As men age, their testosterone levels decrease. However, testosterone that decreases too much or too quickly may result in hypogonadism. This condition, characterized by the body’s inability to produce this important hormone, can cause many symptoms, including:
- loss of libido
- drop in sperm production
- erectile dysfunction (ED)
Estrogen in men
Estrogen, primarily thought of as a female hormone, ensures that the male body functions properly. There are three types of estrogen:
Estradiol is the primary type of estrogen that is active in men. It plays a vital role in keeping men’s joints and brains healthy. It also allows sperm to develop properly.
A hormone imbalance — for example, an increase in estrogen and decrease in testosterone — creates problems. Too much estrogen in the male body can lead to:
These natural products may help block estrogen:
- Wild nettle root: Nettle root or nettle leaves are often used to make prostate medication. Nettles contain compounds that act as natural estrogen blockers. Taking supplements can regulate production of the hormone.
- Chrysin: This flavonoid is found in passionflower, honey, and bee propolis. Proponents argue that it blocks estrogen and increases testosterone, and others claim that there’s no evidence.
- Maca: Maca is a cruciferous plant that originates in Peru. Proponents say it has a host of benefits, including enhancing fertility and blocking estrogen in men. Although maca does contain many vitamins and nutrients, there’s little scientific evidence that it plays a role in regulating hormones.
- Grape seed extract: This extract has been shown to act as an aromatase inhibitor, or estrogen blocker, in postmenopausal women at high risk for breast cancer. Men may experience similar benefits when taking it as a supplement.
Certain pharmaceutical products have an estrogen-blocking effect in men. Typically designed for women, they’re gaining in popularity among men — and particularly in men who wish to have children.
Testosterone supplements may lead to sterility. But prescription estrogen blockers, such as clomiphene (Clomid), can restore hormone balance without affecting fertility.
Some medications known as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) may also be used to block estrogen in men. They are commonly marketed for breast cancer treatment. They can also be used off-label for a variety of conditions related to low testosterone, including:
These medications should be used selectively, based on the condition being treated. Examples include:
- anastrozole (Arimidex)
- letrozole (Femara)
- raloxifene (Evista)
You can take a number of steps to restore balance in your estrogen levels. For example, if your excess estrogen relates to low testosterone, you may benefit from testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in the form of an estrogen blocker.
The following steps might help you control your estrogen levels without therapy:
Control estrogen by...
- avoiding environmental estrogens, such as parabens in personal care products
- losing weight (or, more importantly, body fat)
- reducing your alcohol intake
- adding cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli) to your diet
It’s impossible to avoid all environmental estrogens. However, avoiding meat products from animals raised with synthetic hormones is a good place to start. Plastic food wraps or food containers can leach estrogen into food. Shampoos and toiletries that have parabens also contain estrogens. Steer clear of these products whenever possible.
Lose weight or, more importantly, lose body fat. High-fat diets and excess body fat are both linked to excess estrogen.
You may also find it helpful to reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol interferes with liver and kidney function, which in turn affects the body’s ability to regulate estrogen.
On the other hand, you may want to increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables. Foods like broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts contain compounds that regulate estrogen. They also contain zinc, which helps to increase testosterone.
Too much estrogen can cause problems for men, but so can too little testosterone. For example, you’re at higher risk for developing osteoporosis if your estrogen levels are too low. The goal of estrogen blockers should never be to decrease estrogen to an unhealthy level.
Speak to a doctor if you’re concerned about your estrogen level. They can carefully monitor your hormone levels with blood tests, and discuss hormone therapy options with you.
What are the possible side effects of estrogen blockers?
There is no data in the medical literature for the natural remedies above, so it is difficult to say what the side effects are for those treatments. They are also not monitored by the FDA, making it hard to know what is truly in the bottle. As for clomiphene, the side effects are generally those described in women, which are related to high estrogen levels, such as hot flashes. The SERM tamoxifen also can cause hot flashes, and there is an increased risk of blood clots but beneficial effects on lipids. Aromatase inhibitors such as anastrazole have fewer side effects, but some people get muscle and joint pains. In women, these have caused sexual side effects because of the estrogen-blocking properties. At least one study showed cognitive changes, increased fatigue, and poor sleep.Suzanne Falck, MD, FACPAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.