According to some estimates, about half of adolescent boys experience at least some breast development during puberty. Living in Florida where swimming and beach activities are popular year-round, however, I can tell you it surely seems more prevalent than this!
Cases of man boobs are on the rise around the globe no doubt paralleling the rise in obesity rates. Glasgow, Scotland, which boasts the second-highest obesity rate of all countries studied by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, has seen an 80 percent rise in man boobs reduction surgery since 2007.
While most cases of man boobs are related to problems with overweight, it seems that even thin and normal weight men are increasingly experiencing issues with breast enlargement. Go to any water park this summer and look around. Clearly, man boobs of all shapes and sizes are at epidemic levels and it isn’t just the boys and men struggling with their weight that are affected.
Something environmental is at play here as I don’t ever remember seeing even one case of man boobs when I was growing up in Florida – certainly never on a thin or normal weight guy!
Male Hormonal Imbalance Can Lead to Moobs
Could all the soy that is in the majority of processed foods today which has added plant estrogens (isoflavones) to the male diet at a rate never before seen in history be a factor in the development of man boobs? Not even in Asia was soy ever consumed in the large amounts experienced by those eating a modern diet. Traditional Asian societies primarily consumed soy in small, condimental amounts after careful and long periods of fermentation.
Perhaps the increasing popularity of soy infant formula starting a few decades ago is partly to blame which exposes a male infant to disruptive levels of estrogen at a very vulnerable time for the developing hormonal system. An estimated 25% of North American babies today receive soy baby formula made from processed soybeans, mostly GMO.
An infant exclusively receiving soy formula consumes the estrogenic equivalent of at least 5 birth control pills every single day!
Beware of soy milk too. A single glass a day for a few months can lead to hormone disruption according to Dr. Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story. Don’t ever let your children touch the stuff, and if you enjoy a soy milk latte regularly, switch to coconut milk!
Steroids in Conventional Meat and Dairy
What about all the steroids, hormones and antibiotic laced feed used in the conventional dairy and meat industry? Consumption of foods from factory farmed animals containing pharmaceutical residues could be another contributing factor to the estrogen/testosterone imbalance at the root of gynecomastia.
No doubt there are multiple environmental reasons for the large and very worrisome increases in gynecomastia across the board. For the person who suffers from it, however, the reason for the condition is not nearly as important as resolving it – and quickly!
Conventional Treatments for Gynecomastia
Conventional medicine maintains that many cases of gynecomastia resolve on their own within about two years. Even if this were true (anecdotally I would dispute this from the stories I hear), two years is a very long time at a very vulnerable stage in an adolescent’s emotional development.
Enduring the ridicule or avoiding social situations that require a bathing suit for that period of time seems unrealistic particularly in a warm weather climate.
Rather than wait and see for two long years only to resort later to drugs designed for breast cancer like tamoxifen and raloxifene or surgical reduction does not seem like a health promoting plan of action particularly for a young boy possibly already struggling with self esteem issues.
Man Boobs Respond Well to Dietary Change and Nutritional Support
According to Kim Schuette, CN, Certified GAPSâ„¢ Practitioner and owner of Biodynamic Wellness as well as the San Diego Chapter Leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, gynecomastia responds extremely well to nutritional support and dietary change.
She has treated a number of cases successfully in recent years and the strategies employed by the staff at Biodynamic Wellness either via office visit, phone or Skype consultation include the following:
- Immediately stop consumption of all sources of soy in order to remove plant estrogens from the diet. Because soy is in the vast majority of processed foods, this means freshly prepared, whole foods at home must become the rule rather than the exception. Many times, this change alone will resolve the problem.
- Add iodine supplementation. Kim uses Iodoral or Nascent Iodine in her practice.
- Add Symplex M from Standard Process.
- Castor oil packs over the liver and/or coffee enemas. These two therapies assist the liver in processing all that excess estrogen causing the hormonal imbalance relative to testosterone.
- Increase dietary animal fats to at least one tablespoon per meal.
- Use bone broth made at home for optimal potency to provide the necessary amino acids to the liver for optimal detoxification.
- Eliminate all grains for 30-60 days. After that time incorporate properly prepared, soaked grains.
- Emphasis on a Nourishing Traditions diet.
- Whole Vitamin C (not synthetic ascorbic acid) helps metabolize excess estrogen.
- Some people are poor methylators (proper methylation in liver detoxification is critical for eliminating excess estrogen) and may benefit from methylated B vitamins with the addition of trimethylglycine (TMG). Fortunately, this last step is often not necessary. Avoid synthetic folic acid found in multivitamins and fortified foods.
Have you or someone you love suffered from gynecomastia? Please share your experiences and your successes resolving it in the comment section.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.