosterone getting converted to estrogen. ZMA which is a combination of Zinc, magnesium aspartate and B6 is a good choice
Address any nutritional deficiencies like Vitamin D that you may find through testing
Now you know the symptoms of having high estrogen levels, and the wide range of health problems that high estrogen in men can cause it is time to take some action to get your hormones in balance and optimize your health.
At Planet Naturopath we can organize the DUTCH test kit to be sent to you, this test can be sent anywhere in the world and is an easy-to-do test that can be done at home before being shipped back to the lab for analysis.
Once we have the results we will be able to guide you on a step by step plan to not only reduce your high estrogen levels but optimize your overall health. We don't prescribe medications but focus on diet, lifestyle, and targeted supplements so that you get results.
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen