Women dream of having nice sized firm breasts. Men wish all women had big breasts. Men however, personally don’t want breasts of their own, they want a six pack abdomen. But up to 60 percent of men suffer from a breast-enlarging condition known as gynecomastia, a.k.a. man boobs. The “Jerry Seinfeld” episode made quite a bit about it when Kramer invented the “BRO”, a male version of the bra. A very funny episode.
However, a man with large breast tissue is not a thing desired. In fact it could be a significant medical condition. In some men, gynecomastia causes a tiny lump under one or both nipples. In others, the result is large, pendulous breasts. Either way, the condition can be hugely embarrassing.
Weight loss can help get rid of man boobs. Some men even resort to surgery in extreme cases. We do not encourage the surgical option, since in most cases man boobs can be prevented through proper hormonal therapy. But what causes them in the first place? There are a variety of known factors.
- Aging. Sad but true: men often develop man boobs as they grow older. Typically, this is the result of hormone imbalances, the loss of manly testosterone and the resulting increase in female estrogens.
- Alcohol abuse. Drinking severe enough to cause liver disease can alter the way the body metabolizes hormones, resulting in breast enlargement. Other hormone-disrupting conditions that can result in gynecomastia include kidney failure, malnutrition, and thyroid disorders.
- Drug side effects. All sorts of prescription drugs can cause man boobs, including amphetamines, antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, antibiotics, and ulcer medications. Some herbal remedies can also be the trigger. In one small study, tea tree oil and lavender oil – common ingredients in shampoos, soaps, and lotions – was implicated in the development of childhood gynecomastia.
- Environmental factors. Everything we eat almost has some type of chemical, hormone, preservative, that does find its way into our bodies. Most are very similar to hormone structure. Cosmetics and plastics contain a class known as ‘parabens’ that are very similar to estrogens in structure. Every time you wash your hair, put on deodorant, you are adding to the amount of estrogen.
- Hereditary disorders. Some cases of gynecomastia are inherited. One disorder that can cause man boobs is Klinefelter’s Syndrome, in which there is an additional X chromosome added to the usual X and Y chromosomes. XXY men are sterile and big-breasted; however this is fairly rare.
- Obesity. Being overweight is a double whammy for guys concerned about their breasts. If the extra fat gets deposited on the chest, as it often does, the breasts will be larger, of course. And excessive fat stimulates the body’s production of estrogen, spurring the growth of breast tissue. Further complicating the issue is the fact that some men with gynecomastia gain weight on purpose, thinking that a big belly might draw attention away from their breasts.
- Steroids. Bodybuilders who abuse anabolic steroids sometimes develop breast enlargement. The problem with steroids is they can be chemically changed into estrogen inside the body, resulting in the growth of breast as well as muscle tissue.
As you can see, most breast enlargement in men comes from hormonal imbalances, primarily the production of estrogens from various sources. The lost production of testosterone causes an increase in estrogen in men; hence man boobs.
So what do we do?
The answer is simple. We measure the estrogen levels, and then utilize an appropriate amount of medication known as “Estrogen Blockers”. This has multiple effects. In time the breast size will go down as estrogen levels go down. Also high estrogens are thought by many studies to be one of the causes of prostate cancer. Also, as noted before, estrogen is the volatile emotional hormone (sorry women), causing men to be angrier, emotional, or depressed, therefore it will help emotionally as well.
The vast majority of the time “man boobs” can be corrected with time and utilization of the Estrogen Blocker medication. It is very rare that surgery should be considered. So relax men. You won’t need a “Bro” if you stick with our program!
Terry R. Leder B.A.
Clinical Manager & Research
Pointe Medical Services/Live Well MD