One question that I get asked a lot is whether gynecomastia can be eliminated naturally. By “natural”, I mean an approach that does not involve supplements or surgery. The short answer is, you cannot eat your way out of breast tissue. A great variety of food items that we eat contains estrogen and this is all the more higher in genetically modified food. But even if you completely go organic and do not eat food items high in estrogen, that will not move the needle. Breast tissue once developed will not go away without surgery or prescription pharmacological agents given for breast cancer that open up a barrel of side effects. However, it is best to avoid food items that are high in estrogen so that you are doing what is humanely possible to not worsen the estrogen levels.
A natural approach to gynecomastia comes down to controlling or limiting the intake of estrogen rich foods and increasing food items that contain testosterone or promotes testosterone production. Below is a very limited list of some common food items that is rich in estrogen. This is not a definitive guide and also do your own research and find out what other food items contain estrogen.
The best way to achieve estrogen-testosterone balance is to focus on eating foods that both regulate estrogen and promote healthy testosterone production in combination with a healthy lifestyle. The way the estrogen-testosterone ratio is regulated in the body is a bit complex and we will briefly go through what the process is and how we can use it to our advantage.
So how exactly do men produce unwanted estrogen and what constitutes a healthy level of estrogen for men? It may seem counterintuitive, but the majority of circulating estrogen in men is actually derived from the male sex hormone we call testosterone. The mechanism from which this occurs centers around an enzyme known as aromatase. The primary form of circulating estrogen is known as estradiol. Men lack the female reproductive organs necessary to produce this hormone so its main source is from the conversion of free testosterone to estradiol through this enzyme known as aromatase. This enzyme is expressed in various tissues throughout the body naturally but this can result in fluctuations in hormone levels throughout the body. Increased activity of this aromatase enzyme in fat cells surrounding the breast tissue is an underlying contributor to gynecomastia in males.
There are two aspects two naturally raising your testosterone levels. The first is to decrease your estrogen levels by avoiding estrogen rich foods and the second is to increase food items that are rich in testosterone and polyphenols which act to lower estrogen. Polyphenols compounds are surprisingly common and may already be a part of your diet. Common beverages that are high in polyphenols include:
A full list of the top 100 foods high in polyphenols is available in a database published by Nature. Incorporating a variety of these foods into a healthy diet is a great way to begin to shift the ratio between testosterone and estrogen in the right direction. In addition to polyphenol-rich foods, another set of related compounds that are known to be effective aromatase inhibitors are chrysin and propolis. Interestingly, these compounds are synthesized by honey bees, making honey another good addition (in moderation) to a diet focused on hormone balance for men.
Other factors including body fat percentage and inflammation are known to have an effect on aromatase activity and consequently balanced hormone levels in men. White fat cells (the majority of the fat cells in humans) are known to be a major source for the production of aromatase, so maintaining a healthy diet is highly important. Inflammation from dietary sources such as excess alcohol consumption and certain fats (those with a low omega-3 to omega-6 ratio) are also known to be contributing factors to increasing aromatase activity in the body.
Vitamin D also likely plays an important role in testosterone production. Results from contemporary studies are mixed, but there is likely a beneficial link between higher vitamin D levels and hormonal balance between testosterone and estrogen levels in men. It is important to have vitamin D levels checked by a medical professional in combination with testosterone in order to determine if supplementation may be needed. It is also important to consume foods high in Vitamin D if you have lower than normal levels. Vitamin D rich foods also happen to overlap with foods known to help improve testosterone levels, including fatty fish, dairy products, egg yolks, and beef liver.
Lastly, the easiest way to maintain a hormonal balance for men is to combine the listed dietary recommendations with adequate sleep, a low stress lifestyle, and a healthy body weight. Above all, studies have shown that maintaining a healthy body mass composition and getting plenty of sleep may be the be most important factors for boosting levels of testosterone and reducing unwanted estrogen production.