Man boobs (or in medical terms gynecomastia) are caused by enlarged male breast tissue or a puffiness around the nipples and can be very embarrassing. The condition is usually caused by a hormone imbalance, where there is not enough “free” testosterone or there is too much estrogen in the blood. This happens frequently in men over the age of forty, but can happen at any age. If it happens in teenage boys, it will usually resolve by itself.
For men who always had a flat chest and suddenly realize puffiness around the nipples, there are a number of things that can be done. In order to rule out any underlying medical condition, it is wise to consult your doctor and at a minimum have your hormones checked to see if there are any major imbalances. Men can develop breast cancer and it is therefore advisable to have your condition checked out by a doctor.
Man boobs are often caused by not enough free testosterone in the blood or too much estrogen. The number one reason for this, is that the body produces more sex hormone-binding protein (in the liver) as we age. Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) is a glycoprotein that binds the sex hormones (mostly testosterone and estradiol) in the blood. Only a small fraction of the sex hormones are unbound (“free”) and can have biological effects on cells and tissues. In order to increase the free testosterone while reducing the estrogen, here are a few things you can do:
Reduce the intake of estrogenic compounds found in food:
Eliminate estrogenic foods, such as avocado, certain nuts, tofu and products containing tofu. Wine, especially red wine contains estrogenic compounds and should be limited in your diet. In addition, alcoholic beverages will stimulate the liver and stimulation of the liver will also increase the secretion of sex hormone-binding protein.
Herbals that can increase testosterone
- Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a fan palm which fruit extracts are believed to have a positive effect on urinary health, enlarged prostate and has been suggested to lower the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. This is the herb to start with if you are suffering from enlarged male breasts.
- Chrysin: Chrysin is an extract of the blue Passionflower (Passiflora caerulea) and is believed to be an aromatase inhibitor. Aromatase is the enzyme that is resposible for the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone. By blocking aromatase, more “free” testosterone would be available. However, to date, no scientific data exists that indicates that chrysin does in fact inhibit aromatase.
- Stinging Nettle: Root extracts of the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) are believed to have a positive effect on enlarged prostates. It has been suggested to raise total testosterone levels and for that reason, I do not recommend this herb (unless you know for a fact that your total testosterone levels are too low). Taking nettle root extract when you have normal “total” testosterone levels, can lead to irritability and increased aggression.
- Coffee: Consumption of coffee has been implicated in a reduction of breast tissue in women with a specific genetic profile. Consumption of dark roasted coffee (French roast for example) may inhibit the growth of male breast tissue.
What to eat:
Introduce foods in your diet that are high in testosterone promoting substances and low in estrogenic compounds, such as brocolli, Brussels’ Sprouts and asparagus. Avoid red meats.
Jernström, H., Henningson, M., Johansson, U. and Olsson, H. (2008) Coffee intake and CYP1A2*1F genotype predict breast volume in young women: implications for breast cancer. Br J Cancer 99: 1534-8.