The causes of gynecomastia have always been somewhat of a mystery. Since it is a benign condition, not much effort was put into finding what causes gynecomastia at a root level. But before delving deep into the causes of gynecomastia, let’s be clear and on the same page about what is gynecomastia and what it is not. Breast enlargement in adult men caused by excessive breast tissue growth is genuine gynecomastia. Breast enlargement in men can also be caused by fat being built up behind and around the areola and this is called pseudogynecomastia or adipomastia or lipomastia.
Anatomy Of Gynecomastia
Breast Tissue Growth In Teenagers
You did not come here to read that excess breast tissue growth among adolescents is normal, right ?. That is the truth and let me tell you why + a really good news. Breast tissue growth happens in men during three stages in the life span of an individual and they are infancy, adolescence and old age. When teenagers go through puberty and becomes sexually mature, there are a lot of hormonal changes including estrogen dominance for some time and this can cause development of breast tissue. Not all boys going through puberty will experience this but it is estimated that between 48-64% of all adolescents will have some form of breast tissue growth. This is called pubertal or teenage gynecomastia.
Gynecomastia In Teenagers
Now the good news is that this is quite natural and this excess breast tissue will flatten out as you enter adulthood and their will not be any abnormality for your chest in appearance or when touched. So if you are thinking about that little breast tissue you have now as a teen is an exception, know that 6 out of 10 of your peers will have the same. There is one very crucial advise that you need to take to heart if this should go away naturally. In normal circumstances, you do not need any treatment. Avoid marijuana and drugs like the plague, be active, do not put a lot of weight and you should be fine by the time you enter adulthood.
Causes Of Gynecomastia In Adults
Almost all causes of gynecomastia can be in one way or other traced back to excess production of the female hormone estrogen. This excessive level of the female hormone estrogen signals the body to develop breast tissue and that is how gynecomastia is caused. This is the most basic explanation. How this excess estrogen is caused a little more complex and we will take a look at the factors that come into play.
It all starts with an excess of the female hormone estrogen in the male body due to a wide variety of reasons. It can be excess estrogen carried over from puberty, due to a pre-existing medical condition, as a side effect of medications or due to drug abuse. Once there is an excess of estrogen, it sets off a chain reaction by reducing the production of testosterone and lowering metabolism. Excess estrogen will also signal the body to retain more fat in the chest and in the abdomen. When fat is stored in the chest and abdomen, they secrete an enzyme called aromatase that converts testosterone to estrogen. So pectoral fat in effect becomes a secondary gland that produces estrogen. Once the estrogen levels go above a certain threshold, it signals the body to develop breast tissue and this is how gynecomastia is caused.
Other Causes Of Gynecomastia
Marijuana Can Cause Gynecomastia
There used to be a time when the relationship between marijuana as one of the causes of gynecomastia was not well established but these days, physicians are starting to see a direct and definite relationship between smoking marijuana and gynecomastia. Doctors are also seeing a pattern where a majority of their patients coming in have continuously used marijuana. Smoking marijuana is also one of the reasons why gynecomastia in teenagers which must be gone as enter adulthood persists and become permanent. Elements in marijuana alters the hormonal mechanism in the body leading to estrogen conversion and gynecomastia.
What You Eat Can Cause Gynecomastia
Unbeknownst to us until now, a number of the food items that we eat on a daily basis and see on the menu are full of estrogens and drives up the estrogen levels in the body. This is very true in the case of genetically modified meat and milk. Some food items like soy and tofu are also rich in estrogen. However, having these food items once in a while will not cause gynecomastia. But that being said, if you already have high levels of estrogen in your body, having these foods act like a double whammy and aid other causes of gynecomastia.
List Of Food Items That Contain Estrogen
Medical Conditions That Can Cause Gynecomastia
In some men, the causes of gynecomastia can be one of the many medical conditions contributes to breast tissue growth. Medication or a combination of medications that they have been following can also be causing breast tissue growth. From time to time, researchers are also finding out about new medications that have the potential to cause gynecomastia as evident from the recent controversy and lawsuit around the drug Risperdal.
One of the classic examples of a medical condition that can cause gynecomastia is Klinefelter Syndrome. This syndrome is characterised by a chromosomal anomaly with men having an additional X chromosome. Studies have showed that men with this medical condition have gynecomastia as a common symptom.
The thyroid gland is responsible for the production of thyroid hormones and hyperthyroidism occurs when this gland becomes over-active. Hyperthyroidism is gender neutral and can happen to both men and women but in men, it is considered as one of the causes of gynecomastia. Early recognition of this condition and timely intervention have been found to successfully reverse gynecomastia.
Kidney failure is one of the medical conditions that can cause gynecomastia. When our kidneys are unable to do their normal filtering process, it triggers a series of bodily reactions and hormonal dysfunction is one of them. The end result is a suppression of the production of Testosterone. In this scenario, estrogen levels tip the hormonal balance causing gynecomastia.
Malnutrition is one of the often misunderstood and underrated medical conditions that can cause gynecomastia. When our body is devoid of the amount of nutrition that it requires, it reduces the production of testosterone but at the same time, there is no change in the level of estrogen. In this way, malnutrition becomes one of the causes of gynecomastia.
Medications That Could Cause Gynecomastia
Known or unknown medications can be one of the causes of gynecomastia and this is why a detailed history collection by your doctor specializing in the treatment of gynecomastia is important. There is a real dearth of knowledge among the common folks about the side effects of medication. The most common categories of medications that can cause gynecomastia includes anti-retrovirals, medication regiments that are part of prostate cancer therapies and anti-psychotics. The following list of medication that could cause gynecomastia has been compiled by Gretchen Dickson, MD and published at the Association of American Family Physician website.
Description Of Medication
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists
Human chorionic gonadotropins
Medications Whose Mechanism Of Action Causing Gynecomastia Is Unknown
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
Causes Of Gynecomastia In Steroid Users
Steroid users are one of the sub groups among men who have gynecomastia. I want to make it clear that the use of steroid in itself is not one of the causes of gynecomastia rather, the un-systematic use of it is what causes gynecomastia. If you scout the various body-building forums online, you can thread after thread of horror stories by steroid users who have developed gynecomastia. They cycle on with anabolic steroids for continuous periods of time and does not cycle of periodically and flush out the excess estrogens through post cycle therapy. Some steroid users does not cycle off at all, inviting breast tissue growth. Users of anabolic steroid users must take precautions to control the excess estrogen, cycle off and flush out excess estrogens to prevent water retention, gynecomastia and a whole lot of other issues.
When a steroid user starts his cycle, the natural hormonal balance in his body is altered by suppression of the production of the male hormone testosterone. So the testosterone (male hormone) estrogen (female hormone) balance is tilted and estrogen dominance happens in the body. This triggers a series of chain reaction culminating in the development of gynecomastia. If you are taking anabolic steroids, you should use Omega-3 fatty acids, circumin, digestive enzymes, vitamin C as well as liver protection supplements to reverse the side effects followed by post cycle therapy to restart testosterone production to optimum levels and to keep the gained muscles. Not providing your body with necessary supplements during cycling and not executing a well balanced PCT are the major causes of gynecomastia among body builders. If you want to learn more, read the post cycle therapy to prevent gynecomastia page.
Suggested Further Reading
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