Gynecomastia (male breast enlargement) occurs when male breast tissue grows more than normal, which may affect one or both breasts. Gynecomastia can cause male breasts to feel tender or swollen during onset and appear larger in volume over time. Having enlarged male breasts doesn’t typically cause breasts pain or other complications; however, gynecomastia can be difficult to cope with and may cause mental distress. (13) Fortunately, modifications to certain diet and lifestyle habits may help reduce the symptoms of gynecomastia.
Causes of gynecomastia
A natural hormonal imbalance is the most common cause of gynecomastia. (9) Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers; they affect many processes including growth and development. (12)
Gynecomastia is fairly common in newborns, pubescent boys, and older males. More than half of all males develop enlarged breasts during puberty; however, the medical condition typically resolves as males age into adulthood. (9) Males in late adulthood, mainly those 50 years and older, experience hormone changes due to aging that can cause breast tissue growth. Certain health conditions may also cause gynecomastia, including:
- Chronic liver disease
- Kidney failure
- Low testosterone levels
- Overactive or underactive thyroid
- Tumors (13)
Certain medications and medical interventions can also cause enlarged male breasts, including chemotherapy, steroids, and opioids. Other substances, such as alcohol, illicit drugs, or endocrine disruptors, may also cause gynecomastia. (9)(13) Your healthcare provider can help you learn more about the cause of your gynecomastia by looking at your health history and performing a variety of medical tests.
4 gynecomastia natural treatment remediesmale breast enlargement
There are a variety of treatment options available for gynecomastia depending on the cause of the condition. Addressing the underlying cause, modifying the use of certain medications, and avoiding substances that may contribute to the condition may be suggested by your healthcare provider.
Other interventions, including testosterone replacement therapy or breast reduction surgery, may be recommended for chronic, distressing gynecomastia. (13) Several diet and lifestyle modifications may also help address a hormonal imbalance and reduce breast size.
1. Avoid endocrine disruptors
Endocrine glands (e.g., ovaries, testes, pituitary gland) produce hormones in the body. This includes male and female hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. (12) Endocrine disruptors are naturally occurring or man-made chemicals that can mimic and interfere with the effects of hormones in the body. (4)
There are about 1,000 known endocrine-disrupting chemicals which can be found in a variety of products, including food and beverages and personal care products. Bisphenol A (BPA), organophosphates, and phthalates are some of the most well-known endocrine-disrupting chemicals. They are mainly found in pesticides and plastics. (4)(18)
Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals has been associated with increased incidences of gynecomastia. (13)(16) Ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact can expose you to these chemicals. (7) In one study, levels of certain phthalates were found to be higher in adolescent males with gynecomastia compared to those without the condition. (6)
2. Eat more whole foods
Evidence suggests that serum testosterone levels can be influenced by diet and nutrient levels in the body. (10) Diets that include a higher intake of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, are associated with positive health outcomes. Many of these foods contain antioxidants, fiber, and essential nutrients, such as zinc, which may support healthy testosterone levels. (18)
3. Exercise regularly
A combination of aerobic (cardio) exercise and strength training (e.g., weightlifting) has been shown to increase testosterone production. (15) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults exercise about 30 minutes a day, five days per week. (2) Regular exercise can also help support stress management, weight management, and sleep quality, factors that can impact testosterone levels. (1)(18)
4. Manage stress levels
Stress increases the hormone cortisol, which can cause an increase in fat storage. (11) As fat accumulates, more testosterone is converted to estrogen. Stress can also increase the use of testosterone-lowering products, such as alcohol and cigarettes. Avoiding stressful situations and finding healthy habits to manage stress can help you maintain healthy testosterone levels. (18) Exercising, getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and socializing with loved ones are just a few ways you can help lower stress. (14)
Did you know? Most of the body’s testosterone production occurs during deep sleep. (18)
The bottom line
Gynecomastia is often caused by a hormonal imbalance. Certain conditions and medications have also been associated with gynecomastia. Depending on the cause of your gynecomastia, a variety of treatment options may be suggested by your healthcare practitioner. Diet and lifestyle factors including physical activity, stress management, and weight management may also help reduce the symptoms of gynecomastia. To learn more about your gynecomastia treatment options, consult with your integrative healthcare practitioner.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Benefits of physical activity. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). How much physical activity do adults need? https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
- Chan, H. J., Petrossian, K., & Chen, S. (2016). Structural and functional characterization of aromatase, estrogen receptor, and their genes in endocrine-responsive and -resistant breast cancer cells. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 161, 73–83.
- Cho, Y. J., Yun, J. H., Kim, S. J., & Kwon, H. Y. (2020). Nonpersistent endocrine disrupting chemicals and reproductive health of women. Obstetrics & Gynecology Science, 63(1), 1–12.
- Dietary guidelines for Americans (2020-2025). (2020). https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/
- Durmaz, E., Ozmert, E. N., Erkekoglu, P., Giray, B., Derman, O., Hincal, F., & Yurdakök, K. (2010). Plasma phthalate levels in pubertal gynecomastia. Pediatrics, 125(1), e122–e129.
- Endocrine Society. (2022). Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Endocrine Society. https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/edcs
- Grossmann, M., Gianatti, E. J., & Zajac, J. D. (2010). Testosterone and type 2 diabetes. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity, 17(3), 247–256.
- Healthdirect Australia. (2021). Gynecomastia. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/gynecomastia
- Hu, T.-Y., Chen, Y. C., Lin, P., Shih, C.-K., Bai, C.-H., Yuan, K.-C., Lee, S.-Y., & Chang, J.-S. (2018). Testosterone-associated dietary pattern predicts low testosterone levels and hypogonadism. Nutrients, 10(11).
- Moyer, A. E., Rodin, J., Grilo, C. M., Cummings, N., Larson, L. M., & Rebuffé-Scrive, M. (1994). Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obesity Research, 2(3), 255–262.
- National Institutes of Health. (2016). Hormones. MedlinePlus; National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/hormones.html
- National Institutes of Health. (2020a). Breast enlargement in males. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003165.htm
- National Institutes of Health. (2020b). Learn to manage stress. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001942.htm
- Riachy, R., McKinney, K., & Tuvdendorj, D. R. (2020). Various factors may modulate the effect of exercise on testosterone levels in men. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 5(4).
- Sweeney, M. F., Hasan, N., Soto, A. M., & Sonnenschein, C. (2015). Environmental endocrine disruptors: Effects on the human male reproductive system. Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders, 16(4), 341–357.
- Swerdloff, R. S., & Ng, C. M. (2019). Gynecomastia: Etiology, diagnosis, and treatment. Endotext.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2020). Improving low testosterone naturally. Whole Health Library. https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTHLIBRARY/tools/improving-low-testosterone-naturally.asp