Gynecomastia, commonly known as “man boobs,” refers to a condition when a man grows enlarged breasts due to testosterone and estrogen hormonal imbalance.
Typically, the estrogen hormone stimulates the growth of breasts, whereas the testosterone hormone inhibits breast tissue development.
Men usually have more testosterone levels than estrogen, but an imbalance causes gynecomastia.
It’s a condition that can affect any man at different points in life and immensely lower self-esteem and confidence. Studies indicate that 33% to 67% of men globally have gynecomastia.
Initially, doctors argued that surgery was the only way to get rid of gynecomastia. However, extensive research has proven that there are non-surgical ways of treating the condition.
These non-surgical methods primarily focus on tackling the root cause, thereby removing the excess mass around the breasts.
Below we look at the causes of gynecomastia and how you can treat the condition without surgery.
What causes gynecomastia
Numerous factors can lead to the development of gynecomastia, but the following are the most common.
On average, 65 percent of young men between 13 to 18 have symptoms of gynecomastia resulting from hormonal changes that occur during poverty.
This type of gynecomastia usually resolves after three or four years without treatment.
Since the hormones will eventually stabilize and the enlarged breast mass will disappear.
As men age, their testosterone levels drop, starting from age 30.
Numerous scientific studies indicate that men between 50 and 80 years are more likely to have gynecomastia.
In addition, men aged between 30 to 45 years have a 50% chance of developing gynecomastia, especially if they don’t live a healthy lifestyle.
Excess body fat
No matter your body weight, having a higher fat percentage could lead to more fat storage around your chest area.
High body fat levels are also directly linked to increased estrogen levels.
In a male’s body, there is an enzyme called Aromatase. Aromatase’s primary function is to convert testosterone from fat tissue into estrogen.
As a result, 80 percent of estrogen hormone in a man’s system originates from aromatase activity.
In simpler terms, the more fat your body has, the more estrogen levels you will have, and estrogen stimulates the growth of breasts. Consequently, you will have gynecomastia.
Some health conditions interfere with the estrogen and testosterone hormone levels, thereby creating an imbalance that may cause the development of surplus breast tissue.
Some of these health conditions are
- Hypothalamus or pituitary gland tumors
- Kidney failure
- Klinefelter syndrome
- Testes diseases like hydrocele, orchitis, spermatocele, and varicocele.
- Liver failure
Drugs and medications
Certain medications or drugs induce up to 25% of gynecomastia cases.
Some of these drugs have estrogen properties, which may enhance estrogen production levels.
In some instances, the drugs could introduce testosterone hormone-like substances into your body, converting it to estrogen.
Doctors have also found that some drugs cause gynecomastia, but studies have yet to explain why.
Regular use of the following substances can cause gynecomastia
- Anabolic steroids like oxandrin, Anadrol, Winstrol, and equipoise.
- Antihypertensive medications
- Some antiretroviral (ARV) medications
- Psychoactive drugs like antipsychotics, stimulants, designer drugs, and hallucinogens
Note: Research is still undergoing to find out if any other medications can cause gynecomastia.
How to eradicate gynecomastia without surgery
Most people assume surgery is the only way to cure gynecomastia, but other remedies have proven effective.
The reason is that such remedies work by tackling the underlying cause.
Here are strategies you can use to cure gynecomastia.
Some lifestyle behaviors may contribute to heightened body fat levels.
For instance, overweight people usually have more fat throughout their bodies, especially around the chest and belly area, compared to people who aren’t overweight.
Therefore, increased body fat reduces testosterone levels since aromatase activity will increase.
Hence you will need to change some of your habits to improve and standardize your hormone levels.
Some changes you can make include
- Reducing your alcohol consumption
- Avoid stress and its causes in your life
- Sleep for at least 7 hours every day. Adequate hours of sleep will also reduce stress, minimize health risks, and gives you more energy to do your duties.
- Carry out at least 200 minutes of average or intense aerobic exercise weekly.
- Aim to strengthen all the major muscle groups in your body, like the pectoral, abdominal, and deltoid muscles.
- Consume a balanced diet that has minimally processed foods. Many processed foods contain copious amounts of fat, increasing body fat.
Doctors highly recommend eating a balanced diet as it will provide your body with adequate nutrients to maximize testosterone production.
Consequently, increasing testosterone levels will help lower your body fat percentage.
Nutrients that enhance testosterone hormone production are
- Vitamin D
Some of the foods you can eat to obtain the listed nutrients are
- Shellfish (particularly oysters)
- Cocoa products like cacao nibs or cocoa powder
- Leafy greens
- Fatty fish, especially sardines and salmon
Exercise is one way to prevent or eliminate numerous conditions, including gynecomastia.
Unfortunately, there is this common myth that exercising a particular part of your body will lose more fat on that part compared to other body parts.
For instance, if you do pushups, you will eradicate more chest fat than if you did squats. Such reasoning is false and has no scientific backing.
Exercise helps the whole body lose fat, regardless of the type. What matters is the intensity and length or duration.
Your aim should include plenty of aerobic exercises in your training routine to reduce your body fat levels.
Some exercises you can do include
- Skipping rope
- Brisk walking
Pushups are also an ideal way to build your chest muscles. Start slow and increase the reps as you progress to make the pushups more productive.
Note: It will take time for you to realize significant changes while doing the exercise. Experts say that it could take up to two years.
Be consistent and slowly increase the intensity; you will eventually notice improvements in your overall body physique.
Your dressing has a direct effect on how easily people will be able to notice your gynecomastia.
Here are tips to help make your gynecomastia unnoticeable
- Wear suits that have pinstripes
- Thicker tops
- Tops that have patterns.
You can also wear Esteem apparel compression undershirts which are comfortable and don’t lose elasticity after regular use.
What’s more, Esteem apparel shirts will easily fit into your sweaters, t-shirts, and tailored suits.
When should you see a doctor?
Gynecomastia doesn’t cause many symptoms apart from tenderness around the breast area.
However, it may cause mental distress; hence you may have to visit a doctor.
In addition, if you experience pain in the breasts, discharge from the nipples, or abnormal swelling, you need to see a doctor.
Your doctor will help by identifying the possible cause of the condition and suggesting the best treatments to employ.
Gynecomastia medical treatments
Non-surgical medical treatments mainly focus on removing the underlying cause.
Some of the methods include
- Curing underlying health problems- treating health issues like malnutrition or hyperthyroidism.
- Testosterone therapy- (TRT) Testosterone replacement therapy uses injections or skin gels to enhance testosterone levels.
- Switching medications – if the doctors suspect that a medication you’re taking may be causing the gynecomastia, they can change it or reduce the dose.
Gynecomastia mainly occurs after an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone levels.
You can treat the condition without surgery by making lifestyle changes, exercising, and eating healthy foods.
However, if you suspect more about your condition, visit a doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment.