A Manly Man’s Guide to Estrogen

How to Keep Estrogen Under Control

If your estrogen levels are out of whack, it can ruin your body composition and maybe even your life. Here's what you need to know.

Every adult male needs to know what his estrogen levels are. His health may depend on it, his appearance may depend on it, his emotional well-being may depend on it, and his ability to procreate may depend on it. In fact, his very life may depend on knowing whether his estrogen levels are too low or too high.

Estrogen and Testosterone: The Facts

Testosterone gets most of the male press and estrogen gets most of the female press, but estrogen is, in many ways, just as important to men as testosterone. And, even though the two hormones are regarded as the yin and yang of human sexual behavior and development, molecularly they're very similar.

You could even merge the two molecules into one three-dimensional figure and they'd look identical except that testosterone would have one little extra carbon atom sticking straight up from its molecular bridgework.

And in this similarity lies one reason why some men have high estrogen levels. Since the testosterone molecule is so molecularly similar to estrogen, it's very easy for aromatase enzymes to slice that one extra carbon atom off and convert testosterone to estrogen.

That's a good thing because you need a certain level of estrogen. Not only does estrogen have innumerable effects on one's health, but it's also part of an elegant feedback system where overly high estrogen levels alert the testicles, via the pituitary, to send some testicular workers home and cut back on testosterone production for that day. In this way, the system keeps a perfect amount of testosterone and estrogen flowing through the body.

Sometimes, though, too much testosterone is converted into estrogen. That amount, combined with the small amounts of estrogen being produced in the testes, adrenals, brain, and fat, can create hormonal trouble. The feedback loop gets a kink in it. Estrogen levels stay perpetually high and thus keep barking the order to back off on the manufacture of testosterone.

But there are plenty of other ways estrogen levels can get too high, too, and low estrogen can sometimes be even more of a problem than high estrogen. Either way, estrogen levels need to be in the hormonal Goldilocks zone – not too high, not too low, but just right.

What Problems Can Whacked-Out Estrogen Levels Cause?

Once estrogen levels rise unchecked, the risk of degenerative disease skyrockets. Atherosclerosis rates go up. Stroke increase. The risk of developing Type II diabetes and prostate cancer goes up. Emotional disturbances become more prevalent. Erectile function suffers. Waistlines grow thicker. It gets harder to put on muscle. And, most seriously, high estrogen significantly increases the risk of dying.

When researchers monitored the estrogen levels of 501 men with chronic heart failure, men with estradiol (the most "potent" form of estrogen) in the normal range (between 21.80 pg/ml and 30.11 pg/ml) had the fewest deaths during three years. Men with the highest levels (above 37.99) had 133% more deaths during the same period. However, the men with the lowest estrogen levels (below 12.90) fared the worst – they experienced 317% more deaths.

Clearly, estrogen levels play a big part in the health of your heart, in addition to the health of other body parts, systems, and functions.

Noticeable Symptoms of High Estrogen:

  • Increased abdominal fat
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Low libido, decreased erectile function
  • Tiredness
  • Increased fatty tissue around nipples
  • Depression, emotional disturbances
  • Lower urinary tract symptoms associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)

Noticeable Symptoms of Low Estrogen:

  • Decent erections but ho-hum orgasms
  • Joint cracking or soreness
  • Fatigue and depression
  • Blunted emotions
  • Possible weakening of adrenal glands
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive jealousy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Excessive urination

Testing Estrogen Levels

Make sure estrogen is the sweet spot, regardless of age. Establish an estrogen baseline to which he can refer and compare.

Here's a list of the median estradiol levels by age:

  • Age 2-29: 28.0 pg/ml
  • Age 30-39: 25.7 pg/ml
  • Age 40-49: 24.7 pg/ml
  • Age 50-59: 22.1 pg/ml
  • Age 60-69: 21.5 pg/ml
  • Age 70-80: 21.9 pg/ml

There are pretty much only two ways to accurately test estrogen levels – via a 24-hour urine test or a blood test. The blood test is easier of course, but make sure you insist that your doctor order a "sensitive" assay. (By default, most labs use the standard assay, which is designed for women.)

Furthermore, most labs use immunoassay techniques to test blood samples, which, when compared to other methods, show a variability rate of up to 53%. That kind of inaccuracy could lead to a physician treating a problem that doesn't even exist, e.g., treating a man for high estrogen levels when he's actually well within normal ranges, which could lead to disastrous consequences.

Labs should instead use Liquid Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy, which is much more accurate when measuring hormone levels. There are specific lab codes that your ordering doctor should use. Tell him what they are:

  • LabCorp "Sensitive Estradiol" Code 140244, 500108
  • Quest Diagnostics "Ultrasensitive Estradiol" Code 30289
  • ARUP TMX Code 93247
  • Mayo Clinic "Enhanced Estradiol" Code EEST

To further complicate issues, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) also plays a role in estrogen levels. SHBG, as the name suggests, literally binds up a certain percentage of hormones, including both testosterone and estrogen, making them inaccessible to the body.

Furthermore, as you get older, SHBG levels rise and bind up more hormones. So while estrogen levels might appear "normal," your amount of "free" estrogen might be too low. Ideally, both SHBG and estrogen blood levels should fall in the mid-range of normal values so that you can get an actual snapshot of your estrogen situation.

What Causes High Estrogen?

1. Too Much Body Fat

Fat contains the testosterone-to-estrogen changing aromatase enzyme, so as you get fatter you convert more testosterone to estrogen, which makes you even fatter.

2. Getting Old

The older you are, the more aromatase you produce and the higher your estrogen levels. Of course, the age and estrogen thing isn't so cut and dried. Since SHBG levels also rise with age, presumably binding up some of the increased estrogen, you'd think geezers would have less estrogen. Similarly, aging also generally brings a reduction in testosterone, which would mean there's less estrogen because there are fewer raw materials to convert to estrogen. These phenomena might explain, partly, why so many men with cardiac conditions have estrogen levels that are too low or too high.

3. Faulty Feedback Mechanisms

When estrogen levels are too high, they signal the testicles, via the pituitary, to temporarily stop making testosterone. But if estrogen levels are perpetually high, it can short-circuit the system, sending the mistaken message to the testicles to go on a long vacation. This can lead to even higher estrogen levels.

4. Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)

Millions of men are on TRT to revitalize their bodies and shore up their flagging libidos. Unfortunately, a lot of doctors haven't done their homework. Injecting too much testosterone, or injecting too much testosterone into obese men, can cause an undesired amount of T to be converted into estrogen. These elevated levels need to be addressed by either adjusting the dosage or by prescribing an anti-aromatase.

5. Impairment of Cytochrome P450 Enzyme System

The vast majority of drugs, chemicals, or supplements you ingest are processed and eliminated by the P450 system. The system is like a chemical recycling station where drugs are torn down, repackaged, and either reused or excreted.

This same system eliminates excess estrogen from the body, too. However, certain things can impair this system. Drinking too much might be a problem, as might being obese, or having a zinc deficiency. You might also be eating foods or taking drugs or supplements that impede the P450 enzyme system's efficiency, like grapefruit juice or ginkgo biloba.

6. Xenoestrogens

These are chemicals in the environment that mimic estrogen. These chemicals, mainly heavy metals, synthetic chemicals like DES and DDT, and industrial chemicals like phthalates, grow in number, and accumulate in more tissue, with each passing year.

These chemicals are found in foods, adhesives, fire retardants, detergents, drinking water, perfumes, waxes, household cleaning products, lubricants… virtually everywhere.

Although we don't know the exact scope of damage caused by these chemicals, we have seen widespread reports of biological anomalies in both animals and humans in the last couple of decades (mutations, indeterminate sex organs, lessened fertility, etc.). Case in point, in 1992 a team of reproductive specialists from Copenhagen announced that the sperm counts in the industrialized world had dropped 50% since 1938.

Furthermore, there's plenty of evidence that these chemicals are a part of all of us. Researchers found that 75% of the samples taken from 400 adults contained significant levels of industrial xenoestrogens, whereas 98% of samples contained DHT and its derivatives. To make matters even more troubling, different xenoestrogens appear to act synergistically so that their effects are magnified.

7. Phytoestrogens

While xenoestrogens are man-made monstrosities, phytoestrogens occur in plants. Xenoestrogens accumulate in adipose tissue, while phytoestrogens are metabolized and booted out of the body relatively fast. As such, they're not nearly the problem that xenoestrogens are. Still, you don't want too many of them around as they resemble estrogen molecularly and can act like the real deal. Phytoestrogens are also found in various foods, perhaps most notably in soy and soy protein.

8. Alcohol and Weed

Yeah, recreational drugs can cause elevated estrogen levels. Sorry.

What Causes Low Estrogen?

There aren't that many things that cause low estrogen in males. One is old age, with its accompanying low testosterone levels and increased SHBG levels. This might be remedied by simply going on testosterone replacement therapy.

Another reason males may be low is overuse of estrogen blockers or anti-aromatases. These are drugs usually prescribed by physicians that either block testosterone from being converted to estrogen (anti-aromatases) or block estrogen from binding to receptors on the cell or in the cell (estrogen blockers).

Of course, any man with low estrogen levels might have some yet-to-be diagnosed condition or disease, with low estrogen being one of many consequences.

How Can You Fix High Estrogen?

1. Diet

Plenty of vegetables contain indole-3-carbinol, which ameliorates the effects of estrogen. The chemical is found in decent amounts in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.

Calcium d-glutarate is also a capable estrogen fighter in that it helps the body eliminate estrogen before the body reabsorbs it. You can find tangible amounts in grapefruit, apples, oranges, and the same cruciferous vegetables that are also rich in indoles.

However, these fruits and vegetables can't singlehandedly regulate whacked-out estrogen levels. At best, they should be regarded as estrogen "shifters" that can affect the amount of estrogen metabolites in your favor. You should avoid foods that shift the amount of estrogen metabolites against you, like soy products.

2. Supplements

Given that elevated estrogen is such a problem, the supplement industry has spent a lot of time researching it and thinking about it. Here are the vitamins, nutrients, or compounds that seem to be the most powerful in normalizing estrogen levels:

  • Boron (decreases free estrogen levels)
  • Curcumin (reduces the effects of aromatase)
  • Fish Oil (specifically DHA, which reduces the number of estrogen receptors)
  • Green Tea (seems to inhibit aromatase)
  • Resveratrol (decreases aromatase activity)
  • Zinc (reduces activity of estrogen receptors)

Always use the micellar form of curcumin which is 95 times more bioavailable. Biotest's Micellar Curcumin (Buy at Amazon) fits the bill.

MC-on-Amazon

For fish oil, you want it to have more DHA than EPA, like Flameout (Buy at Amazon).

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If you don't drink green tea often, you can get it as part of the Superfood (Buy at Amazon) formula, which also conveniently bumps up your fruit, berry, and vegetable intake.

SuperfoodAmazon

For resveratrol, use a potent formula like Rez-V (Buy at Amazon).

Buy-on-AmazonRV

For zinc, use the more absorbable chelated form as found in Elitepro Vital Minerals (Buy at Amazon).

ElitePro Minerals

3. Pharmaceutical Intervention

Aromatase inhibitors (AI) interfere with the aromatase enzyme's ability to convert testosterone to estrogen. There are two classes of AI. The first consists of the "suicide inhibitors," such as the drug exemestane. Avoid them. They're too powerful and they can easily bury estrogen levels too low.

The second class of AIs is the "competitive inhibitors" like anastrozole and letrozole. You should probably avoid letrozole, too, as it's also quite powerful. Using it to fix modestly elevated estrogen is akin to using a C4 explosive to open a stubborn peanut butter jar.

That leaves us with the modestly powerful anastrozole, aka Arimidex. Still, it too can cause estrogen levels to drop precipitously. Don't take it unless 1) you have symptoms, 2) dietary and/or supplemental avenues haven't worked, and 3) you know what the heck you're doing.

Most men, however, don't ever use a drug like anastrozole unless they're concurrently undergoing TRT and too much of their testosterone is being aromatized into estrogen. The general protocol is to start with 0.25 mg of anastrozole every other day and only progress to .5 mg. a day if necessary.

4. Purging Your Environment of Xenoestrogens

To purge your environment significantly, you'd probably have to move to the woods and live off organic mung bean sprouts. Short of that, there are several modest things you can do to make your life less estrogenic.

Do the following things whenever possible:

  • Shop organic
  • Store your food in glass (not plastic) containers
  • Don't let plastic wrap touch your food when microwaving
  • Use "all-natural" laundry detergents and household cleaners
  • Use "all-natural" skincare and personal care products
  • Avoid most plastics when possible, and don't drink from bottled water that's been exposed to the sun for any length of time.

5. Lifestyle Adjustments

Your problems with estrogen might stem from drinking too much, too often, or smoking weed too much, too often. The simple solution is to practice moderation. Likewise, if you're overweight (which is itself an estrogenic progenitor), do the obvious.

Take Charge of Your Estrogen Levels

  • Get tested using a "sensitive" blood assay.
  • If your reading is normal, use it as a reference point in the following years.
  • If the reading is too high, assess whether you have any symptoms of high estrogen. Similarly, if the reading is too low, check to see if you have any symptoms of low estrogen.
  • Attack the problem by using any estrogen-fighting solution or combination of solutions listed above, including lifestyle changes, supplements, drugs, diet, or avoidance of xeno and phytoestrogens.
3 Likes

What are the thoughts around leveraging a DHT like Mastering? Anecdotally, it acts more as a serm and masks high W2 effects. Estradiol still might show as high on serum blood work, but without sides, would it make sense to implement low dose AI to keep estradiol in range or should E2 be left alone if there’s no symptoms?

Am I wrong here? Is it not SEX hormone binding globulin?

Oops. All fixed now. Thanks!

Thanks for this great info. I started TRT plus Anastrozole 1.5 years ago because, despite not being too fat (OK, only morning/good lighting abs-I’m 64, cut me some slack) decent diet and taking all the T boosting (yes, including that one) and E reducing supplements, I had low T and way out of range high E. After starting T + Anastrozole, my T immediately recovered to high normal/out of range high, but my E remained stubbornly high, even increasing. But last blood test came in at 20.4, with no changes to protocols. I thought that might be too low and was considering reducing my Anastrozole dose. Now I know that’s good and have one less thing to worry about (PSA spiked last test for no apparent reason. Still in range, but barely). Was taking 1mg Anastrozole per week divided into 2 doses. Will probably split that into 4 doses now. I know you’re not medical advice, bla bla bla, but thanks again.