Every adult male should be familiar with his estrogen levels. There are many things that depend on them, like his overall health, his appearance, his emotional well-being, his physical and mental capacity as well as his ability to produce offspring. It is safe to say that even his very life may depend on knowing precisely if his estrogen levels are too high or too low.
A tale of two hormones, testosterone, and estrogen…
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. The feedback mechanism is also to blame. Estrogen levels stay consistently high and keep sending the signal to reduce the production of testosterone.
There are also many other ways in which your estrogen levels can get too high and even though this is not often discussed, having low estrogen levels can sometimes be even a greater problem than having high levels. In any case, estrogen levels have to be in a certain normal range, neither too high, nor too low, but just right.
What kind of problems can abnormal estrogen levels cause?
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.
There was a study made where scientists monitored the estrogen levels of 500 men who experienced chronic heart failure. It was found that the men who had estradiol levels – which is by the way estrogen’s most potent form – in the normal range which is between 21.9 – 30.12 pg/ml, had the fewest deaths in a three-year period. Men who had the highest levels (above 38) had 130% more deaths in that same period. However, those who had the lowest estrogen levels (below 13) had it the worst, since they had 315% more deaths.
It is clear that estrogen levels play a huge role in your heart’s health, in addition to the health of a multitude of other body parts, systems, and functions.
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
As a man, it is in your best interest to ensure that you are in the estrogen sweet spot, no matter how old you are. It is also very important that you establish a baseline, to which you can refer to and compare and then adjust accordingly.
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.
Additionally, most labs use immunoassay techniques in order to test the blood samples, which when compared to other measuring methods, show a variability rate of up to 52%. This type of inaccuracy may lead a doctor to treat a problem which doesn’t even exist. For example, treat a mean for high estrogen levels when his levels are actually within the normal range, which could potentially lead to grave consequences.
Instead, labs should use Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy, a technique which is a lot more accurate when measuring estrogen levels or hormone levels overall. There’s also another thing that further complicates the issue. Steroid hormone binding globulin aka SHBG also has a role in regulating estrogen levels. SHBG, as its name suggests, binds up a certain amount of hormones, among others, estrogen and testosterone and makes them virtually inaccessible for the organs in your body to use. What’s more, with age, SHBG levels increase and bind up even more hormone, so even though estrogen levels may appear to be within the normal range, the amount of actual “free” estrogen may be too low. In an ideal situation, both estrogen blood levels and SHBF should be in the middle range of normal values so that one can have an accurate estimation of his estrogen levels.
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.
All of these phenomena might partially explain why so many men who have cardiac condition have estrogen levels which are either too high or too low. In any case, for these people death can be a defibrillator away unless they take care of their estrogen problem.
“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.
Cytochrome P450 enzyme system impairment
The P450 enzyme system is in charge of dealing with the toxins we voluntarily or involuntarily consume. Put differently, the majority of chemicals, drugs or supplement we ingest are processed and them eliminated by this system. It is like a chemical recycling factory where toxins are broken up, re-packaged and either used again or flushed away.
This system also eliminates the excess estrogen from your body. However, there are certain things which can impair its proper functioning. Drinking too much alcohol may pose a problem, as might being overweight or being deficient in zinc. You may also be consuming foods or taking supplements or drugs which impede the system’s efficiency like ginkgo biloba or grapefruit juice.
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.
A study that was done in 1992 by a team of reproductive specialists from Denmark, concluded that the sperm counts in the developed countries had dropped 50% since 1938. This means that you are literally half the man your granddad was. What’s more, there is a mountain of evidence suggesting that these compound are a part of us all. Scientists found that around 75% of the samples taken from 500 adults had significant levels of all kinds of industrial xenoestrogens, while 98% of samples had DHT and its various derivatives. And to make matters even more scary, different xenoestrogens seem to act in synergy which makes their combined effect magnified.
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)
Drugs such as aromatase inhibitors interfere with the enzyme’s ability to convert testosterone into estrogen. There are 2 types of aromatase inhibitors. The first type is what we call “suicide inhibitors”, such as the compound exemestane. You should avoid these at all costs. They are too potent and they can very easily drop the estrogen levels too low. The second type of aromatase inhibitors is called “competitive inhibitors” such as letrozole and anastrozole. The first one should also be avoided, as it is also very potent. Trying to use it to fix moderately increased estrogen levels is the same as using a C4 explosive to open a jar of pickles. What we are left with is the moderately potent anastrozole, also known as Arimidex. However, this drug can also cause a rapid drop in estrogen levels. That’s why you shouldn’t take it unless you experience severe symptoms, special diet and supplements haven’t worked for you or you have had no experience taking it before.
The majority of men, however should never use a drug like anastrozole unless they are also on a testosterone replacement therapy and a great amount of their testosterone is being converted into estrogen. The general dosage protocol is to begin with 0.25mg of anastrozole every other day and up the dosage to 0.5 mg per day if the doctor finds it necessary.
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
It is quite probable that your problems with estrogen come from drinking too much alcohol or perhaps too often. The same goes for smoking marijuana. As always, a simple solution is to practice moderation in everything. Also, if you are overweight (which is in itself a major cause of high estrogen), lose some weight.
How to monitor your estrogen levels
Make regular tests using “sensitive” blood assay.
If the results are normal, use the values you got as a reference point in the years to follow.
If the reading is too high, be on the lookout for any symptoms of high estrogen. In a similar fashion, if the reading is too low, check to see if you experience any symptoms of low estrogen.
Fix the problem by using any of the estrogen-fighting drugs or a combination of the solutions listed above, such as lifestyle adjustments, supplements, special diet or avoidance of phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens.