Gynecomastia is the atypical breast enlargement of one or both breasts in men. The process usually begins with a small lump underneath the nipple which causes uneven swelling. Enlarged breasts in men are not uncommon, especially as a newborn or during puberty. In newborns, the gynecomastia may include minor lactation or milk flow (also referred to as galactorrhea) and often disappears within a couple of weeks. During puberty, the condition usually lasts for just a couple months.
What Causes Gynecomastia?
The enlarged male breasts associated with gynecomastia are caused by a hormonal imbalance. This explains why the condition occurs in newborns and during puberty. In newborns, gynecomastia is an aftereffect of the mother’s estrogen in the infant’s system. Commonly in these cases, the hormones naturally correct themselves and the male breasts diminish.
The Testosterone and Male Estrogen Balance
Specifically, enlarged breasts in men occur when the balance between testosterone and male estrogen is drastically altered. While mainly considered to be a female hormone, every man possesses low levels of estrogen to regulate sperm production, bone density and mood.
Breast enlargement in men often occurs after the age of 50 and is frequently associated with andropause. Andropause causes testosterone levels to drop, which leaves less of the hormone available to balance out the estrogen. Increased estrogen production and severe hyperthyroidism can also cause the gynecomastia. Enlarged male breasts are more likely to occur in overweight men due to the effects that obesity has on the body. Furthermore, weight gain is also a symptom of andropause, so it is not uncommon for a man to experience both concurrently.
The swollen breasts in men can also be caused or contributed to by external factors like poor diet, estrogen containing herbal products, street drugs, and alcohol. Malnutrition, steroids, amphetamines, marijuana and heroin can alter hormone levels and result in gynecomastia. The low levels of estrogen (found in plant oils like lavender and tea tree) in certain soaps, shampoos and lotions can lead to enlarged male breasts especially if testosterone levels are depleted by andropause.
The Solution: Gynecomastia Treatments
Many men have sought to reduce gynecomastia with male breast reduction surgery, this option is often unnecessary. Frequently, the most successful option among gynecomastia treatments is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Since the cause is hormonally based, it only makes sense that the treatment should be to correct the hormonal imbalance. Balanced testosterone and estrogen levels may reduce gynecomastia. We believe hormone therapy should be considered before surgery to try and eliminate male breasts.
Your bioidentical hormone pracitioner will not only try to bring your estrogen and testosterone into balance, but they may also prescribe a nutrition plan, targeted supplement regimen, and other lifestyle changes to address any external causes of hormone imbalance and gynecomastia. This approach may also provide relief from other andropause symptoms such as weight gain and erectile dysfunction.