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As males age, their testosterone levels naturally decrease. This is a regular part of aging and shouldn’t be a major cause for concern. However, if testosterone levels decrease too far or too quickly, it may result in hypogonadism. This condition, characterized by the body’s inability to produce this important hormone, can cause a number of symptoms, including:

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms and are concerned that your testosterone levels have dropped significantly, it’s worth taking the time to talk with your doctor.

Language matters

We use “male” and “female” in this article to reflect the terms that have been historically used to describe a person’s sex, and “men” and “women” when referring to gender. A person’s gender identity may be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Your gender identity may not align with how your body responds to this condition. Your doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances will translate into diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment.

Estrogen, while primarily thought of as a hormone occurring in females, is also present in males and helps ensure that the male body functions properly. There are three types of estrogen:

  • estriol
  • estrone
  • estradiol

Estradiol is the primary type of estrogen that is active in males. It plays a vital role in keeping their joints and brains healthy. It also allows sperm to develop properly.

However, if a male’s estrogen levels get too high in proportion to their testosterone levels, this hormone imbalance can cause some health concerns, too. Too much estrogen in the male body can lead to the following:

For people experiencing this kind of hormone imbalance, there are a few treatment options that can help restore their former hormone levels. One of these treatments is a medication known as an estrogen blocker.

Estrogen blockers, when effective, can reduce the amount of estrogen in the body by either stopping estrogen from being produced altogether, or limiting its effect in order to balance hormone levels in the body. There are both pharmaceutical estrogen blockers and natural estrogen blockers.

However, it is worth keeping in mind that natural alternatives often have minimal testing and data on their effectiveness, or can even be untested in a clinical setting. If you are interested in exploring estrogen blockers, consider talking with your doctor to hear their advice on what treatment may be most effective for you.

Pharmaceutical estrogen blockers

Certain pharmaceutical products have an estrogen-blocking effect in males. While typically designed for females, they’re gaining in popularity among males — particularly those who wish to have children.

Some people using testosterone supplements may experience sterility due to their increased testosterone levels and 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 males. 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:

Read More: Off-label prescription drug use: What you need to know »

These medications should be used selectively, based on the condition being treated. Examples include:

Preliminary research has also indicated that anastrozole and letrozole may help treat male infertility as well.

Natural estrogen blockers

These natural products may help block estrogen — but in some cases, more research is needed:

  • 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 the production of the hormone.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Pros

  • increases the amount of testosterone in the body
  • can boost hormones that keep sperm healthy
  • can prevent estrogen from binding to receptors in the body
  • may help reverse some cases of infertility
  • may boost muscle mass
  • potentially boosts sex drive

Cons

  • can be dangerous when taken without supervision
  • not well studied so long-term health effects are unclear
  • can increase the risk of blood clots
  • could increase the risk of heart or cardiovascular problems
  • could cause stomach pain and/or headaches
  • changes in vision
  • enlargement of male breasts (gynecomastia)

Testosterone replacement therapy

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).

Learn more about hormone replacement therapy for men.

Avoiding environmental estrogens

While it’s impossible to avoid all environmental estrogens completely — avoiding meat products from animals raised with synthetic hormones is a good place to start. Additionally, some plastic food wraps and food containers can leach estrogen into food. Shampoos and toiletries that have parabens also contain estrogens. If you are concerned about increased estrogen levels, consider steering clear of these products whenever possible.

Nutritional changes

High-fat diets are linked to excess estrogen. Additionally, you may benefit from adding cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts into your meals because they contain compounds that regulate estrogen. They also contain zinc, which helps to increase testosterone.

Learn more about cruciferous vegetables, including health benefits and recipes.

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.

Too much estrogen can cause health issues for males, but unusually low testosterone levels can also have a negative effect. For example, males are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis if their estrogen levels are too low. The goal of estrogen blockers should never be to decrease estrogen to an unhealthy level, but to help proportionally rebalance hormone levels.

If you’re concerned about your estrogen level or experiencing symptoms that may indicate higher than usual estrogen levels, it might be worth meeting with your doctor. They can carefully monitor your hormone levels with blood tests, and discuss hormone therapy options with you.

Can estrogen blockers increase testosterone in males?

Yes, some estrogen blockers can increase testosterone levels in males by limiting the amount of estrogen present or active in the body. While estrogen blockers do not create the testosterone hormone on their own, they can help bring your hormones into balance by making your testosterone levels proportionately higher than your estrogen levels, or by limiting how much testosterone is turned into estrogen.

Do I need an estrogen blocker if I am taking testosterone?

It depends on the balance of your hormones during your testosterone treatment. If the treatment is showing limited results, it may be due to higher estrogen levels in your body that could benefit from an estrogen blocker. It can certainly be difficult to find the right balance during certain hormone treatments, but frequent check-ins with your doctor will allow them to better track your hormone levels and give their best advice about if an estrogen blocker is needed.

Changes to your hormone levels may be difficult to detect at first, but if you start to experience the symptoms and side effects of a hormone imbalance, a good first step to take is to talk with your doctor.

Estrogen blockers aren’t for everyone — and they certainly shouldn’t be taken without medical supervision to make sure your estrogen levels don’t drop to a dangerously low level. If your doctor thinks it’s a worthwhile treatment, there are a number of medications that can help. If you are interested in more natural options, your doctor may be able to also suggest some alternative treatments and lifestyle changes to consider.