Testosterone is the main hormone which gives a man his male characteristics. When a boy reaches the age of puberty huge amounts of testosterone start flooding his body, making him a man. Testosterone is the hormone which is responsible for the development of men’s sexual characteristics.
This hormone is also essential when it comes to maintaining lean muscle mass, proper red blood cell levels, bone density, an overall sense of well-being and proper reproductive and sexual function. Women, on the other hand, have estrogen. That’s the equivalent of testosterone in women.
Estrogen is the hormone responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics. So, men produce testosterone and women estrogen. Simple right? Not exactly. Both sexes have both testosterone and estrogen. The main difference is that males’ bodies produce around 10 times more testosterone than women and vice versa. So, even though men’s bodies mainly produce testosterone, small amounts of estrogen are also released.
A certain level of estrogen in males is actually essential for the proper functioning of the body. If you’re a man and have too little estrogen you’re more likely to develop osteoporosis or other conditions. But, having too high estrogen levels is devastating to a man’s body and he starts to develop some female characteristics, which is bad for your health, not to mention your ego.
As years go by, testosterone levels naturally decrease, around one percent a year. In a similar fashion, estrogen levels, unfortunately, start to rise. When the levels of estrogen get too high, men start seeing numerous health issues. Increased estrogen has been proven to contribute to the development of heart diseases and prostate cancer, as well as the development of “man boobs“, a condition known as gynecomastia.
Because higher estrogen levels are usually accompanied by lower testosterone levels, other detrimental changes occur like loss of muscle tissue, overall fatigue, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. Additionally, having high estrogen levels in men results in increased body fat and contributes to the development of diabetes and high amount of lipids. These symptoms are not limited to older men who usually have higher estrogen levels.
It happens in young men too. Young men who lead unhealthy lifestyles have a higher chance of having increased estrogen levels than men who are in good physical shape. The reason testosterone starts to convert into estrogen in men is that of aromatase reaction.
Aromatase is an enzyme which converts testosterone into estrogen and primarily found in fat tissue cells. This means that the greater the body fat percentage, the more aromatase, and estrogen a man will have. That’s why, a younger man who has an excess amount of fat, especially around the waist, has a higher chance of experiencing estrogen level spike followed by a decrease in testosterone.
The first rule to avoid high estrogen levels is to maintain a healthy body weight and maintain a high amount of lean muscle. You should especially pay attention to the fat tissue around your midsection. This tissue contains fat cells which are known to release aromatase, leading to increased estrogen in men, thereby changing the entire hormonal balance. There are numerous other factors which can cause high levels of estrogen in men, and men of all ages need to be aware of them, including:
- Medications: specific meds are known to increase estrogen, so you should watch out for drugs that contain estrogen, anabolic steroids, ulcer meds like cimetidine, specific antibiotics like tetracycline, ampicillin, anti-fungal meds and various antidepressants. Considering there are more than one of these medications which can have this effect, you should first consult with your doctor or pharmacist on whether you should use them.
- Various illnesses can also spike up your estrogen levels, like tumors on the testes, pituitary and adrenal glands, lung and liver or liver disease (cirrhosis). Thyroid and kidney diseases also have a tendency to increase estrogen levels.
- Drugs: taking illegal drugs will almost surely increase your estrogen levels, so be sure to avoid cocaine, marijuana and other drugs which can negatively impact your hormonal levels.
- Alcohol: drinking moderately usually does not cause issues, but drinking frequently does or drinking excessively. Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the rate of testosterone converting to estrogen, especially in the fat cells. Alcohol can also inhibit the liver in properly eliminating the excess amount of estrogen.
- Exposure to harmful environmental conditions. Various things that we get in contact with during our daily lives also tend to increase estrogen levels. Various chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides have the potential to increase estrogen, so you’ll be doing yourself a favor by trying to avoid them as much as possible.
- A great deal of experts have started to believe that there’s a relation between the consumption of food enhanced with hormones and increased estrogen levels. No doubt, more studies are needed to make some firm conclusions, but for now, just remember that you should stick with unprocessed foods which don’t have various additives in them.