Gynecomastia is a special condition where men develop large breasts which is abnormal.
Almost 60% of males worldwide have Gynecomastia to some degree. It can either start showing in the early ages (children) or sometimes later in life.
Most of the times, the enlarged breasts don’t show up until the affected person comes to the teenage.
There are several reasons associated with Gynecomastia a.k.a male breasts. Some of them are
- Metabolic disorders as a side-effect of some medication
- Low-levels or decrease of testosterone naturally
Gynecomastia should not be considered as pseudogynecomastia or man boobs or lipomastia, which represents the fat presence in the chest area. In reality, Gynecomastia results from growth of breast tissue.
How to Identify Man Boobs and Gynecomastia?
In order to know whether you’re really suffering with man boobs or not is to diagnose your chest with the below systems.
- Are you noticing any sensitivity in the nipple area?
- Do you find any tissue being developed inside your chest?
- Have you noticed any swelling or pain in that area?
- Aren’t you able to lift weights or finding the arm movements painful?
If you find any the above symptoms true, then you might be having man breasts. Better make a visit to your surgeon before it turns into a fully enlarged breast like women.
What Causes Gynecomastia?
Men will have both male hormones (Androgens) as well as female hormones (Estrogens).
The Androgens are responsible for deciding male characteristics like facial hair, muscle development, baldness, and so on. These male hormones are normally higher in amounts compared to the female hormone count.
However, when there is any imbalance between Androgens and Estrogens in men, they may develop female characteristics and one notable feature is the development of enlarged breasts like in females.
There are however many other causes of Gynecomastia which include physiological, age-related, drugs etc.. Let us look at these causes in detail.
1.Physiological Causes of Gynecomastia
You’ll notice physiological causes of Gynecomastia in newborn and pubertal adolescent boys.
Breast enlargement may be accompanied by milk secretion in newborns which is basically due to the influence of estrogens on the boy within the womb. In most of the cases, this physiological gynecomastia goes away in a week or two.
Where as pubertal adolescent boys grow breasts buds that lasts for a year or two and then go away without doing anything. This is due to the hormone imbalances in them at puberty.
Aged men often get Gynecomastia. By age increasing day by day, the testosterone levels decline in men and philandering characteristics of the female hormone like Gynecomastia thus appears.
3.Drugs and Gynecomastia
There are a few drugs that are known to cause Gynecomastia. These include:-
- Antifungals (Ketoconazole)
- Antibiotic drug* (metronidazole)
- Antacids (Cimetidine)
- AIDS drugs (Efavirenz)
- Anxiolytic drug (diazepam)
- Heart drugs (Spironolactone)
- Prostatic adenocarcinoma or enlargement drugs (flutamide, finasteride etc.)
- Tricyclic antidepressant drug, heart failure drugs (digoxin)
4.Steroids and Gynecomastia
In these days, Gynecomastia is commonly caused by drugs like Anti-hypertensive and anti-ulcer medications.
Most bodybuilders get their drugs from the black market, where they’ll get anabolic steroids, growth promoters and hormone enhancers to build their physique. Unfortunately, these steroids can cause Gynecomastia within a week from taking them.
Different Types of Steroids that Cause Male Breasts
When we say steroids cause Gynecomastia, you should also know that not all steroids give you breasts. Only those that aromatize such as Anadrol, Sustanon and Dianabol are said to be causing moobs. The best solution to prevent moobs caused by the use of steroids is to avoid using them.
When a person takes steroids, it increases the hormone called ‘Estrogen’ and may decrease the testosterone levels in some cases, thereby causing hormonal imbalance, which makes the breast tissue to grow.
5.Meat & Gynecomastia
Well, not every meat is linked with man boobs. It actually depends on the source from where you get it.
In most of the cases, the hormone treated meat is the culprit behind the enlarged breasts in men. It is to be here noted that the beef raised in the USA and Canada is banned in Europe since 1988 till this very day.
The reason behind this ban is that the livestock owners were given hormone injections (mostly estrogen) to the animals. As per a report, it is estimated that almost 80% of the cows in the United States are receiving an implant in their ear, which releases a hormone (Estradio, a form of Estrogen) along with several other hormones.
Although it has become common for the US and Canada Governments, the European union has taken this issue seriously for the safety of their citizens and banned the use of such meat imported from these counties. The same ban is also applied internally in the Europe.
What is the use of treating animals with hormones?
The main reason why these cows or other animals are hormone-treated is because the animals will grow 15% faster than those that are raised naturally. So, it is a big boost for their income.
What happens when we eat hormone-treated meat?
Unfortunately, these hormone-treated animals when eaten will enable a rise in the risk of getting diseases like breast cancer, prostate cancer, gynecomastia aka man boobs and much more deadly diseases.
The best solution is to avoid any such hormone-treated meat and opt only for organic meat, even though they’re a little pricey. Consider spending a few extra dollars for organic products rather than wasting thousands on your health. Remember that you save now, but will have to suffer in the future if you treat your health badly. Read the labels carefully before buying meat from your local supermarket.
What if I can’t afford or find organic meat?
There may be a few cases where people might not be able to afford to buy the organic meat and some can’t find organic labelled meat in their area. In either case, you can contact your local farm where there are many independent farms who still use organic methods to raise the animals. So, just check with them about the feed the animals are given before buying from them.
6.BPA’s linking with Man Breasts
According to the recent study published in the Reproductive Toxicology Journal, the Bisphenol-A, which is shortly called as BPA has got a significant role in men developing female breasts aka man boobs.
Unfortunately, this hormonal imbalance makes the man’s chest look feminie.
What is BPA or Bisphenol-A?
It is nothing but a synthetic substance which is used mostly in plastics and also in epoxy resins and canned goods. Unfortunately, due to the rise in the plastic bottles usage like drinks, this substance easily finds its way into our bodies. It is very difficult to find the bottle which has BPA in them because the count is very high.
How is BPA related to Man Boobs?
When this substance called ‘Bisphenol-A’ enters into our bodies through the use of plastic products, it posess the qualities of the estrogen. And that is why the enlarged breasts are developed in men. Not just moobs, few cases also confirm that BPA has been linked to several other health issues like Cancer, Type 2 diabetes, Obesity and behavioral or psychological problems.
The first thing you should do if you want to get rid of man boobs is to avoid using products that may contain BPA substance (mainly canned goods and plastic bottles).
How to Identify and Avoid BPA?
It is a bit tiresome but the only possible way to identify the BPA free products is by looking at the labels. It contains the term BPA free, else avoid and opt for another product.
Visit this page for the full list of cans without BPA and with BPA.
Apart from avoiding the products that contain Bisphenol-A substance, ensure that you read the other causes of Gynecomastia and stay away from them.
7.Soy & Gynecomastia
Well, a lot of people think that Soy is a healthy protein and is the best alternative to meats and dairy products, but is it true?
It is found that the Chinese and Japanese live longer than others as they eat a lot of soy in their diet. But, the reason behind their longevity is that they eat fermented soy and not processed soy.
A recent study showed that a lot of men developed breasts because of the foods they eat.
Does Soy Milk Cause Man Breasts?
It is a well known fact that Soy is responsible for increasing the estrogen levels in our body.
In fact, James Price, a Vietnam vet who has a fit and lean body developed Gynecomastia and it was found that it is because of the Soy milk consumption. The doctors have found 8x the normal limit of estrogen for men in James’ body.
James used to drink 3 quarts of Soy milk every day and that caused a dramatic change in his body. Find the negative effects of Soy here –
What Causes Soy Man Breasts?
Soy mainly contains protein, essential fatty acids and isoflavones. Isoflavones family consists of Genistein, daidzein, equol, and glycitein which are commonly known as ‘phytoestrogens’.
These phytoestrogens will have estrogen like properties but they are derived from plants. The Soy which we eat and drink will contain these isoflavones and so when we consume it, it can affect our sensitive organs (estrogen receptors) like breast and the thyroid, thus leading to Soy man breasts. – http://www.drlam.com/opinion/soyandestrogen.asp
Not only Soy, but there are many other foods & chemicals that are responsible for the development of breasts in men.
But, prevention is always better than cure and so it is advised to stay away from such foods that increase estrogen levels in men.
Do Cow Milk Consumption Cause Gynecomastia?
Like we discussed above, milk also comes with similar problems.
According to the medical journal, the FDA has approved a drug called rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) to be injected into the cows to increase production of milk by 15%.
Although it is not that harmful for humans, a few studies have found that such rBGH treated cow milk contains 10x more IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor).
It is already a well-known fact (as written in our blog) that IGF-1 along with estrogens together promotes enlarged breasts in men. So, if you’re drinking milk that is taken from dairy cows treated with rBGH, then losing man boobs may become even more difficult, unless you stop the consumption.
It is also to be noted that even Soy milk (processed) gives male breasts because of its estrogen levels.
Organic vs Non-Organic Milk (rBGH) w.r.t Gynecomastia
Like we said above, the non-organic milk or milk collected from rBGH treated cows is not good for treating man boobs as it is actually the root cause of the problem.
So, based on that statement, you may ask is organic milk ok?
Well, No! Although organic milk is better than its counterpart, it is advised to avoid milk completely if you’re trying to lose man boobs.
This is because milk (skimmed/whole) consumption causes an increase in the insulin levels due to the amino acid composition of its proteins, which is not good for losing man breasts.
However, you can have cream and butter, as they are very high in fat, low in milk proteins and lactose content. So, they are less insulinogenic than milk.
What is the Alternative for milk? Don’t my bones break if I skip milk?
Well, it is actually a lie promoted by the dairy industry since ages that drinking milk is good for bones and teeth.
If that is true, then why American women who drink more milk are having the highest rate of osteoporosis?
According to the multi-country analysis, it is found that the more milk you drink, the more chances is for you to break your bones.
So, it is advised to include green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach etc… in your diet. Apart from the fact that they contain more calcium than milk, the calcium from vegetables is more easily absorbed and retained by the body.
It is better to avoid milk altogether (including soy milk) and stick to the foods that burn chest fat. Of-course, skipping milk alone won’t help you lose man boobs! Follow a healthy lifestyle by including testosterone rich foods and practice chest shaping workouts.
8.Other Gynecomastia Causes in Men
- Semi Permanent liver disease: Liver disease over long time periods may lead to an increase of estrogen (female hormone) production that may lead to Gynecomastia.
- Kidney failure and need for dialysis
- Deficiency of male hormones – low testosterone
- Vulnerability to female hormones – high estrogen content
- Radiotherapy and cancer chemotherapy particularly for testicular and prostatic adenocarcinoma (cancer).
- Congenital disease: Klinefelter’s syndrome causes deformity and underdevelopment of testes in boys and leads to Gynecomastia.
- Thyroid disorders – particularly a hyperactive thyroid gland.
- Tumors – especially those that release female hormones.
- Malnutrition or severe diet – On malnutrition the testosterone count drops but estrogen levels stay normal, which may lead to Gynecomastia in some.
- A few herbaceous plants like tea tree or lilac in shampoos and soaps have been affiliated with Gynecomastia due to their supposed powerless estrogen like action.
- Unknown – occasionally the cause of Gynecomastia may be obscure.
9.Breast Cancer and Gynecomastia
At times the real cause behind breast expansion may be an underlying tumor or cancer.
Breast cancer in men is rare but wants to be omitted when Gynecomastia is found. Breast cancer turns up as a lump that is firm or hard with or without pain from the nipples.
Tumors and cancers as well tend to turn up as a single breast enlargement although most hormonal causes of breast enlargement in males normally develop enlargement of both boobs.
Gynecomastia Symptoms in Men
Picture of a Patient with Severe Gynecomastia
The primary symptom seen in Gynecomastia affected males is enlarged breasts which will have a rubbery or firm feel.
It mostly occurs on both the sides but can be seen only on one side in some rare cases. There will be no pain but tenderness and sensitivity may be experienced.
- Enlargement of single or both breasts. The breast size may be undifferentiated or mismatched w.r.t the nipple. Your nipple is either rubbery or firm. The increase may appear just behind the nipple.
- Although you won’t feel any pain, there may be a little pain or mild tenderness of your breasts or nipple when touched.
- You can identify breast cancer in men with the symptoms like firm, localized and hard lump.
- The skin over the lump may be uneven from the texture surrounding healthy skin. That means the skin may be warm or reddened. The skin might seem dimpled on the movement of the lump.
- The nipple may discharge blood or colorless liquid. You may notice lymph node enlargement on the same side under the arms along with the lump called the axillary lymph nodes.
- Breast abscess likewise to show up as a breast swelling. These patients might get high fever with shiverings and rigor.
- The breast swelling might be very painful and hot to touch. You may notice redness or yellowish appearance of the skin over the lump. Breast abscess is very rare in men.
Different Types of Gynecomastia
Pubertal Gynecomastia or Gynecomastia in Teenagers is commonly seen in adolescent boys where they develop male breasts.
However, you’ll need to distinguish between the true and fake Gynecomastia. While the true form is caused by the growth of breast tissues in men, the fake is associated with fat storage in the chest region.
You can easily identify fake Gynecomastia by touching your boobs. It may have some painful sensation when handled and you even find a hard tissue when you press it.
What are the Reasons for Gynecomastia in Teenagers?
When there is an imbalance in the hormone levels (testosterone & estrogen), the Gynecomastia problem comes into place in men. If the estrogen levels in men increase rapidly and overtake the testosterone levels, then there are higher risks of Pubertal Gynecomastia.
The Gynecomastia is common in two periods – 12 to 15 years of age (pubertal) and 45 years & above (elderly), mainly due to physiological changes in the body. Most (50 to 70%) of the adolescent boys are commonly affected by this problem, but it usually goes away after 1 to 2 years by itself. But, in some cases, it continuous to grow and form female like breasts in men.
What is the Treatment for Gynecomastia in Puberty?
Generally, the Gynecomastia in adolescent boys stops developing or returns to the normal state after 1-2 years. But, if it is still seen after that period, then the best solution to suppress the growth (excess estrogen levels) is to use hormonal drugs like testolactone, clomiphene, dihydrotestosterone, danazol etc…
P.S: Consult your doctor for best advice on which drug to use based on your health condition and body type.
In rare cases, the problem doesn’t get resolved by treating with drugs. And in such instances, the Gynecomastia surgery is recommended. This is a very simple process that can be done under general anesthesia. The breast tissue will be removed by making a slight incision below the chest. In cases of extreme Gynecomastia, the surgeons also remove the fat deposits in that area using liposuction.
How to Avoid Pubertal Gynecomastia Naturally?
Well, the only way to avoid male breasts at pubertal stage or any stage for that matter is to follow some preventive measures like
- Abandon or minimize the usage of anabolic steroids
- Stay away from alcohol, especially beer.
- Reduce or intake of estrogen rich foods
- Include healthy diet in your routine
- Avoid non-organic meat completely
By following these basic precautions, one can easily avoid Pubertal Gynecomastia naturally. Remember that prevention is always better than cure.
Men with enlarged breasts has now become a common sight at the beaches. This condition is called ‘Gynecomastia’.
In most cases, both the breasts are enlarged and such person is said to be having ‘Bilateral Gynecomastia’.
However, there is another condition known as ‘Unilateral Gynecomastia’, which means one of the breast is noticeably bigger than the other one.
The other breast is usually normal in shape and size. Some also call this condition as ‘Asymmetric Gynecomastia’.
It is not a rare condition and can be seen in many males.
The difference in the growth of breast tissue, nipples and skin around them were the reasons behind this condition.
Unilateral Gynecomastia Causes
There can be various causes to get Gynecomastia. But, the most common cause is the imbalance of hormones. When a male body does not produce adequate amounts of Testosterone (male hormone) and instead increases the production of Estrogen (female hormone), then it may result in the development of breasts in men.
Other causes include:
- Obesity: People with excess body fat tend to produce higher amounts of Estrogen.
- Puberty: During teenage, the hormone levels usually goes up, and in some cases, Estrogen levels get increased, thereby making the breasts grow bigger like females. Luckily, in most males, their breasts shrink back to normal size naturally and the condition goes away.
- Aging: As we get older, our body is prone to imbalance of hormones, which causes enlargement of breasts or boobs in men.
There are other natural factors that cause Unilateral Gynecomastia such as:
- Persons suffering from Scoliosis, a condition where the spine is curved and in order to support his posture, he needs to carry one shoulder slightly lower than the other shoulder. In some cases, there may be an asymmetrical rib cage that causes different chest muscles on each side, thus making one breast bigger than the other.
- Asymmetrical Gynecomastia may also be caused due to abnormal development of breast bone in some males.
- Drinking too much alcohol or taking prescription drugs (amphetamines, antidepressants, antibiotics) or using steroids are another reason.
Symptoms of Unilateral Gynecomastia
It is to be noted here that both the breasts are having the extra breast tissue but one breast is slightly bigger than the other.
So, both the breasts need to be examined well if you’re about to undergo the Gynecomastia surgery in order to remove the breast tissue to permanently cure your man boobs problem.
Therefore, it is highly advised to consult a certified physician as he could guide you in the right way.
Unilateral Gynecomastia Treatment Options
There are 2 treatment options in case of Unilateral or Asymmetrical Gynecomastia.
- Instant Results: Undergoing Gynecomastia surgery is costly, but you could permanently get rid of your man boobs problem. The process is also quick too.
- Slow Results: One can opt for Gynecomastia pills, male breast reduction creams and also use Chest compression clothing. This process takes some time, but it is cost-effective.
How is Gynecomastia Diagnosed & Available Treatment Options?
In most cases, it can be diagnosed by a physical examination of your breasts.
However, the doctor will also consider your medical history that includes the medicines or drugs you’ve taken prior to getting male breasts.
If there is a suspicion of breast cancer, the doctor may order a mammogram.
Additionally, blood tests may be recommended to examine kidney, thyroid/liver functions and for measurement of hormone levels in your blood.
What is the Treatment for Gynecomastia?
In pubertal males, Gynecomastia often disappears within six months on its own and so only observation is preferred over treatment. The physician will recommend stopping any offending medicines or other problems that have caused large breasts. Whereas in other cases, Gynecomastia surgical removal is the only possible solution.
It is advised to see your physician immediately after you notice any of the above said symptoms and get appropriate treatment based on your condition. In several cases, Gynecomastia doesn’t need urgent treatment. In newborn or pubertal boys the condition settles by itself.
If the same caused due to the consumption of drugs or other inherent disease, it may resolve once the intake of the offending drug is stopped or when the underlying disease is treated.
Whilst complications of Gynecomastia are uncommon, some of the time the breast tissues may go through scarring which makes the treatment hard.
Also the psychological effect of the Gynecomastia condition is great for a lot of patients particularly young men and teenagers.
Additionally, men with Gynecomastia may have a higher risk of getting breast cancer. A few patients so might need drugs that stop the feminizing hormones or Gynecomastia surgery to reduce the breast size.
In general, treatment procedures for Gynecomastia include medications and surgery.
Medications to Treat Gynecomastia Patients
- Right now, no drugs are O.K.ed by the U.S. FDA (Food & Drug Administration) for the treatment of Gynecomastia.
- Doctors may prescribe an anti-estrogen drug called ‘Tamoxifen’ which may be taken as 10mg pills twice daily. This is given mostly to the patients who suffer pain. Tamoxifen may also help patients who develop Gynecomastia by the intake of prostate cancer drugs.
- In case of low levels of male hormones, Testosterone replacement may be tried in some patients.
- Although not seen much success, another most popular drug is Anastrozole. This prevents the formation of Estrogen.
- Male breast removal surgery
Gynecomastia Surgery: Treatment Options
There are 2 types of cosmetic surgery for Gynecomastia.
- The first one is liposuction where only the breast fat tissues are removed but the tissues remain intact.
- The second one is mastectomy where the surgeon operates and removes the breast gland tissues. Small incisions will be made over the breast sides, in the underarm or near the areola.
How Gynecomastia Surgery is Performed? [Video]
Once the surgery is done, the healing process starts and it will take just a few weeks to heal completely.
Since Gynecomastia is caused due to the drugs, medications and diseases, these need to be assessed and appropriate solution needs to be provided.
Lastly, if you’re suffering from severe Gynecomastia, then it is recommended to consult a reputed surgeon and seek his guidance.