Estrogen blockers are big business. Take a quick look at any supplement store or website and you'll see products that promise a whole range of health and physique-boosting benefits.
That said, it can be difficult to determine what's marketing hype and what science actually says about the use of estrogen blockers. Here we'll explore the proper use of estrogen blockers, examine the different types, see what risks are associated with improper usage and what symptoms to look out for.
Introduction to Estrogen and Estrogen Blockers
A typical male body will produce a carefully balanced concoction of both androgens (testosterone) and estrogens. This hormonal balance is fundamental in a man's aging process, affecting everything from sexual development to bone density; recent studies have shown that it even affects brain development!
The amount of estrogen a man should produce depends on a few factors, including age and health history.
As men age, their bodies naturally produce more estrogen and less testosterone. This imbalance, if left unchecked, eventually leads to complications in men's health. Estrogen can impair male reproductive function when produced at drastically high or low levels.
In an adult male, higher estrogen levels are harmful to the prostate gland and can also increase the risk of strokes and developing prostate cancer.
Recently there has been a rise in bodybuilders using estrogen blockers to increase the body's testosterone production in the misguided view that they'll easily acquire more muscle mass. This is dangerous as our hormone balance is very delicate - producing insufficient or excess testosterone and estrogen can result in numerous health conditions.
Why would I need estrogen blockers?
Unsurprisingly, estrogen blockers are used in cases where the body produces too much estrogen.
High estrogen levels directly impact a man's sexual health, and an imbalance is often the reason for sexual dysfunction - erectile dysfunction and low sex drive are often diagnosed as symptoms of an estrogen imbalance.
Blockers, happily, have frequently been successful in combatting these ailments. Blockers are also widely used in conjunction with testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) for treating men suffering from low testosterone.
Hormone levels naturally rise and fall throughout a man's life and should self-regulate.
However, when the balance is tipped, and testosterone levels decrease, or estrogen suddenly increases, sexual impairment often follows.
This imbalance can be brought on by many things: diet, lifestyle, or even specific disorders such as aromatase excess syndrome, which affects a man's estrogen production.
Simply put, estrogen is a sex hormone present in both men and women. In women, it is produced in the ovaries, and in men, the brain and the testes.
Two sex hormones, estrogen, and testosterone (also present in both men and women), govern our sexual development. Women have high levels of estrogen and low levels of testosterone, but they work in sync with each other and are equally important in growth. For men, the scales balance delicately in reverse - a greater concentration of testosterone to estrogen, but both integral.
The gendered nature of these hormones has traditionally inspired the idea that they're diametrical opposites.
In reality, they have a complex, balanced relationship essential to our bodily functions. High and low estrogen levels can cause long-term complications and often indicate the presence of other underlying conditions.
For women, estrogen is crucial in the development of their reproductive organs and guides their development through puberty, much like androgens do for men. As a woman age, estrogen remains vital to her sexual functions, fertility, and pregnancy. Also, it ensures her bones remain strong into old age.
Estrogen plays a similar role in the development of a man, building strong bones, and is crucially responsible for various sexual functions as he ages.
Healthy estrogen levels contribute to overall health in men and women - brain functions, cardiovascular health, and cholesterol regulation are all aided by this hormone.
How does estrogen affect men, specifically?
The past 20 years have seen an increase in research carried out on hormones, resulting in new understandings of the functions of estrogen.
What was once thought to be a strictly female hormone is now understood to be critically important in the development of the male body. Men need estrogen, working carefully in sync with testosterone, to stay healthy and virile into old age.
Types of Estrogen
Men naturally produce two types of estrogen: estradiol and estrone.
These are created with the help of an enzyme called aromatase, which is found in the brain, bones, reproductive organs, and fatty tissue. Aromatase breaks down testosterone in the bloodstream and converts it into these estrogens through aromatization. The newly formed estradiol and estrone bind to the body's estrogen receptors (abundant in the testis, penis, and brain), which in turn regulate the body's healthy functions.
Estradiol is the dominant form of estrogen, and estrone is the weaker form. Estradiol is more compatible with the body's estrogen receptors and affects the body much more than estrone.
Symptoms of Estrogen Imbalance
The following symptoms have all been linked to estrogen imbalance in clinical trials and medical research. Symptoms of high estrogen in men can also be seen in men with a testosterone imbalance. Due to how challenging it is to determine the cause of these symptoms, you must seek a doctor before starting any form of hormone treatment.
Decreased Sex Drive
Recent studies have revealed that an estrogen imbalance can negatively affect a man's libido. Everyone's desire for sex is different, and it's normal to lose interest occasionally. However, as our hormone levels naturally change over time, a prolonged lack of interest in sex can often indicate an underlying health condition.
Unexpected Weight GainAs estrogen levels increase and testosterone falls, men gain weight - often accumulating around the thighs and waist. Weight gain increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. Testosterone is essential in regulating body fat distribution, whilst estrogen encourages fat storage. If you start piling on weight but haven't changed your diet or exercise routine, it could indicate an estrogen imbalance.
Erectile DysfunctionStudies have repeatedly corroborated the close relationship between an estrogen imbalance and erectile dysfunction. As men grow older, their bodies naturally produce more estrogen, which decreases erectile function. If you're struggling to maintain a firm erection or even to get it up at all, it may be worth checking out your hormonal levels.
Low Sperm CountEstrogen promotes spermatogenesis, the body's production of sperm. High or low estrogen levels can decrease healthy sperm, which can often lead to infertility in men.
GynecomastiaGynecomastia is a condition that causes enlarged male breasts, commonly called "man boobs." As this condition stems from an increase in breast tissue, exercise does not help alleviate it.
Depression/AnxietyClinical studies suggest that an estrogen imbalance can lead to depression and other mental health issues in men, regardless of their body mass. Suffering from these other symptoms will compound any negative thoughts a man might already be having.
What are Estrogen Blockers?
Estrogen blockers are a class of medications that stop the cell's estrogen production.
Their primary function is to block the body's estrogen receptors or inhibit the enzyme aromatase responsible for converting testosterone to estrogen. They are often used alongside medications for testosterone therapy, which work to alleviate low testosterone by increasing the body's production.
Estrogen blockers have also been used recently in breast cancer treatment.
What symptoms can estrogen blockers help treat?
For many men, estrogen blockers are a sorely needed lifeline. Recent research has illustrated a host of ailments that a course of medication can alleviate.
- Low sperm count
- Lack of sexual desire
- Erectile dysfunction
- Water retention
- Mood swings
- Muscle loss
Types of estrogen blockers
While an estrogen imbalance may seem daunting, there are numerous ways for a man to combat it. Many of these come down to our lifestyle choices - health is the key to maintaining healthy estrogen levels.
Reducing your alcohol intake may help, as alcohol has been linked with increased estrogen levels. Excessive drinking impairs liver and kidney function, further affecting the body's ability to regulate estrogen. Alcohol also helps promote the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Studies have also shown that an estrogen imbalance is more likely to occur in men who smoke or are overweight. There are two classes of estrogen blockers, aromatase inhibitors (AI) and selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM).
- AI work by inhibiting the aromatase enzyme's ability to convert testosterone to estrogen, reducing the overall amount of estrogen.
- SERM blocks estrogen from being able to bind with receptors in the body. The estrogen remains harmlessly in our system until it is eventually eliminated.
Natural Estrogen blockers
If the idea of pharmaceutical estrogen blockers doesn't appeal to you, there are ways to achieve similar results naturally. Research on the subject of natural estrogen blockers is a burgeoning field, but there are a lot of positive findings. Some natural estrogen blockers are listed here:
Natural Estrogen Blocker
- Broccoli, kale, bok choy, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower all contain a nutrient called diindolylmethane (DIM) which helps balance estrogen levels in the body by inhibiting the aromatase enzyme.
- Plant compounds that are found in various fruits and vegetables. These compounds interact directly with the estrogen receptor, blocking estrogen from being absorbed into the cell.
- A flavonoid found in honey, passion fruit, and certain mushrooms. It helps inhibit aromatase conversion, thereby reducing levels of estrogen in the body.
Wild Nettle Root
- A natural aromatase inhibitor, taking regular supplements can help regulate a man's hormone levels.
- Contains a compound called curcumin that research shows can help modulate hormone levels in the body.
Grape Seed Extract
- A dietary supplement that is useful in combatting cardiovascular problems and is a natural aromatase inhibitor
- Studies on maca, a Peruvian plant, have shown the powerful hormone-balancing effects it can provide. Maca root has traditionally been used to balance hormonal cycles and prevent symptoms resulting from hormonal imbalances.
Pharmaceutical Estrogen Blockers
If your doctor determines you're suffering from a hormone imbalance, several different blockers could be prescribed. Pharmaceutical blockers were initially designed for use by women but have since become a way to treat male hormonal imbalances.
- Arimidex - The most frequently prescribed medication for an estrogen imbalance. Arimidex is an AI that helps by limiting estradiol levels and is usually prescribed off-label. It also helps stimulate testosterone production.
- Clomid - Oral medication that blocks the body's estrogen receptors. It will increase testosterone and aid in creating hormonal balance. It has successfully been used to treat symptoms of an estrogen imbalance in men.
- Tamoxifen - Off-label medication that is usually used to treat gynecomastia. A SERM, it blocks estrogen receptors and stops cells from responding to the hormone.
Risks and safety tips on estrogen blocker use
While blockers are often necessary, they are not entirely risk-free.
The benefits of these drugs have been widely researched and published, and the consensus is that they are likely to be safe if used for short periods. But there is always a risk factor associated with any medication, and research has shown that long-term use of blockers could lead to health issues.
As long as you are careful and follow the guidance of an experienced healthcare practitioner, they should work as intended. The goal when using any estrogen blocker is not to create an estrogen deficiency but to help create a hormonal equilibrium.
Side effects of using estrogen blockers for men
Estrogen blockers are usually well-received in patients, but side effects have been documented in some cases.
More common are headaches and visual disturbances, but people have also reported suffering from hot flashes, nausea, constipation, vertigo, and in some extreme cases thinning hair and gynecomastia.
Studies of breast cancer patients have also shown that blockers increase their risk of bone thinning, bone fractures, osteoporosis, and joint pain.
Five tips for the safe use of estrogen blockers
- Avoid over-the-counter supplements - these are often unregulated and can cause harmful side effects.
- Don't take any without medical supervision - seek out your healthcare provider before making any changes to your hormone levels.
- Don't use blockers for longer than the recommended dosage period.
- Don't take estrogen blockers to make big gains in the gym, they won't work for that purpose and can be harmful to your health.
- Take them alongside a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise.
When to see a doctor
It's difficult to determine if your hormone levels are imbalanced, but if you start experiencing symptoms it's essential you talk to a doctor.
They can help determine whether your symptoms are because of an estrogen imbalance by taking a blood test to check your hormone levels.
A doctor can provide details about necessary treatment options and medications.
If you're interested in natural treatment options, your doctor can inform you of alternative medicines and lifestyle changes to consider.
An estrogen imbalance is a condition that can worsen the longer it's left unchecked.
The use of an estrogen blocker is necessary to alleviate the symptoms of an estrogen imbalance which can include: erectile dysfunction, gynecomastia, and low sperm count.
An estrogen imbalance is a condition that can worsen the longer it's left unchecked.
Symptoms of excess estrogen in the human body mirror those of people suffering from an androgen deficiency, so it's important that you rely on a doctor to help diagnose this condition.
Further research is required to determine the side effects of the long-term use of AI and SERM in treating estrogen imbalances. Still, short-term use is recommended by medical professionals and clinical studies.
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