Testosterone is what makes a man a man, and estrogen is what makes a woman a woman, however, estrogen is in many aspects just as important to a man’s health as testosterone. And, despite them being regarded as the polar opposites of human sexual development and behavior, on a molecular scale they are very similar.
If you try to merge both molecules into a 3D figure you would find them looking identical except that testosterone would have one extra carbon atom into its molecular structure. And it is precisely in this similarity that we find the reason why some men experience high estrogen levels. Considering that the testosterone molecule is so similar to estrogen, it is extremely easy for various aromatase enzymes to cut off the one extra carbon atom from the molecule and convert it into estrogen.
This is a good thing because as we already explained, you need a certain estrogen level. Not only does it have lots of positive effects on your health, it is also a part of an efficient feedback mechanism where overly high levels of estrogen send an alert signal to the testicles, via the pituitary gland, to reduce the production of testosterone for that particular day.
This way, the feedback mechanism keeps a perfect balance between estrogen and testosterone levels throughout the system. There are instances, however, where too much testosterone is converted into estrogen. This amount added to the small quantities of estrogen already produced in the testes, adrenal glands, brain, and fat has the potential to create a dangerous hormonal situation.
When a man allows his estrogen levels to increase, the risk of developing various degenerative diseases increases dramatically, one of the most common being atherosclerosis. The risk of getting a stroke or prostate cancer increases, as well as the risk of developing type II diabetes. One is also more inclined to experience emotional disturbances. Erectile dysfunction occurs, fat gain accelerates, it becomes harder to gain muscle and most importantly, having high estrogen levels significantly increases the risk of premature death.
The main symptoms of high estrogen:
Muscle mass loss
Increased abdominal fat
Low libido, possible erectile dysfunction
Increased fat around the nipples
Depression and emotional disturbances
Lower urinary tract symptoms usually associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy
The main symptoms of low estrogen:
Decent erections but weak orgasms
Cracking in the joints or soreness
Tiredness and depression
Possible weakening of the adrenal glands
Low blood pressure
Estrogen level ranges by age
Below is a list of the average estradiol levels by age, as established by the researchers in a study which appeared in the journal Clinical Endocrinology:
Age 2-29: 28.0 pg/ml
Age 30-39: 25.6 pg/ml
Age 40-49: 24.8 pg/ml
Age 50-59: 22.2 pg/ml
Age 60-69: 21.3 pg/ml
Age 70-80: 21.8 pg/ml
There are only two ways in which you can accurately measure your estrogen levels: either through a 24-hour urine test or a blood test. The latter is easier and less dangerous, but you need to insist that your doctor order a so-called “sensitive” assay. That’s because, by default, most laboratories use the standard assay, the one designed for women.
What causes high estrogen levels?
Excessive body fat
Fat tissue contains the aromatase enzyme which is responsible for converting testosterone to estrogen, which means that the fatter you get, the more testosterone is converted into estrogen, which in turn makes you even fatter, and so on. This specific mechanism of fat chemistry represents a vicious self-reinforcing cycle and the only way to get out of it is to reduce body fat level and maintain a lean physique.
The older you get, the more aromatase enzyme you release and the higher the estrogen levels become. This is why old men at the beach sometimes have breasts that are the same size if not bigger than their wifes’. Again, the age and estrogen correlation is not so simple. Considering that SHBG levels also increase with age and presumably binding up a certain amount of the increased estrogen, one would think that old people would have less estrogen. In a similar fashion, aging also reduces the amount of testosterone released, which would mean that there is less estrogen since there are fewer compounds to convert to estrogen.
“Broken” hormonal feedback mechanisms
When the estrogen levels are too high, an alarm is sent to the testicles via the pituitary gland to temporarily stop the production of testosterone. However, if estrogen levels are consistently high, this can “short-circuit” the feedback mechanism, sending a wrong signal to the testicles to completely halt testosterone production which in the long-term can have serious consequences to a man’s health. Stopping the testosterone production can cause even higher estrogen levels.
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)
Today, millions of men are using testosterone replacement therapy to revitalize their life and restore their failing libidos. However, lots of doctors have failed to do their homework. The injection of too much testosterone overall or more specifically injecting too much of it in overweight men, can have the opposite effect. It can cause the excess amount of testosterone to be converted into estrogen. These elevated testosterone levels can be fixed by either adjusting the dose or by taking an anti-aromatase.
Xenoestrogens are a specific type of compounds in the environment which mimic estrogen. These compounds, which are mainly heavy metals, industrial chemicals like phthalates or synthetic chemicals like DDT and DES, are growing in number and are accumulating in more tissue with each passing year.
They are commonly found in foods, fire retardants, adhesives, detergents, perfumes, drinking water, waxes, lubricants, household cleaning products or practically everywhere. Even though the exact damage incurred by these compounds is still not precisely known, we’ve seen widespread reports of all kinds of biological anomalies in both humans and animals in recent decades in the form of mutations, decreased fertility, indeterminate sex organs etc.
Phytoestrogens are found in plants, unlike xenoestrogens which are man-made. Xenoestrogens are stored in the adipose (fat) tissue, while phytoestrogens are metabolized and excreted from the body relatively fast. Considering this, they do not pose the same problem that xenoestrogens do. In any case, you wouldn’t want too many of them around since their molecular structure is very similar to estrogen’s and can have a similar negative effect on your body. They are also found in various foods, most commonly in soy and soy protein.
Alcohol and marijuana
You read that right, recreational drugs can cause increased estrogen levels.
What are the main causes of low estrogen?
When you think about there aren’t that many things which cause low estrogen in men. One of them is old age, with the accompanying low testosterone and elevated SHBG levels. One can remedy this by simply starting a lifelong testosterone replacement therapy. Another cause for men having low testosterone levels is the overuse of anti-aromatases or various estrogen-blocker drugs.
These drugs are usually prescribed by doctors who either want to prevent testosterone from being transformed into estrogen which is done by anti-aromatases or prevents estrogen from binding to receptors on the cell or inside of it which is done by estrogen blockers. It is also quite possible that a man with low estrogen levels may already have some condition which is yet to be diagnosed, with low estrogen levels being one of its many symptoms.
How to fix high estrogen levels
Lots of vegetables have indole-3-carbinol, which lessens the negative effects of high estrogen levels. The compound is found in moderate amounts in cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Another potent estrogen inhibitor is calcium d-glutarate which helps the body get rid of the estrogen before it can re-absorb it.
Moderate amounts of it are found in apples, oranges, grapefruit and the same family of cruciferous vegetables that also have a high content of indoles. However, this does not mean that these vegetables and fruits can singlehandedly control and regulate high estrogen levels. At best, they can be regarded as “shifters” which can affect the amount of estrogen metabolites in your favor. In the same fashion, you should avoid foods which shift the amount of estrogen metabolites against you, such as all types of soy products. Here is a list of the top “anti-estrogen” foods.
Considering that increased estrogen levels pose such a big problem, supplement companies have spent lots of time researching and trying to find ways to counter this issue. Below is a list of nutrients, vitamins and various compound which have been proven to be the most potent in stabilizing estrogen levels:
Boron (reduces free estrogen levels)
Curcumin which works by decreasing the effects of aromatase
Fish Oil (especially DHA, which decreases the number of estrogen receptors)
Green Tea (which inhibits the impact of aromatase)
Resveratrol (reduces aromatase activity)
Zinc (decreases the activity of estrogen receptors)
Cleaning your environment of xenoestrogens
In order to significantly clean your environment from xenoestrogens, you would probably have to move out of town and live in the nature and live off home-grown organic food. Short of doing that, there are still several things that you can try to make your environment less estrogenic. If you are particularly meticulous, here’s a list of chemicals you should try to avoid:
4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) (found in sunscreen lotions)
Butylated hydroxyanisole / BHA (food preservative)
Chlorine and chlorine byproducts
DEHP (plasticizer for PVC)
Erythrosine / FD&C Red No. 3
Ethinylestradiol (combined oral contraceptive pill)
Lindane / hexachlorocyclohexane (insecticide)
Metalloestrogens (a class of inorganic xenoestrogens)
Nonylphenol and derivatives
Pentachlorophenol (general biocide and wood preservative)
Polychlorinated biphenyls / PCBs (in electrical oils, lubricants, adhesives, paints)
Phenosulfothiazine (a red dye)
Parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products)
Trying to read every product label to check if they have one or more of the aforementioned compounds may drive you insane, so you can save yourself a lot of headaches and time by just doing the following things whenever possible:
Buy organic food
Store your food in glass containers, not plastic
Don’t let plastic wrap touch the food when you put it in the microwave
Use “all-natural” household cleaners and laundry detergents
Use “all-natural” personal care and skin care products
Avoid most plastics whenever possible, and avoid drinking from bottled water that has been exposed to the sun for a long period of time