Men's Breast Health Impacted by Toxins and Medications

June 28, 2021 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Men's Breast Health Impacted by Toxins and Medications
“Man boobs”. It’s not often talked about, yet this sensitive topic has increased considerably in the last few decades and is a modern day concern. The male physique of men and boys today compared to 30-plus years ago has changed. You may chuckle at televisions shows and comedians who make light of this phenomenon, yet the low self-esteem that this can cause affects many boys and men. Information can help you change and manage this trend.

Causes of Enlargement of Breast Tissue in Men

Man boobs or gynecomastia is the enlargement of breast glandular tissue in men and boys. About 1 out of 2 males experience this physiological phenomenon. A recent study found the highest rates of gynecomastia in males ages 21-30, 31-40, followed by 18-20 year olds. Much lower rates were found in older age groups. Enlargement of the male breast tissue may also occur during infancy and puberty and old age which is often considered “normal” and temporary, or idiopathic.

Several reasons exist for increased breast size in men. Higher estrogen levels from obesity and environmental estrogens, lower testosterone and androgen production, and hormone resistance are some of the more common reasons. Other factors include anabolic steroid and/or marijuana use, medications, other environmental chemicals, obesity, insulin resistance and blood sugar dysregulation, elevated leptin and other underlying concerns. Two essential oils, lavender and tea tree oil can also lead to gynecomastia from excessive exposure or use.

Think about the previous two paragraphs for just a moment. The study above described that the highest rates of enlarged man boobs occurred in ages 18-40. This is also the age range when testosterone levels are at their highest. Genes don’t change, but the amount of xenoestrogens in the environment has. Is this a coincidence? Keep reading.

Environmental Toxins – BPA

Environmental look-a-like estrogens or xenoestrogens play a strong, yet subtle role in male breast enlargement. Several animal studies identified bisphenol A (BPA) caused gynecomastia. BPA is estrogen mimicking compound found in plastic that has highly detrimental effects on endocrine function and contributes to obesity.

One study demonstrated that when female animals were exposed to common environmental doses of BPA during pregnancy it affected the male offspring into adulthood. Several tests showed there was a direct correlation with fetal BPA exposure and alterations of the male breast tissue in adulthood.

Low level exposure to BPA during pregnancy increased the likelihood of developing breast cancer in adulthood in animals long after the BPA exposure had stopped. It was found that early prenatal exposure altered breast tissue formation that affected animals into adulthood. Another animal study showed that low-level BPA exposure changed estrogen metabolism and genes leading to developmental changes and increased risk of unusual cellular division in breasts.


Phthalates are also deeply involved with the development of gynecomastia related with puberty. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics and vinyl softer and more flexible. They are used in the plastic wrap for food coverings, shower curtains, food packaging, perfume, shampoo, soap, detergents, plastic plumbing pipes, medical plastic tubing, building materials, and more.

Researchers found that children entering puberty with higher levels of phthalates in their blood stream were more likely to have breast enlargement. Expectant mothers, infants, and children are more susceptible to these compounds and must reduce exposure.

Elevated Leptin Hormone

Elevated leptin levels have also been found in boys who develop enlarged breasts during puberty. Decreased testosterone, elevated leptin levels and leptin resistance are seen adult men too. This disrupted balance sets the stage for prostate problems, obesity, and metabolic syndrome seen in men with breast enlargement. A high leptin level may alter estrogen and androgen levels that further contribute to total body burden.

Alcohol Affects Testosterone Levels

Alcohol consumption affects testosterone levels. Alcohol intake increases activity of a compound called sex hormone binding globulin. This reduces free testosterone levels and increases the removal of testosterone, resulting in decreased testosterone levels. Alcohol is also toxic to the testes. This may be another factor for the statistics seen above.

Seniors, Medications, and Man Boobs

In a VA study of men 65 years of age and older, obesity and medication use were common reasons for enlarged breasts. Ninety-two percent of the study participants were using multiple medications associated with breast enlargement as a possible side effect. Medications were considered the cause of the issue in over 79% of the participants.

Medications and Substances Linked to Gynecomastia

Medications known to cause male breast enlargement include:

• Antiandrogen (drugs that inhibit androgen synthesis or activity) are often used to treat prostate cancer

• Antimicrobials: Efavirenz, ethionamide, isoniazid, ketoconazole (antifungal) , metronidazole/Flagyl (antibiotic).

• Antineoplastic/Cancer drugs – alkylating drugs, imatinib, methotrexate, vinca alkaloids

• Cardiovascular drugs: ACE inhibitors (captopril, enalapril), amiodarone, methyldopa, reserpine, spironolactone/Aldactone (diuretic).

• CNS-acting drugs: diazepam, haloperidol, methadone, phenothiazines, tricyclic antidepressants.

• Antiulcer/Antacid drugs: cimetidine/Tagamet, ranitidine/Zantac, omeprazole/Prilosec

• Hormones: androgens, anabolic steroids, estrogens, human growth hormone. This includes designer anabolic steroids for body building.

• Recreational drugs: amphetamines, alcohol, heroin, marijuana.

• Miscellaneous drugs: auranofin, diethylpropion, metoclopramide/Reglan, phenytoin/Dilantin, penicillamine/Cuprimine, sulindac/Clinoril (NSAID), theophylline (asthma/bronchodilator)

Detoxification and Testosterone: The Core of Management

The first step in reducing breast enlargement in males is to lose weight. Get leptin hormone levels back in control. Start with following The Leptin Diet. Use blood sugar support such as cinnamon and chromium.

Essential nutrients for detoxification support include indole-3-carbinol (I3C), diindolymethane (DIM), selenium, NAC, r-alpha lipoic acid, chlorella, and glutathione. Additional steps can be taken to reduce exposure and detoxify these compounds in men and women. More information may be found in the article, Endocrine Disruptor Compounds and Natural Solutions.

Testosterone and Androgen Support

Testosterone production may be naturally enhanced with acetyl-l-carnitine, saw palmetto, and panex ginseng. Healthy functions of androgen receptor site and androgen hormones (masculine features) require several nutrients. This includes selenium, glutathione, zinc, fish oil, saw palmetto, curcumin, calcium, vitamin D, and tocotrienols. Management of daily wear and tear and blood sugar also supports androgen balance.

Life Habits

A long-term perspective starts with family planning and young childhood with avoidance of xenoestrogens as much as possible. Risks start in pregnancy and continue through life with chemical exposure, obesity, leptin resistance, metabolic syndrome and definitely adverse medication effects. In family planning stages, remove plastics, phthalates, BPA and other endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) from the home as much as possible. Common sources of toxins include food storage containers, toys, and personal care products. Check your bedroom environment too.

Breast enlargement can cause significant distress in adolescent boys and men. The suffering and shame surrounding this physical entity described as “normal” reflects a problem from numerous challenges as a result of the 21st century. From unborn baby boys to your grandfather, the problem is real. Take charge of choices of personal care items and optimize nutritional support for detoxification to remove this silent challenge.

Nutritional Options

I3C and DIM – these two natural compounds derived from cruciferous vegetables are well known estrogen detoxification supporting nutrients. If you fail to have broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, or other cruciferous rich foods in your diet, then supplementation is essential.

Pananx Ginseng offers a natural way to enhance testosterone production.

Selenium – This trace mineral is vital for several detoxification pathways. Inadequate selenium compromises the function of the master antioxidant and detoxifier, glutathione.

Zinc – Growth, puberty, and poor digestion increase the need for zinc. Breast enlargement happens at opportune times of puberty and senior citizen age. Digestive efficiency and absorption often declines with age and requires zinc to function. Zinc is also essential for detoxification, prostate health, and sex hormone production.

Chromium - This trace mineral is essential for blood sugar and insulin function. Modern agricultural practices, food quality, and high carbohydrate foods leave us with inadequate chromium to manage blood sugar well. This leads to weight gain, leptin resistance, insulin resistance, and higher risk for estrogen dominance.

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