Some people use man boobs as a joke and some even hurl it as an insult. But for men who suffer from it, man boobs are no laughing matter.
Medically known as gynecomastia, it's one of the most embarrassing male health problems and it’s more common than you might think.
Also known as gyno, gynecomastia in males can happen even during infancy. According to a 2009 study, the probability of having gynecomastia is 90% in infants, 50% to 60% in teens, and 70% in men 50 to 69 years old.
Additionally, the Mayo Clinic estimates that within the 50 to 69 age bracket, at least one in four men suffers from gynecomastia.
Although gynecomastia is not life-threatening, it can affect a person’s self-confidence tremendously. Although it’s a serious condition, it’s also highly curable and preventable.
But before discussing treatments, you should first understand why gynecomastia happens in the first place. Most importantly, you must be able to distinguish gynecomastia from normal chest fat to avoid false alarms.
If you want to know how to tell if you have gynecomastia, this article will teach you all you need to know about this condition, its causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
Gynecomastia refers to the abnormal enlargement of a male’s breast tissues, hence the term “man boobs”. It may affect either one or both breasts, sometimes asymmetrically.
There’s a variety of causes attributed to gynecomastia – obesity, steroids, certain drugs, and even puberty – but all of these point to one culprit: an imbalance in the body’s estrogen-to-testosterone ratio.
Both males and females have estrogen and testosterone. However, females produce more estrogen while males create more testosterone. These hormones initiate the development of sexual characteristics such as the formation of breasts in females and deepening of voice in males.
Remember that hormones in the body work like a seesaw - when it’s unbalanced, problems will occur. When a man produces more estrogen or when his testosterone levels drop significantly, his bodily functions will be thrown off-balance.
Symptoms of high estrogen in men can lead to gynecomastia, erectile dysfunction, or worse, infertility.
There are several external factors that can cause gynecomastia but it can also be triggered by natural causes. Here’s a list of the main causes of gynecomastia:
Most newborns are born with temporary gynecomastia. Why? When a baby is still in the womb, the estrogen from the mother is carried to the baby, resulting in a slight hormonal imbalance. Fortunately, this type of gynecomastia goes away after two to three weeks after birth.
Another stage when males are vulnerable to gynecomastia is during puberty, particularly between ages 12 and 14. During this time, boys’ bodies are rapidly developing, which often results to hormonal imbalance. Research suggests that pubertal gynecomastia often goes away by the time a boy reaches 18 when the hormone levels have started to stabilize.
When men age, their testosterone production decreases. Their metabolism also starts to slow down, resulting in increased body fat. In turn, the extra fat triggers the body to produce more estrogen, which leads to a higher estrogen-to-testosterone ratio.
Another common factor in gynecomastia is obesity. As mentioned earlier, the extra fat induces the body to create more estrogen. This leads to hormonal imbalances and the high estrogen levels stimulate the breast tissues to grow.
A research conducted in Spain found that 52% of men with high steroid intake have gynecomastia. This is due to aromatization, a side effect of anabolic steroids.
It’s a process wherein the steroids are converted into estrogen, hence the development of breast tissues. So while bodybuilders may have the perfect muscle-to-fat ratio, their estrogen-to-testosterone ratios are often unbalanced.
Aside from the causes already mentioned, gynecomastia can also be induced by:
Although breast enlargement is the most obvious symptom, not all breast enlargement is caused by gynecomastia. Sometimes, it’s just fatty deposits in the chest.
The major difference between the two is that in gynecomastia, you could feel a small solid lump under the nipple. Normal chest fat, on the other hand, contains no mass of any kind.
To investigate further if you have this condition, you need to look for common gynecomastia symptoms such as:
Treating gynecomastia, especially those in the early stages, doesn’t necessarily require pills and surgery. If you’re looking for ways to get rid of gynecomastia naturally, then here are some of the natural ways to fix it:
Turmeric has been used in Chinese and Indian cultures for thousands of years, not just as a spice but as a medicine. It possesses antibacterial, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
And because it’s anti-inflammatory, turmeric can increase the body’s testosterone levels. How?
To solve this, turmeric fights inflammation, allowing the Leydig cells to continue producing testosterone.
Turmeric also strengthens the liver which is the organ that removes excess estrogen out of the body.
Fish oils are the best source of omega-3, an essential fatty acid known for reducing cholesterol and lowering one’s risk of stroke and heart attack. But did you know that omega-3 can increase testosterone, too?
Unlike turmeric, fish oils have an indirect effect on the body’s testosterone levels. Instead, the omega-3 contained in fish oil removes the things that can hinder testosterone production.
Omega-3 decreases sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), a type of protein that “binds” to testosterone and inhibits it from being bio-available. By reducing SHBG, omega-3 enables more testosterone to be absorbed by the body.
Additionally, omega-3 can also stimulate the body to produce more vitamin D. In a study published in 2011, researchers found out that increasing vitamin D in the body can also increase testosterone.
According to research conducted by the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan, zinc has a major role in regulating testosterone. The results are supported by another study in Korea, which concluded that high levels of zinc can lead to normal testosterone production.
The US Department of Health and Health Services suggest eating foods like oysters, breakfast cereal, lobsters, and baked beans to increase your body’s zinc intake.
Lower aromatase enzyme
These inhibitors can be found in common plants and vegetables, such as celery, cruciferous vegetables, and sesame seeds.
The most common methods of treatment for gynecomastia are medication and surgery. The former aims to restore the body’s hormonal balance while the latter is for the removal of the unwanted breast tissue.
If your condition is still at the early stages, you can still reverse gynecomastia without surgery. Doctors will usually advise the patient to take medication.
But for cases where the condition is still uncured even after years of treatment, the doctor may refer the patient to a plastic surgeon instead.
Even if you already know how to tell if you have gynecomastia, it’s still very important to have a professional’s opinion. Gynecomastia symptoms are only indicative.
You still must go to a doctor to confirm if what you have is indeed gynecomastia. Remember that self-diagnosis can only reveal so much.
The best way to know if you have gynecomastia is to have a doctor check on you.
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