The hormones testosterone and estrogen contribute to your body’s overall function.
They need to be balanced in order for your sexual function and characteristics to work typically. If they’re not balanced you may notice some unusual symptoms.
Estrogen is typically called the “female” hormone. Testosterone is called the “male” hormone. This isn’t entirely accurate as both are present in everyone’s bodies. But higher amounts of testosterone tend to be present in biologically male bodies. And higher amounts of estrogen tend to be present in biologically female bodies.
Estrogen is key to the development of sexual functions and characteristics in women during adolescence. This includes menstruation and the reproductive cycle. It helps maintain that function throughout life.
It’s similar for men. But a particular form of estrogen known as
Testosterone is the most significant hormone to male sexual development and function. But estrogen needs to stay in balance with testosterone to help control sex drive, the ability to have an erection, and the production of sperm.
Testosterone naturally decreases as men age, while estrogen increases. This isn’t much to be concerned about unless your estrogen levels are abnormally high. This can be a risk factor for conditions like diabetes and certain forms of cancer.
Let’s get into what normal and abnormal estrogen levels are for males, what symptoms you should watch out for, what can cause abnormal estrogen levels, and what you can do about it.
There are two main types of estrogen in men: estrone and estradiol. The amounts are measured in picogram per milliliter (pg/ml). The typical averages of each are:
|Prepubescent male||Undetectable–16 pg/ml||Undetectable–13 pg/ml|
|Pubescent male||Undetectable–60 pg/ml||Undetectable–40 pg/ml|
|Adult male||10–60 pg/ml||10–40 pg/ml|
Here are some of the main symptoms of high estrogen levels in men:
- Infertility. Estrogen is one of the hormones your body uses to produce sperm. High estrogen levels can slow down sperm production and make it harder to create healthy sperm.
- Gynecomastia. Increased estrogen can cause more breast tissue to develop than normal. High levels can lead to the development of a condition called gynecomastia. This happens when the amount of breast fat tissue is abnormally high.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED). Increased estrogen levels can affect the balance of hormones that are needed to help get an erection and stay erect. This is especially true if you also experience low testosterone.
- Slowed growth. Too much estrogen can result in short stature or delayed puberty in boys.
- Epiphyseal closure. This can happen in adolescents with high estrogen, causing boys to have short stature.
Other possible symptoms of low estrogen that may happen along with other hormone imbalances include:
- reduced sex drive
- reduced sperm concentration in semen
- feeling exhausted
- losing hair all over your body
- shrinking muscle mass
- reduced growth of penis and testicles
- loss of bone density (osteoporosis)
- sudden feeling that you’re hot (hot flashes)
- having trouble focusing
Causes of high estrogen in men
Your body can produce a lot of estrogen alone or in addition to lower levels of testosterone.
Some medications and substances that can raise your estrogen levels include:
- certain antibiotics
- herbs or other natural substances, such as gingko or ginseng
- phenothiazines (a medication used for mental health conditions)
High estrogen is also passed down through your genes. And some health conditions can raise your estrogen levels, such as:
Low estrogen levels in men aren’t a big cause for concern.
But some of the same symptoms of high estrogen can happen if you don’t have enough estrogen. This is because estrogen imbalances can result from hypogonadism, a condition that results in a lack of hormone production in your body.
Hypogonadism can lower levels of estrogen, testosterone, and other hormones, leading to many of the same symptoms of high estrogen levels.
Causes of low estrogen in men
Low estrogen due to hypogonadism can have a number of possible causes, including:
- autoimmune conditions like Addison’s disease or hypoparathyroidism
- genetic disorders like Turner syndrome or Klinefelter syndrome
- infections of the sexual organs, such as mumps
- kidney or liver conditions
- testicles that don’t descend
- an overabundance of iron in your blood (hemochromatosis)
- exposure to radiation
- having surgery on your penis or testicles
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- conditions that affect the pituitary gland
- having obesity
- rapid weight loss
- not getting enough basic nutrients and vitamins
- brain surgery
- tumor growing on or close to your pituitary gland
A doctor will have you take a laboratory blood test if they believe you may have either high or low levels of estrogen.
For this, you’ll go to a laboratory that collects samples, and someone who’s trained to take samples will use a needle and vial to collect the blood for testing.
You should receive your results in about a week. You’ll see your blood estrogen levels shown in measurements of picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). Once you get your results, your doctor will let you know what you’ll need to do next.
If they’re normal, you won’t necessarily need to do anything. But if your levels or high or low, your doctor will recommend the next steps to help get your estrogen levels balanced.
Here are some of the possible treatments a doctor may recommend to help control your estrogen levels.
Theoretically aromatase inhibitors — which keep an enzyme known as aromatase from turning hormones called androgens into estrogen — should work, but research shows that they don’t have that great of an effect.
Though they aren’t usually recommended as treatment, they can help reduce estrogen levels for patients if clinically indicated. You can take these as medications in the form of anastrozole (Arimidex) or exemestane (Aromasin).
Aromatase inhibitors are also available in natural forms, such as wild nettle root,
Diet, lifestyle, and exercise
Changes to your diet can also help keep your estrogen levels low.
A diet low in fat and high in fiber is commonly recommended for estrogen level control. Some foods that might be involved in this kind of diet include:
- cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli and kale) contain phytochemicals that block estrogen production
- shiitake and portobello mushrooms naturally reduce aromatase
- red grapes contain natural estrogen blockers resveratrol and proanthocyanidin
- sesame seeds and flaxseed, as well as whole grains like oats, corn, and rice contain a micronutrient called polyphenol
- green tea is another good source of polyphenol
- pomegranates are high in estrogen-blocking phytochemicals
Some meat products contain estrogen as a result from treatment with synthetic hormones and should be avoided. Some other products to avoid that can increase your estrogen levels include:
- wraps or containers made of plastic that can be absorbed by your food
- hygiene products that have parabens containing estrogens, such as shampoos
Staying in shape can also keep your estrogen levels low:
- get a physical to check your overall health
- make a plan and start slow
- work out for about 15 to 30 minutes per day, and increase the time as you feel comfortable
- switch it up: do cardio one day, strength the next, and so on
- join a gym and get into the habit of going regularly
All people born with penises are born with low levels of estrogen, but the levels get higher as you get older.
High levels of estrogen in a person with a penis can increase your risk of certain conditions, including:
See a doctor as soon as possible if you notice any abnormal symptoms that may be related to high or low estrogen levels.
They can run estrogen level tests and diagnose the causes. They can also help you learn if these symptoms are caused by high estrogen. It’s important to treat high estrogen and any underlying cause.
Many conditions that cause or are caused by abnormal estrogen levels can be treated successfully and the chances of any possible complications lowered with early treatment.
Both high and low estrogen levels can cause some long-term complications or indicate that there’s an underlying condition that should be treated.
See your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you think you may have abnormal estrogen levels.